Republican Scott Brown pulled off a historic upset Tuesday in Massachusetts, overcoming a 30-point deficit in the polls to defeat Democrat Martha Coakley for the U.S. Senate seat held for 46 years by the late liberal lion, Ted Kennedy.
Brown turned the tables on Coakley by energizing a base of Bay State voters eager for change not only in Massachusetts, but in the nation as well.
“This is history in the making,” rejoiced Brown backer Bill Phillips, 47, of Middleboro, who was among hundreds of revelers who packed Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel for Brown’s victory party. “This is better than the Patriots winning the Super Bowl.”
Coakley’s efforts to rechannel what she called the “anger out there” proved to be too little, too late, despite a visit from President Obama and a party political machine that worked fervently to get the vote out on her behalf. Her campaign in its final hours fell into public finger-pointing with the White House and Democratic National Committee over who was at fault for the loss.
“We never lost our focus or determination,” Coakley told supporters. “I know how hard we worked.”
Only 11 percent of Massachusetts voters are Republican, while 37 percent are registered Democrats. Independent voters make up 51 percent of the electorate.
Brown’s historic win sends a chilling message to congressional Democrats who face an electorate unhappy with the agenda their party has worked to push through since Obama took office a year ago.
During his campaign, Brown successfully cast himself as the Senate GOP’s 41st vote, the critical number needed to block legislation put forward by Democrats, who until now controlled 60 votes. Brown’s victory seriously jeopardizes that agenda, particularly the $1 trillion health care bill that has dwindling public support.
Voters who supported Brown said they wanted him to go to Washington to put the brakes on health care reform, global warning legislation, and any more big-government spending and tax increases.
“I just support lower taxes, which will bring the economy back faster than tax increases,” said Pat Jennings, 70, a retiree from Hingham and registered independent who voted for Brown even though she has in the past voted for Kennedy. “Brown stands for everything I believe in, Coakley stands for nothing I believe in.”
While Brown drove a pickup truck and spent weeks going door to door, Coakley’s own volunteers fretted over her inability to connect with voters, who in turn were often left filling in the blanks on their own with disastrous results.
When the panic-stricken national Democratic Party started throwing money and resources at the fading Coakley campaign, they saturated the airwaves with negative ads aimed at Brown.
But the tactic backfired and left people with a negative view of Coakley.
“I like Martha, but I don’t like what she did with those ads,” said Bill Worden, of Dedham. “It doesn’t sound right.”