Daniel Forrester is a good friend of mine from Washington DC. In this guest post, he analyses Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts earlier this week.
Scott Brown is the next Senator from Massachusetts. The turn of events that makes this event happen is stunning. While the pundits will suggest that this is a complete referendum on Obama, I think that is hype and not the full story. Here we have a candidate, Scott Brown, who defined himself at a time when his opponent literally went on vacation for three weeks. When something looks good to be true in America - a safe Senate seat that was a family heirloom, or even a young talented golfer with apparent super powers, then it is too good to be true. Coakley took the seat for granted.
In the end, all politics is local and there are feelings and dynamics alive in Massachusetts that are just not as national as they may seem at the surface. The symbolism of the win is what is national news - not the actually events within the race itself. This was branding and positioning 101 and the supposed winner and heir to Kennedy had no message to counter the brand.
It reminds me of Ted Kennedy's first run for President. He could never answer the question why he wanted to be President and the people never forgot. In this case the Democrat was never even asked the question as she didn't have anyone interested in asking. How sad a campaign. Clever man Mr. Brown. This early ad shows just how innovative his campaign was. The democrats laughed at him. They are not laughing now:
When the dust and the noise settles, there are some implications for Obama and his agenda and immediately around Health Care.This is a President who has tried to govern as fast as he moved during the campaign. It was former Senator Tom Daschle who told Obama to run for President when he was just in the Senate for a few minutes in 2006. Daschle actually told me once that Obama did not balk at his advice that Obama had to run as waiting even a few years would hurt him as he would be tied to votes and the inertia of being a Senator. In other words you would be tied to your experience and so we have a President with little experience but a once might brand. That mindset has been his hallmark once in power. Yet while governing, one discovers that speed can kill. Today we see that.
Remember in Massachusetts 97% of the people are insured without having Washington drive the agenda. So idea that this was a referendum on the current Senate Health bill, doesn't connect. But there is something alive in this vote that should give pause to this President as he steps on the pedal while burning through billions of dollars.
In the end, one candidate had a good and consistent message while his competitor sat the race out. Does this mean that the Republicans have a set of ideas to govern the country? Does this mean that the party is united? Does this indicate that Republicans have a central theme for 2010 and moving forward? The answer is no and or very unclear. George Bush will haunt this party for the next decade if there isn't a purge of the vapid selfish and big government thinking that has been the Republican party for the last 8 years. Republicans must realize this evening that in America they benefit as there are only two parties. America is as fed up with them as they are with Obama. If there was a meaningful third party in the US, they would wipe the floor with both parties. Reading into this event as a watershed is a big mistake.