Massachusetts Vote Reverberates in Other States

By: - January 21, 2010 12:00 am

Republican Scott Brown’s surprise victory in the special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts is prompting worries for Democrats — and confidence among Republicans — in plenty of other states, including traditionally Democratic ones.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D), a former governor who is considering running again to succeed the term-limited Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), may need to tread more carefully than observers initially expected in the Golden State , according to Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton .

“Only a few months ago, political junkies and insiders were privately calling … Brown a slam-dunk to win back the governor’s office he occupied in the 1970s,” Skelton writes. “That expectation was based largely on California being a blue state, after all, where candidate Barack Obama in 2008 had rallied the party faithful and corralled independent voters. Meanwhile, Republicans seemed hapless.”

According to Skelton, “Nobody’s talking like that anymore.”

In Pennsylvania, “strategists and leaders in both parties agreed yesterday, saying that voter disquiet would likely shape state races for the U.S. Senate, House and governor this year,” The Philadelphia Inquirer says .

In New Jersey, newly sworn-in Republican Gov. Chris Christie suggested that his win in the heavily Democratic state last year — combined with Brown’s victory and a triumph by Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell last year — could be the beginning of a clear shift toward the GOP in U.S. electoral politics.

“People are rebelling against government that is spending too much and borrowing too much and taxing too much,” Christie said, according to the Inquirer . “Maybe for once, New Jersey is just a little ahead of the curve on this stuff.”

But the result of Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts, while clearly a blow to Democrats, may not be as clear a repudiation of the party’s agenda as some observers may think.

For one thing, The Washington Post reports, the anti-health care reform message that candidate Brown used so successfully in Massachusetts was based in large part on the fact that the Bay State has already enacted its own, statewide health care reforms. That is hardly the same as rejecting outright the health care changes being proposed on Capitol Hill.

Brown, the Post notes, “voted for the state’s health-care legislation, which was signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and has covered all but 3 percent of Massachusetts residents. That legislation became the basic model for national health-care legislation. Brown has not disavowed his support for the state’s law, which retains majority backing in Massachusetts.”

Another key question to emerge from Tuesday’s vote is this: Is the electorate unhappy with Democrats, or with whoever is in power, regardless of party?

“The hopeful theory of Florida Democrats,” The St. Petersburg Times reports , “is that voters everywhere are angry at current leadership. In Washington — and Massachusetts — that’s Democrats; in Florida, that’s Republicans.”

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