Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Notes on Politics: Mass. Senate Election Ends Obama's Freshman Year with a Whimper

I don't totally buy into the notion that a major reason Republican Scott Brown beat Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race was because Bay State voters are ticked off at President Barack Obama. Other than Brown's declaration that he doesn't like the current health care reform legislation -- being negotiated in secret as pricey goodies are doled out -- and wants to start fresh with a new reform bill, I think this Senate race was about Massachusetts politics more than it was about the president, but the president's going to pay the price, perception-wise.

With a state mired in political scandal after political scandal, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi said if Coakley lost, Democrats could point fingers at their own performance in the State House. Look at what's happened in Massachusetts state government in the past few years: Democratic House speakers have resigned their post in disgrace including one who's facing federal corruption charges and another who was stripped of his law license last week after he'd pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges, a Democratic state legislator is awaiting trial on charges that she allegedly stuffed bribe money into a bra and the first-term Democratic governor has an anemic 39 percent approval rating. Vennochi wrote:

"The epic battle between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley is drawing national attention as a referendum on President Obama. But Brown is also tapping into that special brand of anger that helps Republicans beat Democrats in otherwise solidly blue Massachusetts.

When the party in power gets too arrogant -- as often, it does -- the people get mad. Over the past two decades, they sent their message by electing three successive Republican governors."

However when President Obama made a last-minute trip to Boston on Sunday to try to revive the Coakley campaign, he unwisely injected himself into the Senate race. The Brown victory will now add to the perception that Obama is not only weakening, as he suffers from plunging approval numbers nationwide -- went from a high of 61 percent to the current 47, according to the Chicago Tribune -- but is also being dissed by one of the bluest state's in the country, one that gave him a 26-point margin of victory in 2008.

While watching MSNBC's review of Obama's freshman year on Morning Joe, it's clear that what started off on such a triumphant and positive note on a cold inauguration day in Washington, D.C. in 2009 has gone downhill quickly for the president. Hopefully year two will prove to be a better one.

CBS has a comprehensive, number-crunching summary of Obama's first year including how many foreign trips he made, how many bills signed, pardons issued and rounds of golf.

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