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Obama personally joins Massachusetts quake relief

January 15, 2010 |  2:44 pm

Republican state Senator Scott Brown and Democrat Attorney General Martha Coakley

While early reports leaking out are unclear, as always in these unexpected situations, initial indications from the scene of the unfolding disaster give the impression of widespread damage across a broad area. And major aftershocks are expected for months to come.

Monitoring the situation from the White House, which he moved into just 360 days ago, Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama has decided to make a hands-on partisan commitment to the national relief effort in this man-caused disaster.

And he himself will fly to the scene of Massachusetts on Sunday to help Democrat state Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley in her failing struggle to hold the Bay state's U.S. Senate seat for the Democrats against a Republican state senator from central casting named Scott Brown.

If Brown wins, as The Ticket's poll coverage reported here earlier today, he would be the first member of Lincoln's party to hold the honorary Kennedy family Senate seat since 1952 when a Democratic president named Harry Truman, in national approval trouble in part because of an unpopular, lingering distant war, chose not to run for re-election.

"It's a Brown-out," said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University's Research Center, a poll partner that found Brown leading Coakley 50-46 just four days before Tuesday's special election. "It's a massive change in the political landscape."

Brown's support seems fueled by a conservative groundswell that's spreading beyond Tea Party supporters in the homestate of the original Boston Tea Party and beyond -- fear of....

...rising deficits, proposed new taxes, massive spending increases, stubbornly high unemployment rates and laser-like presidential attention to an issue (healthcare) not high on their own agenda.

For days now every few minutes an obviously worried Democratic National Committee has been dispatching any shred of information (not to mention some money) that might conceivably hurt Brown and help Coakley, even the endorsement of the Massachusetts Democrat by a Rhode Island newspaper.

Since Obama is going to get tagged with blame if Coakley loses anyway, White House strategists figure he might as well go down swinging. He really only has to convince Democrats, who polls show are losing their enthusiasm, to come out and vote

And if Massachusetts' traditional liberal voters do come home and, more importantly, come out to give her an upset win after all on the last day of Obama's first year in office, then he'll get mucho credit for a miraculous comeback, like Boise State's the other year only that's a Republican state and Obama is a basketball not football fan.

Our sharp-eyed blogging colleague Michael Muskal found this nugget from the Robert Gibbs press briefing:

Q: Robert, you told us, when asked earlier this week, the President was not going to go to Massachusetts. What changed?

MR. GIBBS:  He got invited.

The less-popular president's last-minute appearance could actually be a blessing for Brown. Last fall Obama campaigned enthusiastically for both Democrat gubernatorial candidates in traditionally GOP Virginia and traditionally Democratic New Jersey.

And both lost.

Despite five (5) appearances by Obama with New Jersey's incumbent governor and resident gazillionaire Jon Corzine.

Why? Exit polls confirmed summer indications: blacks didn't care enough without Obama's name on the ballot, Democrats' enthusiasm was fading, independents who loved Obama as the 2008 moderate model had become dubious and Republicans were energized and united, despite a threatening conservative third-party candidate.

The political impact of a Coakley defeat would be right around 6.5, maybe 7.0, and felt way beyond Massachusetts -- or Massachusettes, as one recent ad put it.

That's because after last November's political temblors and Obama's continuing poll approval slide especially on economic matters, some Democrats in Washington were privately starting to get a little skittish about their prospects in this November's crucial midterm elections. Nothing focuses the human attention quite like getting shot at.

Midterm elections in a new presidency are a time when the party controlling the White House traditionally loses some congressional seats anyway, unless you're George W. Bush in 2002. The Democratic mantra has been after eight long years of failed Bush-Cheney policies.

But what if the new change to believe in was something like, after 12 long months of failed Obama-Biden policies? Unemployment still stands at 10%, despite VP Joe Biden's best talking and ribbon-cutting. Not to mention $787 billion in legislated stimulus spending. The jobless rate is up 2 points since Aretha Franklin's hat last Jan. 20. Consumer confidence hangs low. Retail sales surprisingly slipped in December.

It's hard, though the administration tries nowdays, to boast about losing jobs but losing them slower.

As The Ticket also reported here this morning, Obama made a somewhat unusual evening political pilgrimmage Thursday to lavish so much sweet praise on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that it threatened diabetic shock on some readers.

Obama also lobbied for the Democratic House caucus' ongoing support in crucial healthcare votes coming up very soon. Despite the overwhelming majority dispatched to the House by American voters when they elected Obama in 2008, with Republicans united in opposition, Pelosi really only needs to lose three votes from her fragile caucus coalition to doom Obama's beloved healthcare bill. It's now being rewritten by senators and representatives behind non-transparent Democrat doors.

A disaster in Massachusetts could cause a number of would-be Obama supporters to start mentally balancing their career vs Obama's reputation. And come down on the side of self-preservation, as politicians often do.

The possible Massachusetts disaster has already caused a hurry-up in intra-party Democrat negotiations to draft the final version of healtrhcare because Brown would be the GOP's 41st Senate vote, meaning Democrats would no longer hold their filibuster-proof 60-seat margin.

As the newly-crowned political pundit called Sarah Palin put it on-air Thursday night, "I anticipate victory there. But even if he (Brown) doesn't win, already, poll numbers showing that his message is resonating. And his message is common sense conservative values, principles, solutions being plugged in to meet the challenges facing America today.”

Palin says she hopes to interview Brown on Fox News. But probably not about what newspapers he reads.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Associated Press

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