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Republican Scott Brown's upset of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts' historic Senate election

(UPDATE: A video news report has been added below.)

Republican State Sen. Scott Brown scored an immense political upset Tuesday in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat occupied for so long by Democrat icon Ted Kennedy.

With 80% of the vote counted and Brown leading 52-47%, State Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley called Brown to concede defeat and the loss of Senate seat held by her party since 1952 and a state that went for the Obama-Biden ticket by 26 points. Coakley will continue in her state office.

Massachusetts Republican Senator elect Scott Brown

"I wish we were here tonight with other and better news," Coakley told supporters as she conceded. She said she'd just talked to President Obama who said you can't win them all.

Soon after, Brown told his supporters, "I bet they can hear this cheering all the way in Washington, D.C.!" (See video below.)

He added, "The independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken!" And the crowd chanted back, "People's seat! People's seat!" And then, "Seat him now! Seat him now!"

Brown said his first phone call was to Vicki Kennedy, the late senator's widow, and told her Americans would always hold his memory deep in their hearts. He said he also had a good-natured phone conversation with the president.

"This is an election year filled with many many surprises, I can tell you that," Brown added. "They (Democrats) will be challenged again and again across this great land. And when there's trouble in Massachusetts, rest assured, there's trouble everywhere. And they know it."

Before Christmas during the unfolding healthcare debate in Washington, Coakley was ahead of the little-known Brown by 20 points.

Although more polls predicted a Brown victory in recent days and Massachusetts voters have never elected a woman senator or governor, Brown's hardfought win still comes as a stunning surprise in that historically liberal state.

The last time Republicans won an open Senate seat in Massachusetts was 1966.

The win comes on the eve of the first anniversary of Barack Obama's inauguration when....

...three-out-of-four voters favored the new president. The GOP win, which denies Senate Democrats their important 60th vote, will now be widely interpreted as a referendum on Obama, who campaigned for Coakley just 36 hours before voting began, and on his ambitiously liberal agenda.

While White House aides anonymously point to Coakley's campaign as badly run; she took the Christmas holidays off, perhaps over-confidently, while Brown drove the state continuously and she allegedly sought D.C. help too late.

Turns out, that independent voters, a majority of the Bay state electorate and a crucial....

...ingredient in Obama's historic presidential win 14 months ago, abandoned him in droves. As they did in last November's Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, independents seemed disaffected that they'd voted in 2008 for a more moderate Obama than he turned out to be in 2009.

All pre-election indications from White House officials were that regardless of the Massachusetts results, they were going to push their ambitious agenda, rather than take a contrite, lesson-learned approach as Bill Clinton did after Republicans seized both house of Congress in 1994.

But Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, both ex-congressmen, may find harvesting Democratic votes more difficult on Capitol Hill in coming months as moderate and conservative party members sense a change in the country's mood with change to believe in on the Republican side this year.

Historically, a freshman president's party loses congressional seats anyway in his first midterm elections, except most recently for George W. Bush in 2002. The Massachusetts results may cause increased worry in many Democratic minds about even larger losses come November if they don't trim their sails as Massachusetts' notoriously liberal and now less-so voters have now signaled.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Brown's campaign

Comments () | Archives (10)

The comments to this entry are closed.

The total incompetence of the Democratic leadership on this one was incomprehensible. They deserved to lose and if this is a sign of things to come, should continue to lose.

Too bad for "too cockey" Coakley, but let's hope Brown is as " independent" as the voters who elected him..

Maybe there's hope for this country after all.

i don't know if they can hear the cheering in D.C., but we can hear it all the way out here in Hawaii. i'm an "independent", who happened to campaign for the president. i wholly support healthcare reform, but the proposed legislation is way off track. the foundation of reform needed to be cost control, not just at the federal level, but NHE -- national health expenditure. we don't even have a goal for cost, something like... NHE less than 15% of GDP by 2016. we can't subsidize care for everyone. the majority need to be able to afford it WITHOUT government help. perhaps more relevant, whether or not you agree with my concerns or the next citizens... legislation that will likely affect us all for the next 100 years should not be rammed through quickly in a wholly partisan effort. it's just not who we are as a country.

Bummer for the Dems. With only 59-41 majority how will they get anything done?? Funny, Bush never had close to such a majority and he got everything he ever wanted from Congress.

Bottomline: the GOP is morally corrupt. The Dems are simply inept.


Mr. Malcolm you appear to be reading this as a mandate for a more moderate Obama when really its a message for a more independent Obama. The state went 62% for Obama in the election, thinking he was going to bring a change of business to DC. Instead we received a very moderate Obama who has worked with PHARMA and Wall Street to craft his policy and cabinet. If you read even some of the local news out of Boston tonight you will see the voters they interviewed and the commentators in the papers are showing this was about sending a message against the establishment (Coakley - who has been around Dem politics forever) and FOR change - even if that change believes in almost none of the policies you do.

As for the particular policy points - we already have universal healthcare in the state (clearly not something indicating a desire for "moderates") but we want our tax payer dollars back and a government free of lobbyists. Here's hoping our message of change isn't misread as a desire for Republican policies.

Can someone please tell me why when Democrats are given the "keys to the store", they simply leave it unlocked and let the GOP steal everything? Then Democrats are gradually voted out of office, lose their president then lament for the next 8 years that the opposition party is running America into the ground. Martha Coakley should be run out of the Democratic party. It was her arrogance and refusal to campaign that brought on this mess in the first place. I'm still wondering why the Massachusetts Democratic party allowed her to run for Kennedy's seat in the first place!

Combined with GOP wins in Virginia and New Jersey, this is a third unmistakable repudiation of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi plan for America.
It's another firm kick in the ass to the corrupt, arrogant, oppressive "Chicago-on-the-Potomac" Democrat elite. Will Obama get the message?

Scott Brown >>> good man

Wrong lesson!

What those who voted for Obama wanted was a progressive. (More fool, they, as Obama is nothing like progressive.)

The lesson is: Go left! Enough of the Republican-lite corporatism. Be Democrats - or we won't vote for you.

If the Dems go the way of Clinton, the party will go the way it did because of Clinton's right-wing corporatism.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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