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

January 19, 2010 |  6:57 pm

(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

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