Martha Coakley at her rally with former President Clinton
President Obama and former President Clinton have both visited the bay state in the last 48 hours to galvanize support for a seemingly hapless Martha Coakley who has found herself in a tight race for what should have been an easy election victory.
Statewide elections in Massachusetts tend to favor Democratic candidates. That we have a close race in this election with some polls of likely voters showing the Republican a few points ahead is the result of a number of factors:
1. Elections like off year elections and special elections in months other than November usually have a depressed turn out that favors the candidate whose supporters are more energized.
2. The Republican base is unusually energized as a result of all of the lies they have been fed about health care reform.
3. The Democratic base seems disinterested or demoralized.
4. The Democratic candidate has not run a strong campaign. Coakley's team seems to have thought the demographics in Massachusetts would be enough to assure her the win. Coakley did not perform well in the debates and has made a number of gaffes during the campaign.
5. Senior members of the Democratic Party were slow to recognize the danger. The White House, the DNC and the Massachusetts Democratic Party didn't realize this was a real race until polls showed the race within the margin of error.
This race will be won or lost on turnout, specifically that of Democrats. If Massachusetts Democrats come out and vote on Tuesday, January 19, Brown and the Republicans don't have a chance. Most experts are banking on the idea that this will not happen.
Implications for Health Care Reform
Some interesting scenarios come into play if Coakley loses the race. At first glance, it would seem that this would deal a death blow to reform efforts as this would mean Democrats would only have potentially 59 votes in the senate and could not overcome a filibuster if all Republicans would unite behind one. However, we would still see a passage of Health Care Reform if Coakley loses.
First, it could take up to two weeks to certify the results and seat Brown. That is more than enough time for Democrats to unite behind a compromise bill, have it scored by the CBO and rush it through congress for a vote with Coakley still representing Massachusetts. For Democrats, that is the best case scenario if Coakley loses. The problem with this scenario is it has two dependencies that could fail, the speed of the certification, and the ability of Democrats to speedily produce and vote on a final bill.
If the above could not be done in time, the Democrats could still get a bill passed if House Democrats agreed to the entire Senate bill. The senate has already voted on this bill and I don't believe it would be required for them to vote on it again. This would be an ugly scenario. There are many issues with the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill and many Democrats, myself included, have hopes that those issues can be rectified in a final bill.
It is beyond the Health Care Reform bill where we see the maximum effect of a potential Coakley loss in Mssachusetts. A Republican victory would probably derail most of the rest of the Obama agenda. Republican senators have exhibited disciplined solidarity in their opposition to President Obama and the Democrats thus far in Obama's term. There could very well be no progress on immigration reform, Gay rights and a host of other issues. Items of spending and other budgetary measures could still be passed through reconciliation.