By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
At least here in D.C., everybody's eyes are on Massachusetts as we await the results tonight. They're giving Boston weather reports on the radio, to try and gauge turnout in the state today in the absence of any exit polls. Just two weeks ago, the Boston Globe had Martha Coakley leading Scott Brown by 15 points. This weekend's polls showed big changes: seven out of the last eight polls over the weekend on Real Clear Politics put Brown ahead, some by as much as 10 points. No wonder everybody's watching it. There's a great lesson for Republicans and Democrats there.
That same Politico poll has Brown ahead by a whopping 41 percent margin among independents; according to Sunday's Boston Globe, the majority of registered voters in Massachusetts are independents. I don't know if Brown is going to win or not, but the fact that he's ahead by such a huge margin among independents is a great thing for the GOP--after all, independents were also the deciding factor in the Virginia and New Jersey governors' races recently won by Republicans. Brown is picking up on the same themes that worked in those races, and he's smart to do so. Like Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie, he hasn't been out front on social issues, just talking blue-collar pocketbook concerns and running against big-government liberalism. The day after those two elections, the Washington Post's Dan Balz reported this:
For months, polls have shown that independents were increasingly disaffected with some of Obama's domestic policies. They have expressed reservations about the president's health-care efforts and have shown concerns about the growth in government spending and the federal deficit under his leadership.
There's a lesson here for Democrats, too. People still like Obama, but there's a bit of buyer's remorse, I think. They wanted change but they're concerned about spending. As Sy and Marcy Sims would say, an "educated consumer is our best customer," and in politics you'd say those are today's independents. They're not all dittoheads for Rush Limbaugh, and they're not all willing to pull the lever for Democrats automatically, either. On both sides, they don't want to be taken for granted. That's why so many identify themselves as independents in the first place.
Every headline I read calls this "Ted Kennedy's seat"--not the seat he held, or the seat now occupied by Paul Kirk, but "Ted Kennedy's seat" as if he owned it. At last week's debate, Brown was asked how he felt about being in "Ted Kennedy's seat."
"With all due respect," Brown fired back, "it is not Ted Kennedy's seat. It is not the Democrats' seat. It is the people of Massachusetts' seat."
(The headline of the McClatchy News story that reported that quote: "Race to Fill Kennedy's Seat Could Derail His Health Care Crusade." See what I mean?)
That was a great answer by Brown. The same entitlement mentality that expects voters to keep "Ted Kennedy's seat" in Democrats' hands is the same one that thinks independents will vote for Coakley simply to keep that 60th vote--and the unpopular healthcare reform bill, more government spending, and ballooning federal deficits that come with it. It's the same liberal arrogance that discounts the reasonable anger of taxpayers who've had enough. It takes people for granted. I'll be surprised if Brown doesn't win. He's pointing out the entitlement mentality--ironically about entitlement spending--that's gripped the Democrats lately, and even if they win, they'd be wise to be a bit more humble.