Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scott Brown Defeats Martha Coakley (and the Media Miss the Story Until the Last Minute)

This week it's been all Scott Brown, all the time.

Here's the amazing thing about this story: Brown's large lead over Martha Coakley did not hit the news until last Friday (a mere four days before the election).

Everyone's asking how the Democrats (either the Coakley campaign or the White House/national party (on that note: the intraparty sniping got heavy before the results were even in!)) failed to notice his momentum, but I think an even bigger story is how the media dropped the ball on this story. I mean, even John Dickerson -- who I consider to be more in tune with political polling and behind-the-scenese developments than just about any other reporter I follow -- barely gave the Massachusetts race a mention on last Friday's Slate political gabfest (which was recorded, I think, on Thursday).

It's not like people weren't writing stories about whether the health care bill could get through the final push of conferencing the House and Senate versions; reporters were writing those stories and pundits were having those converations on the Sunday shows. But nobody -- and I mean nobody -- raised the possibility that Brown could win and thereby throw the entire shebang into total disarray.

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There is a ton of analysis about what this means for health care and Obama's legislative agenda writ-large.

I think E.J. Dionne hit the nail on the head in a column this morning (here) when he argued that the Democrats in Congress dithered for too long on the health care bill -- timing and momentum do matter. Here's Dionne:
Brown's victory is also a rebuke to the Senate, which acted as though it had unlimited time to pass health-care legislation and ignored how foolish its listless ways appear to normal human beings. Like a bottle of milk kept out of the refrigerator too long, the health bill went sour for voters who felt they never heard an adequate explanation of what was in it.
As far as Scott Brown, I read on wikipedia that his day-job is real estate lawyer (!) and that he's a graduate of BC Law School. The oddest thing I've read about him yet is in Gail Collins's column this morning (here):

During Tuesday night’s victory speech, Brown veered off-script and offered up his college-student daughters to the crowd. (“Yes, they’re both available!”) As his girls laughed with embarrassment and his wife yelled at him to stop, Brown just dug deeper. (“Arianna’s definitely not available, but Ayla is.”)
OK, that's a bit of a bizarre opening statement on the national stage.
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The late-breaking news this afternoon is that Pelosi has announced the House will not attempt to pass the Senate version of the bill.

There's not been much talk, since Tuesday, about the possibility of swinging Susan Collins (to replace Paul Kirk's 60th vote), so I assume that the remaining options are reconciliation in the Senate or a significantly slimmed-down bill.

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