Saturday, January 16, 2010


How serious is the threat of Massachusetts electing a far-right Republican to the Senate next week? Serious enough to send President Obama to the state to try to prevent it.

President Barack Obama will travel to Massachusetts to campaign with state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) on Sunday, a sign of the import the White House is attaching to the Senate special election race that could determine the fate of the Administration's health care bill.

The Obama visit is the clearest signal yet that the race, which was once expected to be a cakewalk for Coakley, has turned into a toss up with just four days of campaigning before ballots are cast on Tuesday. [...]

In dispatching the President to the Bay State, Democratic strategists are hoping to energize their party's base, which, to date, has been largely apathetic about the race generally and Coakley's candidacy specifically. Obama, on Friday, also recorded an automated phone call as well in an effort to gin up turnout for Coakley.

Rahm Emanuel reportedly started reaching out to party leaders in Massachusetts this week, asking if a presidential visit was necessary. We now know what he heard in response.

There is, of course, a political risk involved in having Obama, who remains a popular figure in Massachusetts, hit the campaign trail in support of a struggling candidate -- if Coakley loses after a presidential visit, it makes Obama look bad, and may suggest to other Dems that the president can't save them if they run into electoral trouble.

But the risks associated with a Coakley defeat are far more serious -- thanks to Republican obstructionism, a GOP victory on Tuesday would effectively end legislative progress for the rest of the year. After all, Dems would "only" have 59 votes, and because the Senate is broken, 41 members trump 59.

Time will tell if the president is able to make a difference, but the recent trajectory suggests Coakley needs something to motivate Democrats -- the campaign's internal polling, which showed Coakley up by a few points earlier this week now show her trailing by four points.

It's also worth emphasizing that there may be some misconceptions about GOP nominee Scott Brown. Massachusetts Republicans, after all, have a reputation for being relatively moderate on key issues, and it's possible that some voters think Brown may be more of an Olympia-Snowe-like senator, caucusing with the opposition party but willing to engage with the majority.

That's clearly not the case. Brown is surprisingly conservative -- he supports torture, opposes Wall Street accountability, supports more tax cuts for the wealthy, supports restrictions on abortion rights, opposes economic recovery efforts, opposes modest health care reform efforts, and doubts that global climate change is the result of human activity.

Brown doesn't intend to go to the Senate to play a constructive role in solving problems; he intends to go the Senate to push the Bush/Cheney agenda. That's not spin or rhetoric -- that's what he's effectively promised the voters of Massachusetts.

Sully: Obama's Tora Bora?

He had health insurance reform in his grasp and yet it may now be swiped away because they simply took too long to get it done. Josh vents:

[If Scott Brown wins], Health Care Reform will be dead unless the House agrees to pass the Senate bill verbatim -- which I really wonder about, given how dug in the progressives in the House are. Barney Frank doesn't seem to think it'll happen.

At that point, how incredibly stupid is the dawdling over the last few weeks going to look? The work of a year, arguably the work of a few generations, let go needlessly over a single special election?

It's really almost beyond comprehension.

It is until you realize the Democratic party organized this Congressional mess and the Coakley candidacy. And then, of course, there is the total, rigid opposition to any reform and any cooperation at all from the nihilist Republicans. Obama is president for three more years. He will survive. He may even prosper. But this really would be a massive blow. To get this close and lose health insurance would embolden every enemy Obama has, from Netanyahu to Ailes.

That's the only reason to vote for Coakley on Tuesday.

She's a dreadful candidate, but this race is now a critical battle in the war to rescue the possibility of effective governance. If health reform dies, it will show just how broken the system is, just how impossible it is to effect even centrist reform in a Senate this paralyzed, how polarization has made compromise impossible, how the country's profound problems are simply beyond the system's reach. If this fails, what chance for any action on climate change? Or the debt? Or some movement toward a settlement in the Middle East?

And if Obama fails, there are no Democrats able to match him. The nihilist Republicans would be resurgent, pledging more tax cuts, more debt, and no entitlement cuts, entrenching torture as the American way, and pouring even more resources into the indefinite occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The lesson will be: permanent political war is the only way. The only way to govern the country is to divide and weaken it.

Just like Rove did. You want that back? Vote Brown. You don't? Hold your nose and vote for Coakley.

Booman: Let's Have That Debate
I haven't weighed in on the special election in Massachusetts. I hope Martha Coakley wins, but I don't know if she will. I don't have any advice to offer, and I'm not interested in running her down as a candidate because I don't see how that will help. Frankly, I haven't been paying enough attention to critique her performance as a candidate. But, if she loses, and people start pointing fingers, I don't think Armando really hits the mark when he says "don't blame internecine fighting." More explicitly, Armando makes the point that it makes no sense to shout down the disaffected left, even if they are partly to blame. Let's think about that.

He's 100% right that the left does not need to hear a lecture from Rahm Emanuel, or any squishy Blue Dog/New Dem 'centrists' about how we're all a bunch a cry babies who are hurting the party. But what about people on the left talking to other people on the left? How about an internal debate on whether our tactics are working or not? Because, I don't think they're working, and a lot of what I've seen in the progressive blogosphere this year has been more effective at demoralizing and dividing the troops than it has been in persuading anyone not on the left to do what we want or advise.

If Coakley loses and this starts some soul-searching debate or circular firing squad, I think the real conversation needs to be the left talking to itself.

Sully: The Candidate The Massachusetts Democrats Rejected

Here is congressman Capuano from Cambridge, rejected in favor of the tired, useless hack, Coakley:

Yeah, the Democrats are a bunch of hapless, complacent, arrogant morons. I'm anguished by what they have done to Obama. But they reap what they sow.

Marshall: No Health Care for Brown's Staff?

The Massachusetts senate race is all about Health Care.

But is Scott Brown even providing health care coverage for his staff? He's got his whole staff working as independent contractors -- top to bottom -- so they're paying their own payroll taxes and presumably finding health care coverage on their own.

Think Progress: Wall Street Investors Lavish Scott Brown’s Campaign With Money, Get Out The Vote Operations

Major U.S. banks which instigated the financial crisis are set to pay out “record” bonuses and compensation — $145 billion by some estimates. State Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), the Republican candidate running for the special U.S. Senate election next week, announced yesterday that he would oppose the recently announced financial crisis responsibility fee on large banks.

Brown’s defense of the financial industry has not been ignored by Wall Street. Wall Street’s two largest political enforcers are also out fighting to elect him:

The Wall Street front group FreedomWorks is mobilizing get out the vote efforts for Brown this weekend. FreedomWorks organized the very first tea party protests, and has used its extensive staff and resources to mobilize rallies and advocacy campaigns on behalf of corporate interests. Dick Armey, who as a corporate lobbyist represented AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch during the bailouit, is the leader of FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks is also funded and chaired by Steve Forbes and Frank Sands of Sands Capital Management.

The Wall Street front group Club for Growth is strongly “boosting” Brown and is expected to run ads in support for him. According to recent disclosures, the Club for Growth is funded by a $1.4 million dollar donation from investor Stephen Jacksons of Stephens Groups Inc, a $1.4 million dollar donation from broker Richard Gilder, and $210,000-$630,000 donations from at least 10 other investors and financial industry professionals. The Club is also supporting a slate of candidates to repeal health reform, while its other endorsed candidates have opposed a financial truth commission.

According to a ThinkProgress analysis of Brown’s latest Federal Elections Commission disclosures (part 1, part 2, part 3), filed on Jan. 8 and 11, business executives and Wall Street executives have lavished Brown’s campaign coffers with 11th hour contributions:

Scott Brown contributions

A report on financial industry compensation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo found that large financial corporations — including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Citigroup — spend between 25% to 50% of total revenue on paying out executive compensation. While the finance industry often refuses to offer lines of credit to American businesses struggling in this economy, they operate largely as vehicles to make bankers richer.

Brown casts himself as an everyday man, telling reporters “it’s me against the machine.” In fact, Brown is teaming up with Wall Street bankers to kill financial reform and preserve a system of Bush-era unfettered capitalism.

It's a little late in the game to introduce a game-changing issue into the Senate special election in Massachusetts -- the election is Tuesday, after all -- but this revelation nevertheless tells voters something pretty important about Republican Scott Brown.

One month after the September 11th attacks, Scott Brown was one of only three Massachusetts State Representatives to vote against a bill to provide financial assistance to Red Cross workers who had volunteered with 9/11 recovery efforts, we've learned.

The Brown campaign acknowledged the vote to us, claiming the measure would have taxed already-strained state finances. [...]

On October 17th, 2001, Brown voted against a bill that would authorize "leaves of absence for certain Red Cross employees participating in Red Cross emergencies." The bill gave 15 days of paid leave each year to state workers called up by the Red Cross to respond to disasters. At the time, state workers called for such emergencies were required to use sick and vacation days.

This suggests an almost-stunning callousness. It's all the more galling that Brown knew it was going to pass -- 148 to 3 -- but opposed it anyway, just to make a point.

I shudder to think what Republicans would say about a Democratic lawmaker who cast a vote like this just a month after the 9/11 attacks

The Brown campaign has said the vote was about fiscal responsibility -- Massachusetts couldn't afford assistance for Red Cross workers who had volunteered with 9/11 recovery efforts.

That's not a bad line, I suppose, but here's my follow-up question: why, then, does Scott Brown recommend tax cuts now that the nation can't afford? Why would tax cuts for the wealthy be more important than help for 9/11 recovery volunteers?

DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz told Greg Sargent, "On a day with Scott Brown bringing in Rudy Giuliani, he ought to give the people of Massachusetts an explanation as to why he voted against relief for 9/11 workers. We knew Scott Brown was a shill for Wall Street and corporate interests, but I cannot imagine what excuse he comes up with for this vote. He ought to be ashamed of himself and he ought to apologize to the Mayor of New York."

It also reinforces the fact that Brown, a favorite of the Tea Party crowd, isn't even close to being a moderate. He's pretty far to the right on everything from torture to taxes, health care to the economy, Wall Street accountability to global warming.

But this 9/11 vote may lead on-the-fence voters to wonder whether Brown represents "a new day," or the worst of yesterday.

Update: On a related note, if the media is making a big deal about a DSCC ad that inadvertently showed the World Trade Center (the ad was pulled), Brown's vote on 9/11 recovery volunteers is at least as important, if not more so.

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