Start with a stubbornly high unemployment rate, still in double digits. For months, President Obama, the Democratic Party, and their policies have been losing the support, in particular, of independents nationwide, and independents are the largest voting bloc in Massachusetts.
Though seen as the bluest of blue states – and indeed, its entire congressional delegation is Democratic – Massachusetts has been known to elect a Republican or two in its recent history, particularly to the governor’s office. The current governor, Democrat Deval Patrick, has low job approvals.
Congress is in the final throes of healthcare reform, an increasingly unpopular effort that has been caricatured by Republicans – including Brown – as an attempt by Washington to take over the healthcare system. Brown appears to have successfully turned his Senate race into a referendum on healthcare reform.
“As the 41st senator I can stop a lot of this stuff in its tracks,” Brown told Politico on Jan. 7. In the 100-seat Senate, he would be the 41st Republican, ending the Democrats’ filibuster-proof supermajority of 60 seats.
Tapping into the 'tea parties'
Brown has also successfully tapped into the energy and support of the antitax “tea party” movement, which has responded to his call for help. Republicans in general have flooded the state with money when Brown’s late surge showed he had a shot.
So is Mr. Obama himself in part to blame for Coakley’s woes? Insofar as he has presided over his own steady decline in job approval, and even lower public approval of his policies, then yes. The White House, fearing bad news later in the day, pushed back Tuesday against blame for its role in the campaign.