In a startling turnaround from trailing by almost 30 points at the start of his campaign, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley today to win the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the Kennedy family for over 50 years.
Brown ran a populist campaign, driving around the state in his pickup, taking minimal support from the GOP establishment, and relying on the Tea Party movement for small donations from individual contributors in an internet “Money Bomb” which added up to a big boost in the last week of the campaign. One effectve strategy was to play on the popular assumption that the Senate seat was Democrat property by stressing that he was running for “the peoples seat.”
The Coakley campaign received massive support from the Democratic party, including a flood of party money, footsoldiers from the SEIU and appearances from party luminaries like Bill Clinton, John Kerry and President Obama. Yet all of this couldn’t offset Coakley’s gaffes and apparent attitude of entitlement or the overwhelming public dissatisfaction with Democrat policies.
In addition to the small core of Republican voters in Massachusetts, Brown drew two-thirds of the independent votes and even 22% of the Democrats. Voters were most concerned about the nation’s growing debt and the relentless efforts of Democrats to pass a health care plan which most Americans disapprove of.
Brown’s win shows that the Tea Party movement has a real constituency. They are independent voters who have had enough of politicians not listening to them and voted for Brown to be their voice in Washington. Stopping the healt hcare bill and restoring fiscal responsibility is a lot to expect from a single mortal, but with hundreds of congressional seats up for election in less than a year and the grassroots energized by this victory, Scott Brown won’t be alone for long.