In what is usually a solid-blue Democratic state Scott Brown shook the political world – and the U.S. Senate – by capturing for the GOP the Massachusetts seat long held by Ted Kennedy. Overcoming a 3 to 1 Democratic registration advantage on the voter rolls, and not long removed from an easy Obama win in the state, Brown's winning campaign themes found resonance by hitting at the ways of Washington, and opposition to the Democrats' health care legislation.
As votes still were coming in, it appeared Brown did fairly well in the working class areas outside Boston, the non-affluent suburbs, and better than some expected in the western parts of the state. Given the high turnout in the rest of the state, Coakley did not get the turnout she would have needed in Democratic strongholds to make up the difference.
Brown did well in places like Quincy, where he was leading in vote counts tonight, and better than some expected up north in Lowell, and other key towns in the suburbs of Boston, and kept it close enough in places like Brockton. Coakley had to come out of the Democratic stronghold of Boston with a large vote margin, and had a 50,000 vote lead with counts still coming in, yet needed to do better still… In Worcester, she was ahead only narrowly, but probably had to win by thousands more in a place where Democrats often build sizeable statewide leads.
Analysis from CBSNews.com:
Scott Brown's Victory: What Does it Mean?
Scott Brown's Win Shows It's Not a Good Time to Be a Democrat
Turnout was high for a special election - 2.2 million with votes still coming in - which some had thought could be a favorable sign for Coakley. The larger electorate more closely resembled a November midterm election than a special election, perhaps partly due to all the attention focused on the race. The fact that a Republican prevailed in that turnout suggests that a substantial number of independents, as well as perhaps some usual Democrats, may have opted for Brown this time.
Following on the heels of Republican wins in Governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia late last year, this race –in which national issues were more prominent campaign themes than the other two – is sure to open questions (fairly or not) about Democrats' prospects heading into the 2010 cycle. Surely there were many variables involved here, and factors unique to this race; and some will point to Coakley's own campaign. But the results may also suggest a very tough political environment for the incumbent party, at least as of now, when most Americans still give the national economy very bad ratings.
Anthony Salvanto is CBS News Elections Director.