Let the punditry commence.
The political chatterers have spent much time recently on the special election in Massachusetts as Republican state Sen. Scott Brown closed in on the Democratic candidate, Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Tuesday, Brown defeated Coakley, taking the U.S. Senate seat held for 46 years by Ted Kennedy, known as “the liberal lion of the Senate.”
As many experts have done with other recent Republican wins, they extrapolated this race as a referendum on Obama and health care. How could a Republican win in such a Democratic state — unless people wanted to stop Obamacare and a growing national debt?
Such an analysis oversimplifies what led people to pull the lever for Brown on Tuesday.
Though Massachusetts elects many Democrats, a recent Gallup study showed that most people in the state consider themselves politically independent (49 percent), far greater than the national average. About 35 percent consider themselves Democrats, the same percentage as the national average.
Obama remains popular: people like him on a personal level, and an average of recent polls shows more Americans approve of the job he’s doing than disapprove.
Candidate Coakley also brought much of the outcome on herself.
- She did not campaign hard enough. With a huge initial lead in the polls, she played it safe, refusing to do more than one debate. As a one-term attorney general, she did not have enough of a track record to coast to victory.
- She seemed out of touch. As a Democrat, the opposition could (and did) portray her as an insider. And could there be a bigger gaffe in Boston than calling Red Sox hero Curt Schilling a “Yankee fan”?
- She approved nasty ads. Some voters interviewed in recent days noted they were turned off by Coakley’s attacks on Brown. (This ad also misspells her home state, yet another embarrassing misstep.)
Too often, pundits reduce complexity to a singular narrative. When hundreds of thousands of people are involved, however, the chatterers should refrain from generalizing what thought process led people to vote in a particular way.