Massachusetts Senate race: Referendum on Obama?

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.

In the waning days of the campaign, many independent voters did express worries about health care. But Massachusetts already has a state requirement that residents get health insurance.

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.

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.


2 thoughts on “Massachusetts Senate race: Referendum on Obama?

  1. I wonder how Robin Carnahan feels this morning. I’m not sure that she has ever engaged Missouri voters party or built a following among independents. If she can’t define herself soon in a credible way, she’s in trouble.

  2. True. As 50-50 as Missouri is, the Tea Party movement could be enough to push the advantage the other direction, although with so many years in Washington, Roy Blunt has to squelch the perception he’s an insider. And she does have the built-in recognition that comes with the Carnahan name.

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