From the cradle of the American Revolution comes the news that Scott Brown raised $1.3 million in the last 24 hours (in response to a money bomb request) while his Democratic opponent misspelled “Massachusetts” in her TV ads.
Giddy with the good news, Republicans may be setting themselves up for a big disappointment in next week’s special election to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat – and if expectations are not managed,that could affect the media chatter on cable news over the next several months.
Though the idea of a red flag rising up in a blue state is appealing, Republicans must remember that this is an “against-the-spread” race – so a margin of defeat within 5-7 percentage points is as good as a win. And followers of national political trends shouldn’t assume a state’s voters will see things the same way.
After all – the Kennedys weren’t a legacy at Harvard because they could spell.
When the news broke about Ted Kennedy’s death last week, two things became imminent: 1) A televised re-telling of the Kennedy legend, played out over several days; and 2) a well-crafted obituary that criticized Kennedy imagery, penned by Massachusetts’ own Dan Flynn.
My Mom will enjoy Flynn’s take on Kennedy’s dicey version of Catholicism (that allows de facto divorce), but Flynn also discusses the near-royal status the Kennedy family enjoyed and the changing policy positions Ted Kennedy embraced throughout his career that signified a lack of substance beyond his last name. While maintaining a respect for the deceased, Flynn pokes holes in the images that have been all over the TV over the past few days:
The caricature that Ann Richards and others painted of George H.W. Bush — “born on third base and thought that he hit a triple” — more resembled Ted Kennedy, a gregarious rogue enabled by wealth, power, and a famous last name. The privilege that shielded the playboy senator from the consequences of his actions acted as a double-edge sword by ensuring that he also never learned from the mistakes he didn’t suffer from.
Here are some things you might not know about lions:
According to National Geographic (yes, that’s a link to their kids’ website, but I’m assuming the facts are still good – it’s not like they’re lying to children, so back off) lions are not the “King of the Jungle.” Despite a fancy title, they inhabit plains and grasslands. Lions are somewhat inept at hunting, with just one kill per seven tries. Sometimes they swipe food killed by other animals, and within the pride, the hunters who do all the work, the lionesses, are not the ones who eat first. Male lions, whose main roles are marking territory, get to visit the zebra buffet first.
So comparing someone to a lion – though occasionally valid – may not always be a compliment.
Massachusetts state law isn’t handed down by decree from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis – yet. So Ted Kennedy has had to politely ask the leaders of his state government to change the laws which govern the filling of a Senate vacancy to allow the governor to directly appoint the next junior Senator from the Bay State. Kennedy, who has been absent from most of the current Senate term, claims to be worried about Massachusetts having “continuity of representation.” It seems clear that his worry stems from the current health care debate.
Despite its reputation as a deep blue abyss, Massachusetts Republicans have done well in statewide elections for most of the last two decades. Those victories came on the back of an electorate which is largely registered “independent.” Consider also some other possibilities: a bruising Democratic primary, or the chance of an independent jumping into the race (like former Democrat Tim Cahill, who is running an independent campaign for Governor).
It adds up to a lot more than a special election for an iconic seat in the Senate: it adds up to a multi-faceted referendum on President Obama’s health care reform plans. And since it’s Massachusetts, where a Kennedy clone is expected, there are actually many ways this election can be portrayed as a “loss” for the President – and, more significantly, to the type of health care Kennedy champions.
Kennedy could have avoided this by stepping down several months ago, when a favorable political environment and an excited Democratic base would have made the popular vote on his hand-picked successor a formality. Kennedy lost that opportunity, which is why he is now asking the state to crown his heir by selection, rather than election.