Well holy moly. I'd almost convinced myself that what I think just happened actually happened. Then I clicked into the Drudge Report, saw the screen below, and was slapped back into the sense that someone slipped me a mickey and I'm in the midst of a very vivid hallucination.
A lot of commentary flying around this morning, of course, both local and national. There are the petty, nasty hissy-fits of the folks whose worldview simply cannot allow for such a development as the election of a Republican to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate (he'll be sitting in the Brown Seat, by the way). I'm not reading those today. Those people don't matter a whit today.
Then there are two primary camps: those who argue the result was a referendum on President Obama and/or health care; and those who think this was all about a terrible campaign matched up with a surprisingly nimble and efficient one.
Personally, I think the real story is a combination of both, plus another crucial factor that, with very few exceptions, the national media is missing. Yes, 56% of voters who turned out told Suffolk polling that health care was their top issue, so there's plenty of support for the "referendum" argument. Yes, the Coakley campaign was a picture of disconnected ineptitude from the day after the primary through last night. And yes, from the day that he announced Scott Brown busted his rear tirelessly, 7 days a week, all across the Commonwealth.
But there was another piece too, which I think helps to explain why all of those independents and conservative democrats turned out yesterday to pull a lever: the fed-up Massachusetts factor. The aggregation of DiMasi, and Gallucio, and Wilkerson, and Marzilli, and Turner, and the tax hikes, and the budgetary ineptitude, and the profound voter disappointment in Governor Patrick. While none of these bore directly upon the choice between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley for the U.S. Senate, they provided a subtext that motivated many thousands of people who would not otherwise have bothered to participate to get out and vote.
Today the country is focused on whether the White House and Congressional Democrats will receive and correctly interpret the message Massachusetts sent yesterday on behalf of a frustrated and ornery national electorate. In Massachusetts, however, it is fair to wonder if Beacon Hill's Democrats will get the message too. Time and again they have proved themselves to be a remarkably reality-resistant bunch.
Next November is a lifetime away. If the sea change that occurred between President Obama's inauguration in January and last night proved anything, it proved that these days the political worm turns awfully fast. Unless their heads are well and truly buried deep in the sand, though, there have to be a lot of Democrats on Beacon Hill this morning wondering if the coalition of Republicans, Independents and fed-up Democrats that Scott Brown built is coming for them next.
I think it is.
UPDATE: 1/21: Margery Egan agrees (yikes.) So does the Associated Press.