One day shy of his first year as President, Barack Obama faces the biggest threat to his incumbency and possibly to his power.
The voters in Massachusetts will determine today whether the Democrats’ filibuster-proof hold on the U.S. Senate is broken or maintained.
It appears that the expected ‘easy win’ by a Democrat in Massachusetts was a serious miscalculation. With the moniker for the Commonwealth of “The People’s Republic of Massachusetts” tossed so freely about, the misguided assumption by many was that the state was a shoe-in for a Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate.
But what seems to have been forgotten was the first rule of politics that the Massachusetts Congressman and Speaker of the House, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill so often reiterated. “All politics is local.” In Massachusetts as in any state a loved politician may be the only secure seat. Senator Ted Kennedy was overwhelmingly loved by the people of Massachusetts, from 1962 till his death in 2009. He brought home the bacon and he was there for his constituents. And when he stomped for Democrat Presidents, the people voted for “Ted Kennedy’s” president.
But now the beloved Senator is gone and the hard facts are on the table. As of the 2006 census, there were 4,098, 634 registered voters in Massachusetts, of whom 37% were Democrats, 13% were Republicans and a whopping 50% declared themselves as Independents. Fifty percent of the voters in Massachusetts declare that they are unaffiliated with a party. WOW!!
Massachusetts has a long history of electing a Republican as Governor. In fact, in recent history (defined as my lifespan for this piece, i.e. since the middle of the last century) there have been nine Republican and six Democrat governors, and that is counting Michael Dukakis twice (as a Democrat, of course).
Admittedly, the last time a Republican was elected to the Senate was in 1967. That was Senator Ed Brooke, who lasted two terms. In fact, I voted for him, in my very first time at the polls. To be fair, though, with the seat occupied by Senator Kennedy hardly ever in doubt, there hasn’t been much of a Senatorial race for over half a century.
Now it is a different story. The Independents in Massachusetts are free to vote with their heads not their hearts. Massachusetts is actually a hotbed for independent thinking and acting. Remember they created the first tea party.
Polls can be misleading and deceiving as we have seen on too many occasions to count. But a statistic that is worth noting is that the absentee ballots cast for this Senate race are running far higher than is usual. That means there are voters with passion.
It will be fascinating to watch the news this evening. I am making no predictions, but regardless of the outcome of today’s election, a message is being sent to President Obama. If Scott Brown should win big, a big message will have been sent.
Patricia W. Chadwick has had more than 35 years of investment experience. She is the founder and president of Ravengate Partners LLC, a consulting firm that provides advice on financial markets and global economics.