MESSACHUSSETTS: The Lion Sleeps Tonight


YOINK: Ted and Robert Kennedy at the zoo.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: There is no understating the symbolism or the substance of what happened Tuesday. Malcontent voters in this most Democratic of Democratic states plopped a Republican into the iconic Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat. This is huge. MORE

WASHINGTON POST: Massachusetts is among the nation’s most liberal states, and the candidates made it clear that a Brown victory could kill the Democrats’ health care push in the Senate. Democrats now must ask: Did Massachusetts voters register their discontent based on a decent understanding of the complex health care legislation? Or did conservatives do a better job of framing and spinning the debate, starting with raucous public meetings in August that caught Democrats flat-footed? The latest AP-GfK poll showed an even split between Americans who support the health care package and those who oppose it. But Republican lawmakers say Brown’s victory proves that public intensity and momentum are on their side. MORE

FINANCIAL TIMES: We are about to find out what Barack Obama is really made of. In all likelihood he will wake up on the first anniversary of his Death_Star.jpgyoung presidency with headlines howling its obituary. With the defeat of Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate anointed to succeed Edward Kennedy as senator for Massachusetts, by Republican Scott Brown looking probable last night, Mr Obama’s filibuster-proof majority in the Senate will have evaporated. With its demise the healthcare reform on which the president spent the lion’s share of his political capital during his first year will be imperilled, perhaps mortally. All the compromises he was forced to make, some involving precisely the shameless horse trading Candidate Obama swore to eschew; all the bets that his presidency would be seen as one of accomplishment not promise, now look like a busted flush. That this ignominious slap in the face should happen in a state conventionally classified as a temple of liberalism only makes the humbling more shocking. Even if Ms Coakley should squeak through to the Senate, last year’s elated swoon has been replaced by a dyspeptic snarl.

So, is all that is left of those moments a year ago on the Capitol steps – when nothing less than the rebirth of American governance seemed in the offing – just the presidential grandiloquence, to which the word “empty” is now being habitually attached? Have the Democrats displayed, yet again, their unmatched talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory? You heard it here first. The correct answer, counter to the new conventional wisdom, is no. The 44th president is on the mat, but anyone counting him out has not taken his measure. It is just that he may actually need to respond to the unrelenting pressure from zombie conservatism, ravenously flesh-eating and never quite dead, not by turning on more consensual charm, but by taking the gloves off. With his bank levy – “We want our money back,” he said – Mr Obama has belatedly begun to fight. Whether he can trade enough punches with the right before the November mid-term elections remains to be seen, but my hunch is that President Composure is up for a brawl. MORE

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