The first thing I thought of when I saw Martha Coakley's concession speech was Carly Fiorina.
That was a bad sign.
The professional pundits are having a field day, as if this is Democratic loss of a Massachusetts Senate seat is license to pull every hoary political chestnut out of the bag. The only thing I haven't heard very much is how bad Coakley would have lost if the calvary hadn't come to her rescue at the last minute.
The Dems have a healthcare plan that even in a normal economy would be a challenge to pass, because our national culture is one that is very resistant to change. In a recession, it is exponentially harder to convince the middle of the country that anything new is good.
Traditional political wisdom pushes the notion that a president has a magic wand once he gets in the White House, a wand that should be able to grant members of the president's party an extra shiny glow that hypnotizes voters into showing waves of support for their local and statewide races, a wand that the president replenishes at the well of national public opinion.
What the Democrats are finally realizing is something I've been saying ever since Barack Obama won the presidency - that Obama has changed the game for his colleagues in a way many of them are not willing to face. The unintended consequence of the Democrats having a president who pulled out all the stops and ran the best organized, best financed campaign in the history of political campaigns is that the opposition got better, even as they lost. And the public got used to seeing what a real campaign looked like.
Raising the bar so dramatically in 2008 should have pushed Democrats to realize that they couldn't run the same old campaigns they had in the past, because in getting out the vote to oppose Obama, the GOP and the grassroots activists learned a few things themselves. They learned how to use the internet better. They learned how to push the operations decisions down to the field level to be more responsive more quickly to the neighborhood by neighborhood quirks that define all local politics.
The TV pundits, sadly, do not seem to believe that hard work on a day to day basis means anything in politics anymore. To hear them tell it, the American public is as fickle as the wind, when any professional vote counter worth his salt can show you how little people deviate from their historical voting patterns. To the punditocracy, all Scott Brown had to do was show his pearly whites and shake his head "no" whenever the name "Obama" or the phrase "healthcare reform" came up.
FOX News has been telling you that your president is "dangerous" ever since he set foot in the White House a year ago. But a truly dangerous president is a reactionary one who abruptly changes course in mid-stream while flailing away at his opponents. While Obama's style of engagement could be different going forward, I wouldn't expect any wholesale changes in his presidential agenda.
What Scott Brown did was what every GOP candidate in the country is prepared to do this year - engage in hand-to-hand combat for every loose vote out there the way Obama did back in 2008. Democratic candidates in every state are going to have to run high octane, turbo charged efforts to get out the vote FROM THE BEGINNING this year. If Democrats are not prepared to rethink the scope of their campaign efforts, who are not ready to figure out how to pull in every rag tag coalition and single issue faction in their districts into the fold, who are not ready to shake those hands and kiss those babies until their bodies become numb - you can expect to join Martha Coakley's example come Election Night in November.