It began last November in statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey. Then it swept through Massachusetts in a stunning U.S. Senate special election this January. Most recently, it has spilled over into primary battles in Utah, Kentucky and Pennsylvania – growing more potent as the calendar year advances toward a climactic November 2010 showdown.
“It” is the ongoing, unequivocal public repudiation of the agenda of President Barack Obama – a seismic shift in the thinking of the American electorate regarding the sort of “change” they want for their country. In several races “it” is also a direct rejection of Obama himself – as evidenced by the deaf ear voters turned to his personal appeals on behalf of Massachusetts’ Attorney General Martha Coakley and party-switching Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.
Both Coakley and Specter enjoyed commanding leads over their opponents prior to Obama’s active engagement in their races, with Specter enjoying a 21-point cushion over Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak as recently as last month (Sestak ended up defeating Specter by a 54-46 percent margin). Similarly, Sen. Scott Brown trailed Coakley by 17 points just two weeks before pulling off his improbable five-point upset victory.
In both races, Obama appeared in radio and television ads on behalf of the losing candidates – and in the Massachusetts race he paid a last-minute visit to the Bay State in an unsuccessful effort to rally Coakley’s faltering campaign (similar to his failed last-ditch effort to revive the flagging candidacy of New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine).
There was no eleventh hour visit for Specter – but only because Obama’s political advisors read the handwriting on the wall and were desperate to avoid yet another embarrassing image of their boss with his arms draped around another losing candidate. Accordingly, after pledging to give Specter his “full support,” when Election Day rolled around Obama was nowhere to be found – and wasn’t even following the race “all that closely,” according to his spokesman.
How’s that for loyalty?
Also worth noting was the tremendous shot in the arm that Sestak’s campaign received when he revealed that the Obama administration (in typical “Chicagoland” fashion) offered him a high-paying federal job in exchange for dropping his primary challenge against Specter – a charge which has yet to be properly investigated, but which served as a turning point in the race.