The final percentages aren't in as this is written, but it's plain that Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley by a substantial margin in the race for the remainder of the late Edward Kennedy's Senate term. In Massachusetts. The state that in the last four presidential elections has voted on average 61 percent Democratic and 33 percent Republican. That's a bigger margin than in any other state.
If a Republican can win there, he (or she) can win anywhere. That's a message that is not lost on anyone whose name is on the ballot later this year.
A lot of attention over the next several days will be focused on health care legislation. Liberal bloggers and think tank denizens have been demanding that Congress pass a health care bill, by slow-walking Brown's swearing-in and slamming a compromise through the Senate, or by having the House pass the Senate bill, or by using the reconciliation process that would require only 51 Senate votes.
Have any of these people ever worked a precinct?
The slow-walk tactic is probably illegal, as Fred Barnes has argued in The Weekly Standard; there don't seem to be 218 votes in the House for the Senate bill (because of the abortion issue and the Cadillac tax on union health care plans); and the reconciliation process is not available for many of the key features of the Democratic bill.
Plus, the Massachusetts vote is a loud and clear signal that the American people hate this legislation. Barack Obama came into office assuming that economic distress would move most Americans to favor big government legislation. It turns out that's not so. Not when Democratic bills would take away the health insurance most of them are content with. Not when it's the product of backroom deals and blatant political bribery.
But Brown's victory was not just a rejection of Democrats' health care plans. Brown also stoutly opposed the Democrats' cap-and-trade legislation to reduce carbon emissions. He spoke out strongly for trying terrorists like the Christmas bomber in military tribunals, not in the civil court system where lawyers would advise them to quit talking. He talked about cutting taxes rather than raising them as Democrats are preparing to do.