Bay State votes, Plouffe speaks

What will today's election mean? Perhaps Obama's campaign manager can provide perspective

By Joe Conason
Published January 19, 2010 6:45PM (EST)

Today as the people of Massachusetts vote, perhaps to elect Scott Brown as the successor to the late Ted Kennedy, the Washington punditry is seizing upon that possibility to write political obituaries for President Obama and the congressional Democrats. At ABC News’ The Note, Rick Klein darkly ponders a "fairly final" judgment on the Obama presidency, just one year into his term. Republicans, notably including Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader,  assures us that this single special election will deliver a final judgment on healthcare reform in all its aspects -- unless, of course, Martha Coakley somehow wins. Then it won’t matter at all.

Whatever the outcome in the Bay State -- where those deep-dyed indigo voters have chosen Republican governors in five of the past six elections -- everyone should cool down before rendering the ultimate verdict on anything. The truth about public attitudes toward healthcare is far more complex than McConnell will ever admit. And any "final" public judgment of Obama is still very far away. If you don’t believe that, then ask Bill Clinton, whose healthcare defeat and decline in popularity during his first term were so discouraging that even some Democrats urged him not to run for reelection (a contest he won easily in 1996).

The Republicans will certainly seek to stampede the congressional Democrats into political surrender if Coakley loses, and no doubt the GOP’s faithful friends in the mainstream media will utter many portents of doom. But panic is exactly what the Democrats should resist.

For a calmer perspective on the future of the Obama presidency -- and a break from potentially dispiriting election returns this evening -- Democrats and progressives may want to listen to David Plouffe, chief organizer of Obama for American in 2008 and author of "The Audacity to Win." By remarkable coincidence you can hear him  live tonight, in conversation with Sam Stein of the Huffington Post, sponsored by Progressive Book Club

Joe Conason

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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2010 Elections Barack Obama