That a Republican could even be running well in the special election to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) is a surprise, and probably an indication of the problems facing Democrats nationally. But why — when Republican Scott Brown is leading Democrat Martha Coakley by only one point in the latest polls — won’t President Obama fly to the Bay State to campaign for her?
With the special election coming next Tuesday (January 19th) this one may go down to the wire. Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was pressed about the president’s role yesterday.
“The President doesn’t have any travel plans to Massachusetts,” Gibbs told reporters at the White House during the regular press briefing Monday.
As lively as the questioning was of Gibbs on issues ranging from pending health care legislation to the recent controversial remarks of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), the President’s decision not to come to the aid of Coakley seemed surprising. This was because it came days after a nonpartisan a PPP showed leftist State Attorney General Coakley trailing moderate-to-conservative Brown among likely voters by a margin of 48% to 47% statewide — and was the talk of many national TV talk shows on Sunday.
So it was no surprise that Fox-TV’s Major Garrett returned to the Bay State story later in the briefing and asked Gibbs why the Democratic Party’s top campaigner was not going to Massachusetts to help the embattled Coakley.
“It was not on the schedule to go,” replied the President’s top spokesman.
“Was he not asked to come [by the Coakley] campaign?” pressed Garrett.
“Not that I’m aware,” shot back Gibbs.
“Was he asked to stay away?” asked Garrett.
“Not that I’m aware,” Gibbs said again.
Whatever the reason that President Obama is not going to Massachusetts, his announce absence from what is fast becoming the first and hottest political race on the calendar is news itself. Even before he was elected to the Senate from Illinois in 2004, national convention keynoter Obama was one of his party’s much-in-demand speakers for candidates that year. As President, Obama last year made several appearances on behalf of the Democratic candidates for governor in Virginia and New Jersey (both of whom lost) and even for Bill Owen, who won a close race for the U.S. House from New York’s 23rd District.
As to why he would not come to the aid of a Democrat whom polls show could lose the seat held by Ted and John Kennedy and thus give Republicans the 41st Senate seat they need to filibuster an Obama-backed health care bill is a mystery, to say the least. The late senator’s widow Vickie and his nephew Joe Kennedy both stumped for Coakley in the last two weeks and, even before the startling poll results, Bill Clinton announced he was jetting in to Massachusetts to campaign on behalf of the Democratic hopeful (who was an early backer of his wife Hillary’s ’08 presidential bid).
On the same day as Gibbs’ announcement, Brown raised nearly $725, 266 in on-line donations as he prepared for a televised debate with Coakley in the evening. Morever, the Boston Herald weighed in with a strong endorsement of Brown, citing his background as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard’s Judge Advocate General Corps and that his election would deprive the Democrats of the “supermajority” in the Senate “which has allowed them to ride roughsod over the nation’s agenda.”
Like nearly every statewide Republican nominee for the last generation, Brown considers himself “pro-choice” on abortion (although he opposes federal funding of abortion and would have backed the ban on partial birth abortions). He has painted a sharp differences between himself and Coakley on the issues of taxes (he favors tax cuts and his TV spots feature a film of Jack Kennedy himself making the case for cutting taxes in 1962), health care reform (he opposes the Senate package), and federal stimulus packages (he is opposed to that, too).
And so far, it appears as though this manifesto is working, despite the history that Massachusetts has not elected a Republican senator since 1972.
So why is the First Campaigner not going to Massachusetts?