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Political Tea Leaves

A Commentary by Susan Estrich

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1. The terrorists are not all out of Afghanistan. Curt Schilling is not a Yankees fan. Martha Coakley was not a great candidate. Telling people that electing Scott Brown would kill health care didn’t necessarily help her. Of course, she still should have won.

2. Women don’t do very well running for governor or United States senator in Massachusetts. Massachusetts has said no to all eight women who have tried. No doubt there was something wrong with many of them. But with all of them? One woman just joined the Massachusetts congressional delegation, which had been an all-boys club since Rep. Barney Frank defeated Rep. Margaret Heckler, a Republican woman. Of course, Coakley didn’t lose because she was a woman.

3. A year ago, Obama was literally on top of the world, about to be inaugurated, celebrated. Today, he’s frustrated by a Massachusetts Senate race. A lot can change in a year. Or nine months. If someone had told me a year ago that Massachusetts would elect a Republican senator, I’d have guessed for sure that the economy had sunk into a depression or America had come under attack. Of course, it hasn’t.

4. People aren’t happy. Watching a bunch of guys coming in and out of offices where we get bits of information about deals being made over who has to pay more taxes is not making people happier, particularly if health care is not their problem. (Irony of ironies, it isn’t anyone’s problem in Massachusetts because they all have it already.) Remember, it’s the economy, stupid.

5. Health care is not dead. Healthy, no. But not dead. All the people who said it was dead yesterday will go back to work tomorrow. For individual House members, or the declining crop of Democratic senators hoping to keep their jobs, the choice between staying the course across the Rubicon or jumping overboard now and trying to swim back is not a very appetizing one. The best hope for Democrats is that the health care bill the people get will be a lot better than the one they’re worrying about right now.

6. Whoever is in charge of the Democratic Party, such as it is, whether that’s the White House or the DNC or MSNBC or all of the above, needs to get out the coffee. The only energy out there right now is among the Tea Party crowd, and the Brown victory shows that the transition from Tea Party to election celebration is a very doable process. Where is that army?

7. If you’re a member of the Democratic Party, Obama can’t save you.

8. If you’re Obama, happily, you’re not on the ballot anytime soon, so you need to get health care done sooner -- not later -- and then hope it works out better than people expected. Maybe this is the low watermark for support for health care reform. Bad news if it isn’t.

9. Terrorism scares on Christmas Day are bad on all fronts, including political.

10. Really, no one knows anything. Massachusetts electing a Republican to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. Find me someone who said that six months ago. Tea is best for drinking or dumping -- not reading.

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