- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The main event

Suffering from Coakley-Brown fatigue? Indeed, the Massachusetts Senate race has fixated journalists who treat the special election like a chariot race, a poker game or a lover’s quarrel; the volume of coverage is immense and often melodramatic. Close to 8,000 accounts of the matchup between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown have appeared in the last 24 hours, according to Google News.

Yet the race is of national interest for practical and symbolic reasons. “Very, very important,” says Richard Dunham of the San Francisco Chronicle, who distilled the Top 10 reasons why Americans should pay attention.

Mr. Dunham ticks off the first five: Massachusetts is one of the most Democratic states in the nation. Health care reform is at stake. Democrat-only legislative power would come to an end. This is the “Kennedy” seat. This is where the Boston Tea Party took place.

He continues: This is a test of the power of political independents. It’s a good indicator of voters’ desire for divided government. It could give a jump-start to Republican recruiting efforts in other states. It’s proof that Republicans don’t have to be moderates to win on Democratic turf.

And last but not least?

“It would be a personal and political repudiation of President Obama,” Mr. Dunham says, particularly after his personal appearance with Ms. Coakley, and in a last-minute campaign spot.

“By inserting himself into the race, Obama raised the stakes. If Massachusetts voters reject his personal appeal, it’s a sign that the president’s remaining personal popularity is not necessarily transferable to endangered Democrats,” Mr. Dunham adds.

The sideshow

Urgent bulletin from the Land of Hanging Chads: Some predict the electronically tabulated ballots in Massachusetts will be attacked, hacked and compromised on Tuesday.

A dozen nonpartisan election watchdog groups — some advocating a return to simple paper ballots — have issued a last-minute “orange alert,” warning that the special election “is ripe for manipulation.” They are pointing the accusatory finger at New England Diebold affiliate LHS Associates, a private company in Methuen, Mass.

“The electronic voting systems used in Massachusetts are notoriously plagued with problems and vulnerabilities, and are in violation of federal voting system standards. Moreover, they are sold, programmed and maintained by a company with a disturbing criminal background,” says organizer Brad Friedman.

The motley consortium — which includes Election Defense Alliance, the Center for Hand-Counted Paper Ballots and Florida Fair Election — is demanding that Massachusetts election officials maintain custody of “trade secret software and memory cards” pertaining to ballot and voting data.

Paranoid? Then get thee to a polling place.

“Alert citizens can help defend against election shenanigans by volunteering as polling center watchdogs,” Mr. Friedman adds.

And the chorus

“In advance of what would be one of the biggest upsets in modern political history, Democrats in Washington are already scheming how they might again bypass the will of the American people,” says the Republican Study Committee.

President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “continue to plot” the trajectory of health care reform legislation, even if public opinion polls consistently reveal that only about a third of the public favors the bill.

“Are Washington Democrats astonishingly tone deaf to what Americans think, or do they just not care anymore?” the group asks. “If Democrats think failure to pass a bill is a political liability for them, wait until they see the political blowback from trying to fast-track it against the will of the American people. Should they take that route, they each might have a Martha Coakley experience of their own.”

Stop the presses

Yes, even minuscule presidential acts are subject to interpretation. President Obama pushed the “send” button on a Twitter message he didn’t write while visiting the Red Cross on Monday. A few resulting headlines:

“Obama’s first Tweet makes presidential history.” (CNN)

“President Obama finally Tweets — for Haiti — in the third person.” (Techcrunch.com)

“President Obama Tweets (sort of).” Fox News

“Barack Obama’s first Tweet (and his enemy’s punishment).” (Gawker)

How very Kerry

“I’m no stranger to hard-fought campaigns, but what we’ve seen in the past few days is way over the line and reminiscent of the dangerous atmosphere of Sarah Palin’s 2008 campaign rallies. This is not how democracy works in Massachusetts,” Sen. John Kerry says.

The Massachusetts Democrat is apparently uneasy about all the goings-on across his turf — like Weekly Standard reporter John McCormack getting knocked down recently by Coakley aide Michael Meehan, maybe?

Scott Brown needs to speak up and get his out-of-state ‘tea party’ supporters under control. In Massachusetts, we fight hard and win elections on the issues and on our differences, not with bullying and threats,” Mr. Kerry adds.

Potty party

Because we all need, well, a laugh, Inside the Beltway hereby reports that Proctor & Gamble has developed the world’s first “high-performance” sports diapers for babies, just in time for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

The manufacturer is test-marketing the environmentally friendly “Team USA Pampers Swaddlers and Cruisers with Dry Max” among the infants born to several Olympic athletes. Wait, this is a cultural moment. Think of it: an official partnership between the U.S. Olympics Committee in a post-Mitt Romney era and a diaper manufacturer.

“Every baby is a champion in play,” Proctor & Gamble says.

Poll du jour

• 88 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats support Medicare.

• 68 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats support Medicaid.

• 90 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats support national defense.

• 69 percent of Republicans and 93 percent of Democrats support federal aid to public schools.

• 55 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats support federal environmental-protection policy.

• 29 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of Democrats support foreign aid.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,276 adults conducted Dec. 7 to 14 and released Jan. 15.

Treats, bleats, Tweets, feats to jharperwashingtontimes.com.

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