Why Scott Brown won
This special election came about because we lost someone very dear to Massachusetts, and to America. Senator Ted Kennedy was a tireless and big-hearted public servant, and for most of my lifetime was a force like no other in this state. His name will always command the affection and respect by the people of Massachusetts, and the same goes for his wife Vicki. There’s no replacing a man like that, but tonight I honor his memory, and I pledge my very best to be a worthy successor. ~ Scott Brown
This is why Scott Brown won. He’s a guy who can treat his opponents with respect. He was out on the campaign trail shaking hands, meeting people, and trying to connect with the voters in Massachusetts. Unlike his opponent, he was able to skillfully run a positive campaign that nevertheless found its strength in discontent and anger. Unlike Sarah Palin and other Republicans these days, he did not have to resort to anger and conspiracy theories and other silly tactics; he did not have to go out and kiss the talk-radio pundits’ behinds; he did not stoop to pettiness or name-calling. He was a class act, and the voters respected that. Maybe that’s entirely personality politics, but it is the right kind of personality politics. Brown proved that he could speak to ordinary Americans without putting up a facade. And ordinary Americans appreciated that.
Rick Ungar is also correct – this was a decision by many in Massachusetts to stick to their own healthcare system without adopting an expensive federal system as well. But fundamentally I think this was about respect. Martha Coakley showed voters that she felt entitled to “Kennedy’s seat” and didn’t care whether or not they agreed with her. She ran a contemptuous campaign that in the end disrespected the very people she needed to elect her. And she lost because of it.
Reading too much into this victory will result in Republican overreach, and a misunderstanding of the popularity of Republican policy ideas. It’s a trap both parties are vulnerable to at this point. As Nate Silver points out, if the Democratic candidate had simply been a better candidate this would have gone the other way – healthcare reform or no.