One of the worst candidates in recent memory just lost a Senate race in Massachusetts. What does that tell us about November in the 29th?

About as much as the NY-23 race: which is to say, not very much.

Like NY-23, the old-guard machine candidate ran an uninspired campaign. Unlike NY-23, there was no spoiler candidate -- even the presence of a libertarian candidate with the name "Kennedy" couldn't keep Coakley from going down to a solid defeat. And, like NY-23, it's hard to connect the result to the general tendencies of the voters. NY-23 is a solid "red" district, and 53% of today's Massachusetts electorate approves of Obama.

The 29th election is going to be about GOTV (get out the vote), the quality of Tom Reed as a fundraiser and a candidate, and Eric Massa's continuing reputation as someone who delivers for his district. If you buy that, there are two things about Brown's victory that might be applicable to the 29th race:

First, Massachusetts' turnout tonight was about equal to the turnout for Ted Kennedy's 2006 election. That's huge for a special election. If Republicans can put their base into hyperdrive, Massa will have real issues getting re-elected.

Second, this puts the House in the driver's seat for healthcare reform. If they won't pass the Senate's bill as-is, reform is dead. If that happens, Eric Massa is going to be a member of a party that couldn't get even a modest reform bill passed, no matter what his personal position was. That stench of incompetence will be hard to Febreze away.


Or maybe a re-tooled health bill that doesn't completely ignore issues like malpractice litigation would be more palatable to the middle, thus helping people like Massa. I don't see how Massa voting for an unpopular bill does anything but give Reed a target.

I don't think Massa will vote for the current bill, no matter the political climate. I do think that some of the blowback from dawdling around for a year and producing nothing on healthcare (if that happens) will hurt Massa along with every other Democrat.

For a re-tooled bill to happen, Republicans would have to engage. Judging from last year's behavior, they won't, because they've decided that complete opposition is the way to regaining power. I agree that it would be politically smart for them to engage and pass a couple of minor reforms packaged together (and Massa would probably vote for that package). But I don't see that happening with the current leadership.