“The soldiers like the thin mints.” said the girl scout when asked and the rest nodded. The thin mints joined the box on the side of the table where people buying cookies for the troops put them. As the girls took the money the two scout mothers, cold but uncomplaining, watched with approval as their troop plied their trade outside of the church.
“I was very surprised when he won.” said the taller of the pair and her fellow nodded in agreement. A native of the midwest who settled in Massachusetts after marriage, she was surprised at how democratic and liberal her new home was. Usually on election days her husband and herself voted the same side. This time however her spouse supported Republican Scott Brown.
Once the name was spoken the young scouts started talking about how cool they thought he was. This was in diametric opposition to the two leaders both of whom cast votes for Martha Coakley on the 19th.
The kids interest was not unique, at the school where she works the students reaction pleasantly surprised her. “The 8th grade students were really excited by the election.” she noted, “I had never seen them interested in any election in the past.” Like her own household the support was divided by gender. The Boys liked Brown and the girls were for Coakley, but it was their attention to the race that pleased her most.
Other Coakley supporters also expressed surprise: “I can’t see how he can credibly support the Massachusetts Healthcare plan and oppose the national one when they are basically the same thing.” said a 40 something system tech preparing for a night of Dungeons & Dragons. Another man who voted Coakley at the same game thought it odd that democrats would vote against their party “…because someone doesn’t play nice?”
Yet that was the very sentiment of a 30 something mother at the butcher shop who changed her mind on election day. It was the non stop negative ads that finally turned her away from the Candidate that only 4 days before she had supported happily to my face.
The Coakley voters surprise existed among Brown supporters as well, unable to convince themselves that their candidate would overcome the power of the Massachusetts Democratic Machine. When asked what they thought made the difference in the end, there was one constant answer. “I don’t think the heath care plan is a good idea”, expressed a Brown supporting woman at the local bakery. That sentiment was repeated over and over by voters on both sides. Martha Coakley’s unwavering support for its passage was costly and the President’s appearance only emphasized that fatal support.
Yet consider: Against an unexciting candidate supporting the most unpopular position of an administration declining in popularity, a strong dynamic candidate with a solid background, a personable touch to delivering a positive appealing message only managed 52% of the vote. Photoshops and victory parties not withstanding he needs to take that number to heart.
With only 2 years till he is up for election the question becomes: With healthcase resolved by then, how can Scott Brown win that majority when he faces a more prepared candidate running a better campaign? What will he have to do to persuade voters who voted for him once (and those he who didn’t) to pull the lever for him a 2nd time?
Among the gamers they accepted that he wouldn’t be supporting the healthcare bill that he so vigorously opposed but their issue was the Republican Caucus. “If he is just going to vote in lockstep with the Republicans to block everything he can’t get my vote.” (they might take heart from this story from the Herald today).
For most, both Brown and Coakley people the answer was the same. “If he can fulfill his promises he can win my vote” said the shorter of our Girl Scout Leaders. The mother of 4 thought he deserved a chance to see what he can do, expressing hope that the election would persuade democrats statewide to be more attentive to the people and less in lockstep with the Boston Machine. Her fellow agreed on both counts as did the woman in the Bakery and her husband. “He has to follow through.” she declared saying it’s one thing to promise changes, it’s another to actually make them happen.
The question really becomes a matter of voter perception. Will they see him for what he is: a junior senator of the minority party with one vote among 100, or will they imbue upon him all the hopes and dreams for a different direction in Washington? If they see the former then he is likely to succeed, if the latter then they likely will be disappointed.
However I suspect one person at least will not be. When asked what she will need from Scott Brown to earn her vote a second time our last minute decider answered with a single word: Integrity!