GOP leader: Brown’s election the result of a national referendum; Dems say Coakley was just a bad candidate

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Republican Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, at a Senate leadership press conference Wednesday, said Republican Scott Brown’s victory sent “a large and resounding message” across the country that people are fed up with the Democratic agenda.

“It was in many ways a national referendum, principally on the major issue we’re wresting with here in the Congress,” he said, referencing health care.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn also told reporters that “the American people sent a very clear message through the voters of Massachusetts.” He said the Massachusetts race, combined with Republican gubernatorial victories last year in Virginia and New Jersey, show independents “fleeing in droves.”

But some Democrats, like MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, dispute the notion, instead arguing that Democrat Martha Coakley was just a bad candidate compared to her pick-up truck driving Republican opponent.

“Candidates matter.  Campaigns matter,” she told Chris Matthews Tuesday night just moments after it was reported that Coakley would lose her bid for the Massachusetts Senate seat to Brown.

Maddow compared Senator-elect Brown to former President George W. Bush, whom she called “a very charismatic, very aggressive campaigning guy.”  Coakley, on the other hand, was like John Kerry who didn’t run a very aggressive campaign and didn’t win as a result. Coakley lost, not because of any voter frustration with President Barack Obama or the national Democratic Party, but because she wasn’t as likeable as her opponent, Maddow said.

“So if you’re trying to — if you’re trying to say what’s going on economically, shaping the way people feel about the party in power as represented by the president, it’s not borne out by the numbers [in] this state.  I think politicking, campaigning, whether or not you’re actually trying, makes a difference,” she said.

It’s not the first time Monday morning quarterbacks in Washington, in an attempt to deflect criticism from Obama, have blamed the candidate for being inadequate.

When Democrat Creigh Deeds lost his race for governor of Virginia last year, Washington Democrats said he was a bad candidate who ran a bad campaign too — even though the state voted for Obama the year before and had elected two Democratic senators.

McConnell on Wednesday also said he is “convinced now that no gamesmanship will be played by the other side with regard to future votes in the Senate, thanks to Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia.”

Republicans, before the election, feared that Democrats would stall certifying Brown’s election until after Obama’s health-care bill could be passed. Webb released a statement Tuesday night saying it would only be “fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health-care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”

Obama senior advisor David Axelrod told Fox News Wednesday that the White House thinks “it would be inappropriate” for the Senate to act on health care until Brown is seated and said “that’s something we won’t do.” And Politico reports Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid said the Senate will wait for Brown to be sworn in “before we do anything new on health care.”

McConnell added: “I think the majority has gotten the message, no more gamesmanship here, no more lack of transparency. Lets honor the wishes of the people of Massachusetts and move forward with policy.”