This week, voters in Massachusetts sent a clear message to the nation in favor of fiscal responsibility and checks and balances in Washington when they elected Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate. No one believed it was possible—especially in the bluest of blue states. But the political naysayers who discounted Brown’s candidacy and anointed the Democrat nominee miscalculated one important factor: Voters’ utter dissatisfaction with the status quo.
Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s positive vision for the state ran contrary to Martha Coakley’s negative attacks and unwavering support for the Democrat establishment in Washington. As a result, Brown connected with Independents, he inspired enthusiastic grassroots support, and made history in Massachusetts with the support of voters who rejected President Barack Obama’s massive health care takeover and the Democrats’ failed stimulus debacle.
The lessons learned in Massachusetts can help Republican candidates in every state this November. Scott Brown ran on a platform built from traditional Republican Party planks: lower taxes, smaller government, strong national security, and individual responsibility. His victory serves as a reminder that when our candidates effectively communicate our party’s core messages in 2010, Republicans can win elections in even the most liberal of states.
Conversely, the Democrats’ playbook needs a complete rewrite. Just as we witnessed in Virginia and New Jersey, voters in Massachusetts rejected the Democrats’ attempts to demonize the Republican Party, and they were not impressed by the continued liberal fixation on former President Bush. They proved once again that President Obama’s personal popularity is no more transferable to other Democrats than it has been to his own policies.
This trend certainly does not bode well for Democrats in a number of blue and purple states this November. In the president’s own home state, Republican Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kirk is running neck-and-neck with all of his Democrat challengers. And in Vice President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, a recent poll shows Republican Rep. Mike Castle leading his potential Democrat Senate opponent—the vice president’s son—Beau Biden by 6 percentage points.
Meanwhile, the Democrat Senate Majority Leader continues to face abysmal approval ratings in his home state of Nevada. Despite already spending over $1 million on statewide television advertising, a number of polls show Harry Reid’s Republican challengers beating him by wide margins. And in key presidential swing states like Colorado and Pennsylvania, Republican candidates are giving their Democrat challengers a run for their money just 14 months after President Obama handily won in these same states in 2008.
It’s not too late for President Obama and Congressional Democrats to make good on their promise to change the way Washington works. Republicans are ready to work with the president to rein in government spending, pass bipartisan health care reform, and create much-needed jobs for Americans struggling to make ends meet. But if the president and the Democrats in Washington continue to craft massive spending bills behind closed doors, ram unpopular legislation through Congress, treat taxpayers’ wallets as personal ATM machines, and try to take over our nation’s health care system, they will be held accountable. Americans expect Democrats to defend the policies they have enacted, or else come up with better ones quickly.
There is still a long way until the midterm elections, and Republicans will not take Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts for granted. We must learn from this campaign and continue to listen to the voters’ concerns in our states. We must earn their confidence with the right message and the right candidates. If we accomplish that, we can restore the checks and balances in Washington that Americans deserve this November.
Sen. John Cornyn is a U.S. Senator from Texas and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.