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  1. “Good public servants” don’t necessarily make good candidates.  Martha Coakley has been referred to by supporters as a “good public servant” and smart person.  She may very well be (I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her) but that doesn’t make her a good candidate.  She came across as a lackluster campaigner, a follower of the party line, and someone unable, or unwilling, to articulate any original ideas.  In a word she was uninspiring.
  2. Primaries are a lousy way to pick candidates.  The Democratic primary campaign was yawner despite four quite distinct personalities running to represent the party.  And the least dynamic candidate won.  Why?  Because the primary is dominated by local party operatives and they almost invariably vote for the anointed candidate (in this case Coakley).  In addition, the political uniformity that usually pervades local party ranks forces challengers to spout remarkably similar positions (although this election might have set a new record for candidates agreeing on almost every position).
  3. Voters are real people who make real decisions.  This election might also have set a new record for political complacency (arrogance?).  I suppose it’s easy to become complacent when you have a 30+ point lead in the polls.  But, really, you don’t think voters notice when the candidate assumes the position of senator-in-waiting?  Last I checked we still live in a democracy and voters have the final say.  To make matters worse, Coakley’s demeanor/style conveyed the perception that she could take it or leave it.  Maybe not a true reflection of her desire but it’s the way she came across (see point #1 above).
  4. Negative ads don’t work all that well (at least as a desperation measure).  The last minute barrage of special interest-sponsored ads for Coakley also set a new record…for desperation!  As I’m watching the ads on TV my jaw just kept dropping lower and lower.  And one negative ad would follow right after the other.  I can’t help wondering whether Coakley herself didn’t wince every time she saw one.  They certainly didn’t match her image up until that point.
  5. Betting against last minute Barack Obama interventions (Olympics, Carbon Treaty, and, now, MA Senate election) has become a sure thing.  Wow!  I have only one piece of advice for Obama.  Next time someone calls – or sends you a note on your Blackberry – to ask for help to bail them out don’t pick up the phone!  Or explain to them that, as much as you’d like to help, you have a crisis to deal with in (fill in the blank…Haiti, Afghanistan, Wall Street…) and can’t leave your post.
  6. A relative unknown with a winning personality, a can-do attitude, and a clever campaign is a good formula for a come from behind victory.  What a campaign!  This one will be studied for some time to come.  What else can I say?  Regardless of political persuasion you have to tip your hat to Scott Brown and his team.
  7. “All politics is local.” (OK, Tip O’Neil said it first.  How ironic!)  You have to get out there Martha!  You may be a well known attorney general but that doesn’t mean people really know you.  People vote emotionally for logical reasons.  In other words, they need to justify their vote based on where they stand on the issues but they are voting for a person and how they feel about that person.
  8. Massachusetts has become more diverse.  This is another way of saying that the old Irish-Democratic machine is losing its grip on the state.  I know it’s been going on for awhile – the old machine certainly didn’t make Mitt Romney governor – but this election is another nail in the coffin.  One could argue it was only somewhat sustained until now through the force of Ted Kennedy’s personality and the aura of the Kennedy name.  If you come from that world you can blame your loss of power on immigration and the homogenizing force of the suburbs. 
  9. It’s the economy, stupid!  I went to one of the Democratic primary debates and I was surprised how little the economy was discussed.  Coakley, in particular, was more interested in touting her record as a defender of human rights and civil liberties than providing any original ideas on getting people back to work.  I got the feeling she was just where she was most comfortable – serving as Attorney General of Massachusetts.  The only Democratic primary candidate that made the economy the centerpiece of his campaign was Steve Pagliuca and he had little chance of winning over the party faithful (see point #2 above).
  10. And, yes, we are worried about what Congress has cooked up on healthcare.  Do you really know what’s in the bill?  If so, drop me a note and let me know why I should want it.  I’m not a reactionary on the subject but, quite frankly, I don’t have any faith that Congress and the army of Capital Hill lobbyists is capable of cooking up a healthcare bill that is rational and cost-effective.  (If you’re interested in my position go here.)  Brown cleverly exploited our unease about the bill while Coakley was stuck touting the party line.

So, there you have it.  Democracy works.