Republican Scott Brown dealt a devastating blow to President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda on Tuesday night by capturing the Senate seat of the late Edward Kennedy, the legendary Democrat who had made health-care reform the cause of his political career.
Brown, a little known Massachusetts state senator 10 days ago, won the special election by running directly against the health-care legislation Kennedy trumpeted before his August death and that Obama considers his most important legislative priority.
Brown on an unabashedly conservative ticket supporting waterboarding of terrorist suspects and the removal of illegal immigrants from the country.
The symbolism of the rejection was difficult to overstate: Kennedy served as a political mentor to Obama and was the patriarch of the Kennedy family's political dynasty. Even before the polls closed, Obama’s top advisers engaged in a public blame game with the campaign of state Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, over who bore responsibility for the crippling setback to the party.
Brown’s late surge was fueled by voter anger about the high unemployment rate and his vow to block the president's proposal for health-care reform. He drew chants of ‘41!’ during his acceptance speech Tuesday night, symbolic of his role as the 41st member of the Senate GOP caucus.
“This Senate seat belongs to no one person, to no political party. ... This is the people’s seat,” Brown said after an election that drew more than 2 million voters.
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