What Scott Brown's Victory Means

| Sat Jan. 23, 2010 1:31 PM EST

Was Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts part of a widespread revolt against the Obama agenda, and in particular against the passage of healthcare reform? Apparently not. The Washington Post polled Massachusetts voters after the election and asked if "one reason" for their vote was to express opposition to the Democratic agenda. The result is on the right.

Bottom line: only 35% of voters cast their vote to express opposition to the Democratic agenda. And although Massachusetts is a liberal state, 30% of its residents still self-identify as conservative. In other words, not only was the absolute number of people opposed to the Democratic agenda small, but virtually all of them were conservatives who have opposed the Democratic agenda from the start. There's just no sign of a sudden tidal wave of new opposition there. This election was mostly about a bad economy and a lousy candidate, not a rebellion against healthcare reform.

UPDATE: Time's Karen Tumulty disagrees, reporting that Massachusetts voters really were disgusted over the process that produced the healthcare bill:

The deal now known as the "Cornhusker Kickback" may have been one of the biggest blunders in modern political history. Normally, you'd be surprised if people in Massachusetts even know who the Senator from Nebraska is. But the number of people I talked to who brought up Ben Nelson's name, unprompted, was striking. I'm also told, by some who were doing phonebanking, that they got an earful about it over and over.

Voters I talked to also brought up the deal with labor. How come, they wanted to know, that everyone has to pay this "Cadillac Tax" on high-cost insurance plans except for the unions, who get a five-year exemption? People are so disgusted by the process, I think, that they have ceased to believe that there is anything in this bill for them.

I don't want to pretend that there's absolutely nothing to this, but you really have to be careful interpreting stuff like this. Did people bring up Ben Nelson's deal unbidden? Sure. Because Fox News and talk radio have been screaming about it nonstop. Ditto for the union deal. The people who brought it up were almost certainly primarily conservatives who listen to conservative media and have been getting an earful of these outrages on an hourly basis for weeks. Again: this isn't a sign of a huge new tsunami of resentment against healthcare reform. These are mostly the same people who have been opposed to it from the start.

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