BOSTON — Republicans are rejoicing and Democrats reeling in the wake of Scott Brown's stunning triumph in a special Massachusetts Senate election, a devastating Democratic defeat that triggered soul-searching within President Barack Obama's party over how to stem further losses in November's midterm elections.
Obama himself grimly faced a need to regroup on Wednesday, the anniversary of his inauguration, in a White House shaken by the realization of what a difference a year made.
The most likely starting place was finding a way to save the much-criticized health care overhaul Democrats have been trying to push through Congress. The Democratic Party also faced a need to determine how to assuage an angry electorate, and particularly attract independent voters who have fled to the GOP after a year of Wall Street bailouts, economic stimulus spending and enormous budget deficits.
In one of the country's most traditionally liberal states, Brown rode a wave of voter anger to defeat Coakley, the attorney general who had been considered a surefire winner until just days ago. Her loss signaled big political problems for Obama and the Democratic Party this fall when House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates are on the ballot nationwide.
Appearing as if in a nod to voter disgust with Washington, Obama signed a directive Wednesday aimed at stopping government contracts from going to tax-delinquent companies. "We need to insist on the same sense of responsibility in Washington that so many of you strive to uphold in your own lives, in your own families, and in your own businesses," Obama said.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama's Republican presidential rival in 2008, likened Brown's win to the Revolutionary War's "shot heard around the world" in Concord, Mass., in April 1775. McCain said the message was clear: "No more business as usual in Washington. Stop this unsavory sausage-making process."