Nagourney Admits Scott Brown 'Shocked and Arguably Humiliated' Obama, Dems

Political reporter Adam Nagourney (mostly) refrains from sugarcoating another Democratic loss.
Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney penned Wednesday's front-page "news analysis" from Boston on the shocking triumph by Republican Scott Brown to fill the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts formally occupied by the late Ted Kennedy.

While the headline topping Wednesday's Times found "G.O.P. Surges to Senate Victory in Massachusetts," Nagourney's accompanying piece came under the vague headline, "A Year Later, Voters Send a Different Message."

Nagourney captured the significance of Brown's win:

Special elections come and go. And the party that wins the White House one year ordinarily loses seats in the next Congressional election that comes along.

But what happened in Massachusetts on Tuesday was no ordinary special election.

Scott Brown, a Republican state senator for only five years, shocked and arguably humiliated the White House and the Democratic Party establishment by defeating Martha Coakley in the race for a United States Senate seat. He did it one day short of a year after President Obama stood on the steps of the United States Capitol, looking across a mass of faces that celebrated the potential of his presidency.

As a result, Mr. Obama will spend the first anniversary of his inauguration watching Democrats tangle in an unseemly quarrel over who lost Massachusetts - Ms. Coakley's pollster, Celinda Lake, called the Huffington Post four hours before the polls closed to blame Democratic leaders in Washington - and contemplating a political landscape that has been thoroughly upended in the course of only 10 days.

The implications are sure to be far-reaching, and the result leaves Mr. Obama with a long list of tough choices.

Nagourney left room for his usual effort to denigrate Republican optimism, though it was relatively muted, perhaps because the backlash against Obama and the Democrats was so undeniable:

Ms. Coakley lost in no small part because of what many Democrats viewed as a stumbling campaign against a sharp and focused opponent. There is a good argument that the outcome was as much an anti-incumbent wave during tough economic times as it was an anti-Democratic wave. And there is still time before the midterm elections for the economy to rebound in a way that benefits Democratic candidates, and for Mr. Obama to make a case that the health care legislation, if he finds a way to sign it into law, will benefit the hard-pressed middle class.

Still, Ms. Coakley's defeat could easily be seen as evidence that the Obama White House is out of step with much of the American public - pushing through a health care plan at a time when many voters are primarily concerned about unemployment.

Nagourney certainly didn't downplay the significance of a 2006 California special election actually won by Republican Brian Bilbray in a race closer than anticipated. Nagourney's front-page story of June 8, 2006 from San Diego hailed the result as a resounding victory...for the Democrats: "Narrow Victory by G.O.P. Signals Fall Problems."