Thoughts on Scott Brown

I suppose I wouldn’t be much a of a political blogger if I didn’t comment on the Scott Brown election. It’s certainly the hottest topic in politics today and will have implications on policy and action in Washington until November. In order to take a closer look at the real story behind the election, I’ll turn to the data. Rasmussen Reports conducted exit polling last night and I’ve broken down some of the results in the table below.

Source: Rasmussen Reports

I heard on the radio this morning that health care was the most important issue to voters in Massachusetts last night. We’ve all heard the talk the Brown’s election will likely lead to the end of the currently contemplated health care legislation. This is pretty much true. But, interestingly enough, Coakley had a seven point edge over Brown amongst voters who cited health care as the most important issue. This translates to 30% of the electorate voting for Coakley because of health care and 26% voting for Brown because of health care.

It is more interesting to me that Brown held a five point advantage for voters who believe the economy is the most important issue. This is a marked difference from the 2008 election where Obama dominated McCain 61% to 36% for the 63% of voters who named the economy as the most important issue (visit the link, select Massachusetts as the region and issues for vote preference).

Given that Brown voted for and supports the existing state health care plan in Massachusetts, it seems to me that the economy is the big deal here. (By the way, Brown did a pretty solid job of explaining his views on health care on the Today show this morning.) Brown also had a landslide victory over Coakley amongst the 11% of voters who said that either national security or taxes was the number one issue. Notably, his edge from this small constituency alone accounts for his overall margin of victory.

I see this as a true indication that Obama’s support on economic issues has horribly deteriorated. He spent a large amount of political capital on bailouts and stimulus. He has attempted to claim success on the basis of stock market gains and modest GDP growth in Q3. Wall Street and the talking heads care about this; Main Street does not care. Most Americans see huge debt burdens, foreclosures and unemployment. To them, Washington has failed and Massachusetts has sent the message.

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