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Washington Democrats reflect on Massachusetts defeat

Post by John Henrikson / The News Tribune on Jan. 20, 2010 at 4:08 pm with 9 Comments »
January 20, 2010 5:06 pm

From Les Blumenthal in our D.C. bureau

WASHINGTON — Sen. Patty Murray said Wednesday that Democrats should move forward with health care reform despite the loss of a critical Senate seat in a Massachusetts special election.

But the Washington Democrat, a member of the Senate leadership, is not sure how Democrats should proceed given the election of a Republican to a Senate seat long held by Democrats and the resulting loss of her party’s critical 60-seat majority.

“I don’t see anyone in my caucus saying we shouldn’t do it,” Murray said. “But I’m not sure what the path forward is.”

Washington’s other senator, Democrat Maria Cantwell, said it was unclear what will happen next, but that didn’t mean Democrats should give up.

“I don’t think it is over,” Cantwell said. “But people are thinking about the consequences of what happened. We should take time to do it right.”

Other members of the Washington state congressional delegation said Democrats needed to step back and consider changes to the current bills.

“Clearly we are going to have to slow down and find a different direction,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma. “I don’t think we should try to jam it through. We need to work with the new Senate.”

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, agreed.

“I hope we reconsider everything at this juncture,” Dicks said. “I hope we can salvage something out of this, but I’ve got to say it looks bleak.”

The comments by Murray, Dicks and Smith came as Democratic congressional leaders met to discuss how to proceed. Republicans were clearly energized by Scott Brown’s victory over Democrat Martha Coakley and urged Democrats to start over on a health care bill.

Dicks and Smith clearly saw the outcome in the Massachusetts election as a reflection of the public’s growing anger not just over the Democrats health care bill but other parts of their agenda.

“It was a defeat, a very significant defeat,” Dicks said. “There is no question there is a lot of anger out there.”

Smith said the Massachusetts result was an expression of the “overall dissatisfaction” voters have with the direction the country is moving.

Neither congressman thought this year’s election would be a rerun of 1994, when Republicans startled the Democratic majority and gained control of Congress.

“In many ways I view this as an opportunity,” Smith said. “It’s better this should happen in January than October.”

Murray declined to speculate too broadly about the meaning of the Massachusetts setback for Democrats.

“I’m not from Massachusetts,” she said.

But the senator said there was clearly a lot of anxiety among voters.

“I know people are worried their economic security has been undermined,” Murray said. “An unstable economy makes them nervous.”

As for health care, Murray said the problems remain regardless of the outcome of one special election.

“I don’t think the problem has gone away for people who don’t have health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, for people whose rates have gone up or for people filling the emergency rooms,” she said. “We have to address these challenges. We have an obligation as the majority party to address these issues.”

The Massachusetts result could also have implications for Murray’s re-election campaign, though it is too soon to tell what the impact may be.

“If Democrats can’t sell their agenda in the bluest state in the country, they can’t sell it anywhere,”
Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. “To that end, it will have a significant ripple effect on campaigns across the country.”

So far, five Republicans have officially entered the Washington Senate race, but national GOP leaders could be looking for a higher-profile candidate. One name mentioned has been Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. But so far, Reichert hasn’t shown interest.

“We’ve been saying we can’t take anything for granted,” said Carol Albert, Murray’s campaign manager. “It’s hard to say what things will look like in this race.”

Murray handily won her 2004 campaign, defeating then Republican Rep. George Nethercutt by 12 percentage points in a race that was initially expected to be closer.

As of Sept. 30, Murray had $4.6 million in her campaign account.

UPDATE: Here’s a GOP response from the Associated Press:

Even without a big-name candidate, Washington state GOP Chairman Luke Esser said Republicans were poised for a strong comeback in the state and nationally.

“Scott Brown really showed us the way,” Esser said in a conference call with reporters.

Brown’s victory, coupled with previous wins in Virginia and New Jersey, shows that voters are frustrated with President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress, Esser said.

“Democrats run everything in D.C. Here in our state for years Democrats have had unbridled power,” he said.

Esser called Murray a “political Goliath” but said she can be beaten.

“We know that’s a big challenge, but we’re definitely going to fight hard there,” Esser said.

Leave a comment Comments → 9
  1. bigbarb43 says:

    Before any of our “representatives” decide what health care is gong to be forced on the general population, how about they volunteer to give up their ultra health care program? If they had to go through what the average citizen has to endure, they might think twice. On second thought…they are politicians .. well forget that idea.

  2. cynicalskeptic says:

    Hey, Patty! Take a good look at Massachusetts. You got yours coming! Just like it.

  3. These WA Politicians are so proud to be in “bed” with Obama and the rest of his cronies! WA voters can’t wait till November! Bye, bye and thanks for nothing.

  4. The political powers to be just cant grasp this concept “its the economy stupid”

  5. Keep your “walking shoes” near the door Patty, you’re on your way OUT !!!

  6. runner52 says:

    The word that best describes the attitude of this congress and administration is arrogance. It’s Senator Boxer dressing down a Marine Corps general for addressing her as “Ma’am.” It’s Nancy Pelosi continually promising passage of a piece of crap health care bill whether we like it or not. It’s President Obama implying to us that we’re not smart enough to know that we’ll like it after it passes–that all will be well afterward, and we’ll like it. It’s Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi continually coming up with deceptive tactics, subterfuges, secret meetings, deal making, and the list goes on. It’s Obama’s allies in Acorn subverting every process possible in order to promote their agenda. The message of the voters has been out there all along. These elected officials have elected to treat the message as the mindless meanderings of knuckle-dragging teabaggers. Patty Murray’s comments repeated in the article say that she still doesn’t “get it.” Adam Smith and Norm Dicks seem to have heard parts of the message. With Smith and Dicks, though, we never heard a peep out of them until Scott Brown’s victory demonstrated the true strength of the message. Now, they back-peddle and tell us that “some changes will have to be made.” There’s a saying that says “You are what you are when you think no one is looking.” Smith and Dicks seem to acknowledge that they now know that folks are looking. In the absence of commentary against it from Smith, Dicks, and Murray about the overwhelming arrogance that has been foisted upon the electorate by their friends and allies in their party, one has to be left with the presumption that they are part and parcel of it. It shouldn’t be lost on us in November. Remember who they were when they thought no one was looking.

    Mike Brown

  7. Guess what, Patty –

    Your constituents consist of MORE than your voters and I’m saying don’t do it.

    Hear me now?

    They heard us in Boston!

  8. socialismisgood says:

    Have we now become a society that holds Marine corp generals in such high esteem that he can’t be dressed down by one of his bosses? We are a society of cilvians that control the Military not the other way around. We are a society that shall not be controlled by a bunch of neo-cons that have brought this country to the brink of “Bankruptcy”. The former administration and the republicans have a “single win” under their belts in the last 14 months and you would think that they are taking Washington DC back from the Democrats. Keep dreaming, this state is controlled by Liberals, We have a liberal State house and the majority of our Congressmen and women are liberal along with our two Senators. If you have a problem with that I suggest that you move to Idaho, where you can find like minded people like yourself.

  9. Out of touch is good enough, how about in their own little world. patty murray is the worst. can’twell is out to try and save her own political skin.

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