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C-HOME-elephant-chaseThe Republicans are surging: Ted Kennedy's recent death caused today's special election for one of Massachusetts' two seats in the US Senate. Even if the ex-GQ model, Republican Scott Brown does not win today's election against Democrat Martha Coakley (and final polls suggest he is likely to win) there won't be a Democrat in America who will feel safe.

The collapse of the Democrat vote may mean the end of serious healthcare reform: If Brown does become the first Republican Senator for Massachusetts since 1972, Obama will lose his super-majority in the Senate and Republicans will be able to filibuster his unpopular healthcare reforms. Regardless of the exact outcome of this race, Democrats facing re-election in November in much more competitive states than Massachusetts may decide that they no longer want to be associated with Obama's healthcare plan anyway.

The unpopularity of Obama's agenda is the cause of Democrat difficulties: Defeat for the gaffe-prone Coakley (and her very nasty negative campaigning) will be a big blow to Barack Obama. He came to the state to campaign alongside Coakley on Sunday, implicating him even more clearly in the result.  The hall he addressed wasn't even three-quarters full in a sign of his reduced pulling power. The President's approval ratings are now consistently below 50%. He campaigned for the US Presidency using pleasant
generalities but has governed as a liberal in what is still largely a conservative nation. His massive fiscal
stimulus, his healthcare overhaul, his green agenda and liberal judicial appointments have all disappointed independent voters who have flocked to Scott Brown in the Democrat-heavy Bay State.

It is also noteworthy that Scott Brown is a conservative Republican: In the video below – the main video on his YouTube channel – he strikes conservative positions on healthcare, tax and defence:

The race has Republicans and conservatives fired up: Win or lose today they are now finding it much, much easier to raise money. Much of their fundraising is happening online – throwing doubt on the established wisdom that US Democrats rule the web. "Republican politicians have taken over Twitter," wrote Ross Douthat in the New York Times. He continued:

"Sarah Palin has 1.2 million followers on Facebook. And in liberal Massachusetts, Scott Brown, the Republican Senate candidate, has used Internet fund-raising to put the fear of God into the Bay State’s establishment. Last Monday, Brown raised $1.3 million from an online “money bomb,” and his campaign reportedly went on to raise a million dollars a day throughout the week. The race’s online landscape looks like last November’s in reverse: from YouTube views to Facebook fans to Twitter followers, Brown enjoys an Obama-esque edge over his Democratic rival, Martha Coakley."

The gain to the Republicans will come in personnel as well as money: Good candidates will now feel more willing to stand as Republicans in this year's elections and good candidates will not choose to be Democrats, giving the GOP a qualitative advantage in candidate recruitment.

For Andrew Sullivan the race increases his pessimism about American politics:

"I suspect serious health insurance reform is over for yet another generation… The most Obama can hope for is a minimalist alternative that simply mandates that insurance companies accept people with pre-existing conditions and are barred from ejecting patients when they feel like it. That's all he can get now – and even that will be a stretch. The uninsured will even probably vote Republican next time in protest at Obama's failure! That's how blind the rage is.

Ditto any attempt to grapple with climate change. In fact, any legislative moves with this Democratic party and this Republican party are close to hopeless. The Democrats are a clapped out, gut-free lobbyist machine. The Republicans are insane. The system is therefore paralyzed beyond repair.

Yes, I'm gloomy. Not because I was so wedded to this bill, although I think it's a decent enough start. But because if America cannot grapple with its deep and real problems after electing a new president with two majorities, then America's problems are too great for Americans to tackle.

And so one suspects that this is a profound moment in the now accelerating decline of this country."

Republicans will disagree. They see Obama's healthcare reform as part of his Europeanisation of the US economy. Stopping this massive new entitlement will, they hope, protect America's exceptional capitalism from a heavy new tax burden.

Is Obama vulnerable to defeat in 2012? Far too early to say. As the Republicans look to the 2012 presidential elections they still have a lot of work to do in finding a credible candidate and crafting a positive message but for this year's mid-terms they will be justifiably optimistic.

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