Yvonne Abraham

Oh, the ups and downs

By Yvonne Abraham
Globe Columnist / January 21, 2010

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Time to tally the spoils and count the bodies.

There are piles of both in the aftermath of Tuesday’s special Senate election: lots of winners beyond Scott Brown and the GOP and many losers besides Attorney General Martha Coakley and the strategists who helped her to this humiliating, unimaginable defeat.

First, some of the victors.

Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill: Both of these gubernatorial hopefuls have to love it that the voters who snuffed Coakley’s ambitions hanker to do the same to Governor Deval Patrick next fall. If you’re Treasurer Cahill, you have cause for optimism: Your antitax, throw-the-bums out message appeals to lots of the voters who put Brown over the top. If you’re Baker, you may rue the fact that Brown has displaced you for now as the GOP’s local superstar, but you’re thrilled because a lot of Brown voters were looking for sensible balance in government.

Mike Capuano: The combative congressman Coakley thrashed in the primary got some serious love nationally in the final week of the campaign. The chatterati were nostalgic for his fire, certain he would have trounced Brown. He might run against Brown in 2012, though many others are considering that prospect today, too, his former House colleague and UMass Lowell chief Marty Meehan, for example, who has mountains of campaign cash.

Eric Fehrnstrom: Brown’s senior strategist is now a national star and rightly so. He read the electorate right and ran a disciplined campaign, including super ads selling his candidate as an affable, common-sense kind of guy. Also brilliant: He actually had the candidate ask people for their votes.

Change: Voters love it, they told us on Tuesday. But they don’t want to wait for it. For example, if you elect a president because you want change, and he doesn’t transform the world in a year, it’s time to change again, even if that means voting for the party that blocks his every move.

Robert DeLeo: If Coakley had won, the House speaker would have appointed her successor, a process which would have borne an uncanny resemblance to patronage. Second, DeLeo, in choosing, would have risked alienating supporters of either House Ways and Means Committee chairman Charlie Murphy or Representative Peter Koutoujian, both of whom wanted the job. He now avoids that sticky wicket.

Some of the losers:

Unions: Organized labor hasn’t gotten one of its anointed candidates into a high-profile statewide office in forever. In addition to Coakley, former Treasurer Shannon O’Brien and former attorney general Scott Harshbarger were both union favorites, and they tanked.

Therese Murray: The Senate president got behind Coakley early and was intimately involved in her campaign strategy. Coakley’s initial allergy to the press bore a striking resemblance to Murray’s.

Women: Massachusetts still has an abysmal record of electing women to higher office. Coakley joins the ranks of women who get past the party faithful only to be stopped by a wider electorate, some of whom don’t like women at all.

Conventional wisdom: Here was Tuesday’s biggest loser. Everybody wrote Brown off, including members of his own party. Everyone thought Coakley - running for a seat long held by Ted Kennedy and in Massachusetts, no less - could coast. Lots of these were folks who didn’t just believe in, but loved, the idea of Massachusetts as a liberal enclave, as the state which sent back to Washington again and again the senator the right hated and feared the most.

Now they wonder where they live.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at