The Republican Scott Brown did the unlikely, winning the Massachusetts senate seat that was previously held by Ted Kennedy. That is, frankly, astonishing.
The obvious question is why. It is tempting to draw all sorts of conclusions that fit in with whatever view of the world one holds in advance, but the real answer will likely remain unknown. Perhaps it was an expression of disappointment with President Obama. Perhaps the Democratic contenter, Martha Coakley, was sufficiently unappealing even for left-leaning voters to prefer the Republican. The Democratic Party took the voters for granted, and perhaps the voters didn’t like that and wanted to show that they are free to make up their own minds. Nobody knows. It will be interesting to see what the exit polls reveal, but they will only tell part of the story.
It will also be interesting to see how Democrats in Congress react to the result. Will they distance themselves from Obama and the leadership in the Senate and House? It seems plausible that some will try and move towards the centre. Clearly there are implications for the health care bill, but what they are remains to be seen.
Midterm elections are less than a year away. Those will tell us whether this is the start of a new trend, or just the outcome of circumstances specific to this particular election.