While U.S. Sen. Harry Reid has been in Nevada putting out a gaffe fire, new storm clouds for the Senate majority leader may be forming clear across the country.
By numerous accounts including this one, the race to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts is tightening, as Republican state Sen. Scott Brown appears to be running stronger and/or Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley is running more lackluster than anyone would have expected.
The thought that Republicans could capture a Senate seat in the bluer-than-blue Bay State may seem unthinkable, especially the seat that has been in the Kennedy family almost uninterrupted since 1953. The last Republican senator from Massachusetts was Edward Brooke, who served from 1967 until 1979.
For Reid the stakes are high. A Brown upset would give Republicans 41 seats in the Senate — enough to block Reid’s attempts to pass health care reform (ironically, a Kennedy signature issue) and other parts of President Barack Obama’s agenda.
In that case, the Nevadan would need to sway a Republican or two on individual issues while keeping his caucus members in line. Judging from the tenor of partisanship on Capitol Hill these days and how Reid had to bargain for the necessary Democratic votes on health care last month, that could be challenging.
If Brown wins, there was speculation reported in Politico that Democrats might try to drag out his installment in Washington until they can finish health care.
The Massachusetts election is next Tuesday, and the Democrats are taking the threat of an upset seriously. The party and progressive groups have dispatched firefighters to New England to rescue Coakley.
The final Brown-Coakley debate was Monday night. Coakley was raising money in Washington last night, and told reporters she wasn’t worried.