U.S. President Barack Obama made a last minute campaign stop Sunday in Massachusetts, where a crucial election Tuesday will fill the Senate seat held by the late Edward "Ted" Kennedy. The race is extremely tight, and the president's legislative agenda is at stake.
When Democrats in Massachusetts went to the polls last month to choose their nominee for this special election, there was little cause for concern.
Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by a 3-to-1 margin. And party leaders felt they could coast to victory.
They were wrong.
A little known Republican state senator named Scott Brown has turned this into an extremely tight race, and Democratic candidate Martha Coakely is fighting for her political life.
With time running out, President Obama traveled to Boston to energize the party faithful. "Understand what is at stake here, Massachusetts, is whether we are going forward or going backwards," he said.
Also at stake: the president's health care reform plan.
If Martha Coakley loses, Democrats will no longer have enough votes to keep Republicans from blocking action on the president's top legislative priority.
Concerns about health care and the rising federal deficit are seen as helping Scott Brown and the Republicans in Massachusetts. President Obama reminded a campaign rally at a Boston-area university that voters should think twice before trusting Republicans to cure the nation's ills. "We sure aren't going to get there if we look backwards and try to re-institute the same failed policies that we have had over the past decade. That is not going to work. We've been there. We've done that," he said.
But Republicans counter the president's policies are a blueprint for fiscal disaster. During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, the top Republican in the Senate, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, described the Massachusetts election as a referendum on health care. "If it is unpopular in Massachusetts, it's unpopular everywhere. The American people don't want us to pass this bill," he said.
The irony, perhaps, is that health care reform was one of Ted Kennedy's signature issues. Kennedy, who served for almost 47 years in the Senate, died in August after battling brain cancer.