Republican candidate Scott Brown has won an upset victory in the race to fill the Massachusetts seat held for almost five decades by the late Democratic Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy. Brown defeated Democratic candidate Martha Coakley by a margin of 52 to 47 percent, in what many analysts view as a serious setback for President Barack Obama and his legislative agenda.
The victory caps a dramatic surge in opinion polls, in the past week for Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown. He overcame a commanding lead by state Attorney General Martha Coakely, to win the race in a state where Democratic voters strongly outnumber Republicans. The exuberant Senator-elect Brown had a populist message for his supporters at his Boston headquarters.
"I will remember that, while the honor is mine, this Senate seat belongs to no one person, no one political party, and as I said before, you have heard it today and and you will hear it loud and clear, this is the people's seat!" he said.
Traveling across Massachussetts in his own trademark pickup truck, Brown won the support of many independent voters frustrated with high unemployment rates, the economy and government spending in Washington.
His opponent, Coakely, came to be viewed as representing the status quo and, during her concession speech, she acknowledged that many voters were angry.
"Anyone who has been out on the campaign trail, particularly in this race, has seen the anger of folks who are frustrated, concerned. They are angry about health care issues, and they are angry about our two wars, our inability to properly care for those who return home after fighting," she said.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said Brown's victory "changes everything" politically.
"When it comes to the liberal [left-leaning Democratic] arrogance in Washington, D.C. Scott Brown's victory is the shot heard around the world," he said.
Senate-elect Brown will fill the remaining two years of Ted Kennedy's term. The younger brother of the late President John F. Kennedy held the seat for 46 years until he died last August of brain cancer.
Up until today, the Democrats and two independents who usually vote with them have held 60 of the U.S. Senate's 100 seats - the exact number needed to override opposition Republican efforts to delay contentious legislation, such as health care reform.
Brown's victory jeopardizes some of President Obama's key legislative goals, including health care reform. Ironically, Ted Kennedy was a long-standing champion of universal health care for all Americans.
President Obama phoned both candidates Tuesday night, congratulating Brown on a well-run campaign and saying he is eager to work with him on the urgent problems facing Massachusetts voters and all Americans.
One of the first urgent problems Democrats will face is how to explain a stunning political upset and how to pass sweeping health care reform legislation backed by President Obama, but staunchly opposed by Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate.