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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reading the tea leaves

The loss of a an 80-year-old Pennsylvania Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat will be read endlessly as by the national media for deeper signals of of voter mood. So will the Kentucky victory of the scion of a libertarian hero.

But the ultimate lesson that should be taken from these results and the media over-analysis of Scott Brown's victory over a lifeless Martha Coakley in January, is that driving conditions may change and your mileage may vary.

It's likely Arlen Specter's loss to representative and former admiral Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania is being hailed on both sides of the political aisle. Specter was anathema to liberals from his performance in the Clarence Thomas nomination hearings. He was dirt to the right for his embrace of Barack Obama's stimulus package.

If anyone embodied the popular image of the finger-to-the-wind, stick around too long pol it was Specter. In a year of voter anger at the status quo, he had a target on his back from the get go.

Over in Kentucky, Rand Paul embrace of the Tea Party makes him topic du jour on the blogs and talk radio, an affirmation that the movement is more than just Sarah Palin and a lot of wind. The fact his opponent Trey Grayson, was backed by Mitch McConnell and Darth Cheney suggests, they say, that tea partiers are not beholden to the GOP either.

But unlike Pennsylvania, where Democrats now have a strong candidate who can stand up to the Club for Growth candidate Pat Toomey, Paul is likely to be painted as out-of-the-mainstream by his Democratic foe, Attorney General Jack Conway.

In fact, the story that won't be told until November is whether Tea Party candidates like Paul and Florida's Marco Rubio can stand up to middle-of-the-road voters who usually decide elections.

It's a long time until November. The economy is showing signs of life, jobs appear to be slowly returning and popular health care provisions will kick in during the fall. Be careful how you read today's tea leaves. They could be tomorrow's dregs.

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