January 18th, 2010
05:02 AM ET
12 years ago

Matalin: GOP win in MA could 'change the way politics tastes'

Washington (CNN) – A prominent Republican strategist and one-time aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that a Republican win in an upcoming special election, or even a narrow Democratic victory, could shake the foundations of President Obama’s ambitious agenda.

Massachusetts voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose between Martha Coakley, the state’s Democratic attorney general, and Scott Brown, a Republican state senator, in a contest to fill the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. (Under Massachusetts law, the state’s governor appointed Paul Kirk, a longtime Kennedy ally, to the Senate to serve as an interim Kennedy successor until a permanent replacement could be elected in Tuesday’s vote.) While Coakley was once considered the favorite in the historically Democratic state, polls and political analysts in recent days have suggested the race is tightening to the point of being a toss-up or even tilting in Brown’s favor. Brown’s momentum stems in part from his pledge, if elected, to be the one additional vote Senate Republicans need to carry off a successful filibuster of Democrats’ health care reform bill.

Asked about the closely watched race Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Republican strategist Mary Matalin said a strong showing by Brown had the potential to be a game-changer for Democrats’ agenda.

It was “once said of Mike Tyson, he hits you so hard, he changes the way you taste. If we win a seat in [Massachusetts] on the signature issue of the Obama agenda, health care, this will change the way politics tastes,” Matalin told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

A win by Scott Brown would be “apocalyptic” for Democrats, Matalin said. Should Coakley win, the fact that “we got this close, is nothing short of cataclysmic.”

“[Obama’s] agenda is going to change,” she declared.

Democrats’ efforts to continue to try to pass health care reform legislation despite polls suggesting the public is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Democrats’ plans is evidence, Matalin said, of Democrats’ “sense of entitlement, sense of arrogance.”

The race in Massachusetts “is emblematic of everything people don’t like about the fundamental transformation agenda of this administration,” Matalin told King.

Asked about the prospect that Brown could win on Tuesday, Democratic strategist James Carville said “it could happen.”

“And if it does happen, the last place that I’d want to be is at the Wednesday morning staff meeting at the White House.”

Even though the political stakes are high, Carville, a longtime Clinton ally, said he thought it was sound strategy for the president to make a last minute pitch for Coakley at a Sunday afternoon campaign event. “You’ve got to send him up there,” Carville told King.

But, Carville had no illusions about the tough fight for Coakley in the final days of the race.

“I talked to people on the ground in Massachusetts this morning. I talked to people in the White House this morning. And, yes, it’s a very serious situation. I think more people think we’re going to lose than win but there’s some – there’s a slight bit of sense that maybe this thing could come together right at the end.”

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