The Coakley Cockup

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By all appearances, Democrats are poised to lose their 60 vote super majority on the staggering weakness of Martha Coakley and the Worst Campaign Ever. Indeed, Coakley's top campaign adviser, venting precriminations, has all but conceded defeat. Her competitor, the hunky former Cosmo centerfold Scott "I Drive a Truck" Brown has run a flawless campaign, using man-of-the-people populism to mask his narrow partisan ideology. Even David Axelrod, Obama's campaign mastermind, can't help but sing Brown's praises: "As a practitioner in politics, my hat's off to him." Coakley, meanwhile, has been the master of her own decline. She seemed so convinced of her campaign's inevitability that she campaigned lazily in December and did effectively nothing to puncture her five-property-owning rival's everyman mystique. In the face of the Brown insurgency, Coakley revealed herself as a brittle and humorless politician with a vexing inability to connect to the popular culture of her home state. If anything, she's manifested a cold-blooded instinct to insult the very folks Scott Brown is seducing. First, she insisted that her time was better spent shoring up the backing of the Bay State's political establishment than conducting a retail campaign. When the Boston Globe pressed her on the wisdom of focusing her energies on party apparatchiks, she spat back: "As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?" She followed up her Fenway freakout by brazenly calling Curt Schilling — the ace pitcher on whose bloody ankle the Red Sox were carried to their first World Series victory in nearly a century —l a "Yankees fan." Now, clearly, baseball fandom has nothing to do with one's ability to be an effective senator. But the failure to respect the millions of state residents for whom Schilling's heroics brought an end to 86 years of pained futility is political malpractice of the highest order. And Coakely compounded the error by refusing to even cop to her mistake. When she accused Schilling, she likely had been thinking of former Sox star turned Yankee great Roger Clemens. A gaffe, but a human one. But her campaign insisted that Coakley's cockup had not been in error, but rather had been a "very, very deadpan" joke. The only joke here is a cruel one: That Ted Kennedy's compassionate legacy is being fumbled away by a candidate who couldn't seem to muster an ounce of the stuff. And that Kennedy's life work to bring health care to America is now imperiled by voters in the only state that already has universal care.