So where do President Obama and Congressional Democrats go now?

A troubling issue for those who support health care reform has been how long it has taken Democrats to pass a bill, something that as the Washington Post's Harold Meyerson writes this morning, was painfully clear well before they realized that Ted Kennedy's seat was slipping away:

It was clear even before the polls closed in Massachusetts Tuesday night that the options before Obama and congressional Democrats must become radically more focused. Unless they no longer believe they have a raison d'etre as a party, congressional Democrats must pass health-care reform -- the Senate version -- while at the same time enacting through the budget reconciliation process (which requires a simple majority in the Senate, not the 60 votes required to protect the bill from filibuster) the House-Senate compromises on how to fund the project.

How will Democrats as a party go forward on health care?  Last night, Virginia Senator Jim Webb said that the Dems should not do anything until Brown is seated, and Indiana's Evan Bayh, as centrist as they come in the Democratic Senate, was arguing that this was a wake-up call, and that they should pull back (as virtually every Republican is saying).

But in the media and liberal blogosphere, there are many who challenge the Jim Webbs and Evan Bayhs of the world.

Here is Boston scribe Dan Kennedy, writing in The Guardian,who echoes Harold Meyerson in writing that President Obama must get aggressive as an economic populist:

For Obama, the lesson of Coakley's defeat is that he needs to start fighting for principle the way he did during his campaign. Had he demanded and won a stimulus package big enough to restart the jobs engine, and if he'd insisted on a stronger healthcare bill and pushed for quick passage, he'd be in far better shape politically right now.

There are signs that he and other Democrats understand their dilemma. The House of Representatives may pass the Senate version of the healthcare bill intact, thus bringing the months-long process to a merciful close. Maybe then they can start explaining to the public what's in it for them – something they have failed at pathetically for many months.

Even more promising, Obama is finally starting to go after Wall Street. Now Obama is proposing a tax to recoup some of the billions of dollars in bailout money the bankers received, and has referred to bonus payments as "obscene" at a time when many "continue to face real hardship in this recession."

An important thing to note: Massachusetts, and the country, is not exactly saying they can't wait for Republicans to rule the roost;  a new WSJ-NBC News poll finds that just 30% of voters say feel positively about the Republican Party.  39% feel positively about the Democrats.

And as our own Chris Ingram writes today, "Voters rejected the Democrats, they didn’t embrace the GOP."

However, drilling down deeper into that Wall Street  Journal poll is troubling for Democrats.  When it comes to enthusiasm, the GOP is kicking the Democrats' ass 10 months before the Congressional elections, with 55% of Republicans saying they're excited to go to the polls this fall, while only 38% of Democrats can say the same thing.

That is the question of the moment, in the wake of Republican Scott Brown's victory last night over Democrat Martha Coakley in the election to replace Ted Kennedy as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

Perhaps because of how quickly the news cycle works, though Brown's victory is considered an upset for the ages, the fact of the matter is if Martha Coakley had won last night, political analysts would be calling that an upset.

As I wrote yesterday, there would be an onslaught of conservative crowing if the Kennedy seat went red, and it started last night with the victor himself, Scott Brown, who said of his win:

"When there's trouble in Massachusetts, rest assured , there's trouble everywhere, and they know it," he said. "One thing is very, very clear as I traveled across this state. People do not want the trillion-dollar health care plan that is being forced on the American people, and this bill is not being debated openly and fairly. It will raise taxes, it will hurt Medicare, it will destroy jobs and run our nation deeper in to debt."

No doubt there are two things that are hurting Democrats big time right now.  One is the economy, which is bigger than anybody's control, and the other is health care.


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