Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Ten Biggest Losers in the Massachusetts Special Senatorial Election

There was more than one loser when Scott Brown won yesterday's special election in Massachusetts to replace Ted Kennedy.

Barack Obama. His already complex job just became a lot more complicated.

Sarah Palin. She's been upstaged almost as badly as Barack Obama. The Republicans desperately need new, younger candidates. Scott Brown, although not entirely without baggage himself, doesn't need a battalion of bellhops the way Palin does, with McCain's former campaign staff carefully calibrating their telescopic sights to snipe at her, the issues from her family, the issues from her almost inlaws, those interesting reimbursements from the State of Alaska while she was governor, the photo of her with a dead, bloody caribou, and quitting the governorship promptly after attaining national stature and cashing in with a book contract, the Fox commentator deal, etc. Today, Brown didn't exactly deny harboring Presidential ambitions, so watch for Palin to sneak up on the rug he's standing on and give it a hard yank.

Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrinch, et al. The old, white guys in the Republican Party are finished. The party's way back to the White House will be through a younger, fresher insurgent candidate who appeals to the ever fickle independents that are now the key to victory. Republican power brokers will be looking for ways to quietly offload those same old, same old guys.

White House staff. It is the way of Washington that someone take the fall for a disaster like Brown's successful guerilla campaign. The vicious flood of leaks over who's to blame and who was asleep at the switch indicate a fierce internecine battle among Team Obama. Sooner or later, someone will have to resign to spend more time with their family or pursue other interests.

Levi Johnston. Another guy who posed nude has suddenly gained the limelight. As Sarah Palin's public aura fades, so does Levi Johnston's. He's said he'd be content as an electrician. He'd better stay on track to get licensed.

The uninsured. Those without health insurance had better reach down for their bootstraps and pull hard, because they may be getting no other options.

The insured. Reality is that the insured and paying patients pay for the emergency room and pro bono care that the uninsured often rely on. Maybe your taxes won't be raised now, but your health care costs and insurance premiums will remain high and probably go higher.

Health care providers. With today's crazy quilt health care insurance/no insurance system likely to stay largely in place, and with taxpayers less likely to contribute to covering health care costs, the only remaining pool of cash to be tapped as health care costs inexorably rise is the dollar flow to health care providers. Reimbursement rates are likely to be squeezed. The plastic surgeons and neurosurgeons forced to trade down from Maseratis to Mercedeses won't get any sympathy. But pediatricians already sometimes vaccinate kids at cost, or even at a loss. And they and general practitioners scarcely make what executive assistants on Wall Street make. Cutting their reimbursements rates isn't likely to produce a good outcome.

Scott Brown's truck. Driving on the small town roads of Wrentham, Mass. doesn't put a lot of wear and tear on a motor vehicle, especially something as sturdy as a pickup truck. But D.C.'s potholes interspersed with short stretches of macadam are a very different story. When you idle a truck for eons in rush hour congestion and then drive it off a cliff every 50 feet, the tires, suspension, undercarriage, frame, and engine earn their keep. One D.C. mile is the same as 20 Wrentham miles. Senator Brown won't be able to add 200,000 D.C. miles to the truck.

And, oh yeah, Martha Coakley. It's hard to exclude the losing candidate from this list, but, all things considered, she's far from the biggest loser.

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