AUDIE CORNISH, host:
Many people were surprised this week when my home state elected Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat once held by the late Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy, a giant of liberalism. Much of the shock comes from national pundits and party leaders. After all, it's Massachusetts, as if the name alone indicates that successful Republicans, like unicorns, are an intriguing idea but not real.
The fact is that Republicans have been elected to statewide office in Massachusetts. For most of my adult life, there were Republican governors. It's hard to pigeonhole Massachusetts' voters. Look at the voter registration rolls and you'll find that while Democrats outnumber Republicans, three to one, the number of Independents trumps all of them - about 50 percent of voters. And then there are the state Democrats.
In the last two years, four of them have left the state house in the wake of various allegations: corruption, bribery, sexual harassment. Meanwhile, the Democrat in the Senate race, State Attorney General Martha Coakley, allowed her campaign to unravel in a matter of weeks.
Should we start with the misspelling of the name of the state in a TV ad or the faux pas that might as well have been a mortal sin in Massachusetts, inadvertently calling the legendary former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling a Yankee fan?
All this is not to ignore the issues. How voters felt about taxes, the economy and terrorism all came into play, as well as, of course, health care. The fear that the health care bill will cost far more than lawmakers say it will and that citizens will bear the burden of that cost is real. That's what Senator-Elect Scott Brown honed in on.
The state was fertile ground for this kind of upset. So, is it any wonder that the home of the original tea party has given a boost to the tea party conservatives of today?
(Soundbite of song)
Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Where they speak with ease, Massachusetts. Boston, if you please, Massachusetts. Where they cost (unintelligible), Massachusetts, and where (unintelligible), Massachusetts. Spread the news around...
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