PEEK

6 Scenarios for the Massachusetts Vote and After

The election could be fantastic for Democrats. It could also be devastating.

Here are six scenarios for today's special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Edward Kennedy.

FIRST: NOTHING CHANGES.

Democrat Martha Coakley wins with relative ease, thanks to the Democratic advantage in traditionally-blue Massachusetts and a lot of last-minute scrambling by frightened party activists and their union allies. As such, the Democrats maintain their 60-seat majority in the Senate and the flexibility they need to pass some sort of health care reform – which they do with little reflection on the scare they have just been through.

This is a status-quo result, which has little real impact on the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. If Coakley's win is big enough, they claim that the whole speculation about the liberal lion of the Senate's seat falling to conservative Republican Scott Brown is dismissed as little more than an exercise in wishful thinking by a battered GOP and mental masturbation by political reporters trying to fill their timecards before the fall electoral season begins in earnest.

SECOND: SOMETHING CHANGES FOR THE BETTER.

John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent.
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