A new means of defeating the health insurance bill emerged today. A new Rasmussen poll shows Republican Scott Brown within 9% of Democrat Martha Coakley in the January 19th special election for Massachusetts Senate.
Previous polls on this campaign showed Coakley ahead by 31 and 26 points, although there has not been a poll since November 8th. Also, Rasmussen has been a pretty accurate polling firm in past elections. All of this means that this poll is not to be dismissed until new polling emerges showing Coakley much further ahead.
While poll averaging has about half the error rate of individual polls (more on that later), and thus is far more useful than any individual poll, it is entirely possible that Brown is gaining quickly on Coakley and could actually win the campaign. Nate Silver puts the odds of a Brown victory at 3-5%. My own research into 130 "close" (that is, final poll average within 18.50% or less) statewide general election campaigns from 2004-2008 found 4 instances where the final vote margin was off by 8.50% or more from the final poll average. While that only translates into, at best, a 1.5% chance for a Brown victory, special election polling, like primary polling, can be quite volatile.
Long story short--Brown has a chance, even if only an outside chance. If Brown wins, he would probably be sworn in on January 21st. While there is an off-chance the final vote on health care reform will have already taken place by then, odds are that negotiations on the health care bill will still be ongoing. Given that there is no way Olympia Snowe is going to vote for the bill that comes back from the House-Senate negotiations (that bill will likely be marginally stronger than the Senate bill), a Brown victory would bring a sudden and surprising end to the health care reform legislative process.
Bringing me, at long last, to the title of this post, I will be interested over the next two weeks to see if any of the supposed opponents of the health care bill--whether lefties or teabaggers--actually bother to seize this newfound opportunity to defeat the bill and work for Scott Brown's campaign.
It should be an obvious move for the teabaggers. They are supposedly such a powerful, popular and emerging force, after all. A Brown win would create a 41st Republican vote would grind virtually the entire Democratic agenda to a halt, too. And, this is just about the only chance left to defeat death panels, socialized medicine and the like.
For lefties, working for a Republican might be more difficult to swallow. Then again, I have heard a lot lately about trans-partisan alliances (and hey, I'm involved with one on Bernanke). Also, this might be the best remaining chance to stop a trillion dollar giveaway to the insurance industry. And what of all those calls to run primary challenges against Progressives in Congress who vote for the health care bill? Here is an opportunity to pre-emptively take out an incoming progressive Senator before she even votes for the health care bill.
So, I will be waiting to see if the people who have made the most noise against this bill--mainly teabaggers--actually do anything to seize what is perhaps the last remaining chance to defeat the health care bill. Personally, I think that people on the left are primarily agitating to improve the bill--an effort which I wholeheartedly endorse--but if you sincerely want the bill defeated, Scott Brown's campaign is your best bet.