Speaking to political analyst John Dickerson on Wednesday’s CBS Early Show about Republican Scott Brown winning the Massachusetts Senate race, co-host Maggie Rodriguez lamented: “When it comes to health care, I think it’s so ironic that the late Ted Kennedy’s passion was health care. He dedicated his career to it. And the man who will replace him could be the one to derail it.”
Rodriguez wondered: “Do you think that’ll happen? Do you think that Senator Brown will be seated in time to vote no?” Dickerson replied: “I think so. It looks like there’s not any appetite to try and rush something through quickly. Health care is already unpopular in Massachusetts and across the country. It’s a very tricky thing indeed to take an unpopular bill and then sort of sneak it in through this back door way. So that’s politically too painful.”
Interestingly, Rodriguez’s concern over Kennedy’s health care legacy was almost identical to a question NBC’s Meredith Vieira asked Senator-elect Brown on Wednesday’s Today: “...you plan to do whatever you can to derail what Ted Kennedy called, called ‘the cause of his lifetime,’ which is health care reform?”
In addition to fretting over the future of ObamaCare, Rodriguez repeated the Democratic talking point that Brown’s victory was not a referendum on the unpopular legislation: “The economy is weak, unemployment is officially at 10%, the health care debate rages on. Do you think all of those factors, and not just health care, contributed to this upset?” Dickerson agreed: “That’s right. There was a soup here.”
In a report just prior to Rodriguez’s discussion with Dickerson, White House correspondent Bill Plante pushed the same liberal line: “Top officials here still insist that Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts was a referendum on the economy and not on health care.” During that report, an on-screen headline read: “Hanging In The Balance; GOP Win Could Derail Obama Health Care Plan”
Following Rodriguez’s discussion with Dickerson, fill-in co-host Jeff Glor spoke with former Obama campaign advisor David Plouffe about the Massachusetts election. Plouffe downplayed the loss: “Well, it was clear for the last few days we were going to have a potentially tough outcome last night. Obviously it’s disappointing.” He then took a shot at Democratic candidate Martha Coakley: “I think even a mediocre campaign up there probably would have been successful.” And actually complimented Brown: “...let’s give credit to senator-elect Brown, he ran a great campaign.”
At the top of the broadcast, correspondent Nancy Cordes reported on Democratic Party infighting over the loss:
And it’s already being called one of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history. It fundamentally changes the power dynamic in Washington. Republicans are celebrating. Democrats are turning on each other....The blame game has already started. ‘She ran a really bad campaign and they didn’t ask us for help until it was too late,’ carped one White House official. Coakley campaign workers shot back that it was gridlock in Washington souring voters on Democrats.
The Early Show had no Republicans on to discuss Brown’s historic victory.
Here is a full transcript of Rodriguez’s discussion with Dickerson:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Let’s talk more about this – what this means. In Washington, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson is standing by. John, good morning.
JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Maggie.
RODRIGUEZ: The economy is weak, unemployment is officially at 10%, the health care debate rages on. Do you think all of those factors, and not just health care, contributed to this upset?
DICKERSON: That’s right. There was a soup here and the problem for the President and for Democrats in Washington is lots of Democrats are taking different lessons from different parts of this. What they know is there’s an unfocused anger out there and they may all be the victim of it and the problem with everybody taking their own interpretations of this is that with – it’s very hard to get everybody to move in one direction. So the White House is going to try and get the story straight first before they can get everybody to support a way forward.
RODRIGUEZ: But when it comes to health care, I think it’s so ironic that the late Ted Kennedy’s passion was health care. He dedicated his career to it. And the man who will replace him could be the one to derail it. Do you think that’ll happen? Do you think that Senator Brown will be seated in time to vote no?
DICKERSON: I think so. It looks like there’s not any appetite to try and rush something through quickly. Health care is already unpopular in Massachusetts and across the country. It’s a very tricky thing indeed to take an unpopular bill and then sort of sneak it in through this back door way. So that’s politically too painful. The leading least bad option, as far as Democrats are concerned at the moment, is this notion of passing the Senate bill through the House without any of these big changes they’ve been wrangling over for the last several weeks. But last night Democrats were saying that’s just not something they can stomach. So it’s very hard to see how they go forward here.
RODRIGUEZ: Because some Democrats have to be worried about what this victory means in terms of the midterm election. Do you think we’ll start to see some of them distance themselves, not only from health care, but from President Obama?
DICKERSON: Well, yes. Or just go their own way. Everybody’s looking over their shoulder now because of this idea that if in a blue state like Massachusetts independent voters, who are very unhappy about the economy, who see health care perhaps as a distraction from that crucial issue of jobs, if that unfocused anger can fall on somebody’s head, then you’re sort of on your own. And another thing that candidates are trying to figure out here is what role the President plays. He made one visit to stump for Martha Coakley. And you know, he can’t pull it out in a single visit. But he’s been talking about health care for months, he’s been talking about the economy for months, and hasn’t been able to change those minds. For a Democrat up in 2010, that means they don’t have a lot of political cover from their president.
RODRIGUEZ: Potentially huge implications for the President. John Dickerson, thank you.
DICKERSON: Thank you.
RODRIGUEZ: You’re welcome.