Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Obama campaigns for Senate hopeful

HIGH STAKES The White House’s aggressiveness in support of Martha Coakley reflects concern that losing the seat could cost a key vote on the healthcare bill

AP , BOSTON

People hold signs in support of US Senate Democratic nominee Martha Coakley during a rally on Friday in Boston, Massachusetts.

PHOTO: AFP

US President Barack Obama will make a last-minute campaign trip today to support a Democrat who needs to win an unexpectedly close special election to fill the late Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in order to keep healthcare reform alive.

The late-game White House aggressiveness in support of Massachusetts Democrat Martha Coakley reflected deep concern that Democrats could lose the seat and with it key vote in support of the healthcare reform bill.

Obama wants to get a healthcare bill — his top domestic priority — finished before he makes a State of the Union speech to Congress early next month.

The US is the only major developed nation that does not have a comprehensive national health care plan for its citizens.

About 50 million Americans are without health insurance. With unemployment rising, many Americans are losing health insurance when they lose jobs because employers provide healthcare plans.

“If Scott Brown wins, it’ll kill the health bill,” Democratic Representative Barney Frank said, referring to Coakley’s Republican opponent.

Beyond that, a poor outcome for Coakley on Tuesday would make moderate Democrats more nervous about backing Obama on other issues out of concern for their re-election chances in November, potentially undercutting his presidency.

Democrats control just enough votes in the Senate to keep Republicans from blocking a vote in the Senate of Obama’s nearly complete healthcare plan. If Coakley wins, she has said, she will vote, as Kennedy did, with the 57 other Democrats and two independents who side with them. Brown has made clear he would vote against the health plan, which all other Republicans oppose, giving Senate Republicans the one vote they need to block the legislation.

Secretary of State William Galvin, Massachusetts’ top election official, said certifying Tuesday’s results could take more than two weeks, maybe enough time for Democrats to push Obama’s signature legislation through Congress before Brown could take office. Senator Paul Kirk, the interim appointee to Kennedy’s seat, says he will vote for the bill if given the chance.

Obama’s decision to travel to Massachusetts comes one day after a Suffolk University survey signaled a possible death knell for the 60-vote Senate supermajority the president has been relying upon to pass his healthcare bill and other initiatives through Congress before November’s midterm elections.

The poll showed Brown, a Republican state senator, with 50 percent of the vote. Coakley had 46 percent. That amounted to a statistical tie since it was within the poll’s 4.4 percentage point margin of error, far different from the 15-point lead that Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney-general, enjoyed in a Boston Globe survey released last weekend.

Private, internal polling for both Republicans and Democrats showed a tight race, as well. Momentum was clearly on Brown’s side following a final debate in which he was widely seen as beating Coakley last Monday.

The Suffolk University survey showed that Brown backers include some disaffected Democrats.

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