In 1994, a Washington legislator by the name of Tom Foley was the Speaker of the House. He had been in this post since June 1989, well over 5 years, and risen through the ranks in Congress over a period of 30 years, since January 1965.
Tom Foley was a powerful and savvy politician, but in 1994, he became the first Speaker of the House to lose a re-election bid since 1860. For those who need a brush-up on their United States history, this means that no sitting Speaker had lost a re-election bid since the Civil War.
Kids who are voting for the first time this fall would have been 2 years old when the campaign and election of 1994 unfolded, thus having no recall of the intensity of resentment that was on display in that tidal wave of electoral discontent. But the story of Tom Foley epitomizes it better than any other.
I have been indulging in a periodic daydream for the last week or so. The musings that compose this reverie go something like this: “What if Scott Brown actually pulls this off?!?!”
As I write this, Scott Brown has just finished his second debate with his Democrat challenger, Martha Coakley, but far more importantly, he has raised $1 million online in ONE DAY. (In the Twitterverse, this is known as a “money bomb.”) All the momentum is behind Brown. But will it be enough?
But if Scott Brown wins the special Senate election on January 19, that will be just as consequential as Tom Foley’s loss, perhaps more so. For the seat that Scott Brown is running for is the one Ted Kennedy held for over 46 years, from January 1963 until his death in August 2009. In case you haven’t already run the numbers, Ted Kennedy was elected to that seat before Tom Foley was elected from his Congressional district. Prior to Ted Kennedy’s election, his brother John held the seat (yes, that John, the iconic President).
Scott Brown is closing fast in the polls, down from 30 points to single digits, by most any estimate. One poll even had him ahead by 1 point. So perhaps you can see why this race is the object of my sweetest fantasies these days.
Political drama at its finest…with so much at stake beyond the horse race element. If Scott Brown wins, the Democrats lose their 60 votes as soon as he is seated. The scuttlebutt says that they have a plan in place to stall his Senate swearing-in if he wins. Do they dare? Probably. But then again, if really does win, they will probably throw any remaining reserves of caution to the winds since even they won’t be able to (at least privately) deny the trouble they will really be in, come November.