In a stunning result, the Republicans last night won Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat in a special election in Massachusetts. The defeat is a major blow to President Obama as he begins the second year of his presidency. The loss means that the Democrats no longer have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, calling into question whether the healthcare bill—the domestic centrepiece of Obama’s first year in office—can pass.
If a year ago, anyone had said that Obama’s first year in the White House would end with the Democrats losing a Senate seat in Massachusetts you would have assumed that something had gone very wrong. The defeat does show that the Obama presidency is in trouble. Obama now faces a choice. He can either double-down on health care despite the polls showing that more people oppose the current bill than support it or he can begin tacking back to the centre starting with his State of the Union speech in a week’s time.