Polls show that the little-known republican candidate Scott Brown is running neck-and-neck with, or ahead of, his Democratic opponent, state attorney general Coakley, who looked like a certain winner a few days ago.
An unexpectedly strong performance by the Republican candidate in one of the safest Democratic seats in the Senate would be viewed as a serious setback for Obama, who is staking his personal reputation in visiting Massachusetts.
A victory would not only give the Republicans their 41st seat in the Senate – enough to block the healthcare bill. It would be a sign of things to come in the mid-term elections for the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate in November 2010. President Obama’s legislative program would face strong challenges and the Massachusetts defeat could prove to be a fatal blow against his own re-election hopes in 2012.