Democrats face battle to keep Kennedy's seat
Published 18/01/2010 | 05:00
Barack Obama was forced to return to the campaign trail last night in an attempt to prevent the loss of the Massachusetts senate seat that Ted Kennedy held for almost five decades.
A defeat in tomorrow's vote could wreck the president's cherished healthcare reform and would overshadow the first anniversary of his inauguration this week. Democrat Martha Coakley is trailing her Republican rival Scott Brown by 4pc. The president was due to address a hastily arranged rally in Boston last night to urge the party faithful to ensure they and their neighbours turned out to vote.
Referring to healthcare in a video message emailed earlier to Democratic volunteers, Mr Obama said: "A lot of people don't even realise that there is an election on Tuesday or why it's so important. So I need you to put on your walking shoes again, knock on doors, call, email, text and tweet."
Mr Kennedy held the seat for 47 years before his death in August and the state of Massachusetts is one of the most liberal in the US. All of its Congressional seats and both state legislatures are held by the Democrats.
Yet it is the late senator's dream of universal healthcare that has been a major factor in driving independent voters to declare their support for Mr Brown, the relatively unknown Republican candidate.
"Even in this Democratic-dominated state, there is fear and consternation about the issues of healthcare and the economy," said Paul Watanabe, a political analyst at the University of Massachusetts.
According to Democrat campaign volunteers, numerous voters have said that they are deeply worried about the cost of providing healthcare to all Americans when the national deficit is rising thanks to the Wall Street bailout and stimulus spending. In contrast, some of the elderly are concerned their free benefits might be cut under Mr Obama's plans.
Mr Brown, a state senator who once worked as a model, has vowed to end the 60-40 Democrat majority in the Senate. Democrats had expected an easy victory for Mrs Coakley, the state's attorney general, a result that would maintain the Democrats' crucial 60-seat tally. She started the race 20 to 30 points ahead, but has been accused of running a lacklustre and complacent campaign.
To make matters worse, the name of the state was spelt incorrectly in one of her television advertisements. (©The Daily Telegraph, London)