Every Senate election is a big deal, but tomorrow's Massachusetts special election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat matters more than most. Democrat Martha Coakley, once a shoo-in, is now seen as neck-and-neck with Republican Scott Brown. We've already explained how a loss by Coakley could sink health care reform. But now that President Obama is personally involved in the race, it's becoming clear that it goes far beyond health care. Here is how the race could impact Democrat legislation and elections for years to come.

  • Dem's 'Canary in a Coalmine' ABC's Jake Tapper writes, "the fact that President Obama felt the need to fly to the Bay State to campaign for a Democrat in one of the most Democratic states in the nation speaks volumes about the ugly climate for Democratic candidates." Tapper says this is no mystery in the White House. "It's not that the White House has been unaware of how ugly the 2010 midterms could be for Democrats. But however this race turns out, the closeness of the Coakley-Brown race is an ominous sign for Democrats."
  • Why Obama Needs This The New York Times's Jeff Zeleny reminds us that the race "will determine whether the party preserves a 60-vote majority in the Senate needed to keep alive health care legislation and the rest of the president's agenda." So it is a top priority for all Democrats, especially Obama. "The most alarming fact in polls and internal research, several party advisers said, was that Ms. Coakley was still falling behind Mr. Brown among voters who had a favorable view of the president." That could portend a similar trend for Democrats in 2010.
  • How Coakley Loss Could Change 2010 The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza warns of "a chain reaction that could significantly worsen the party's outlook this fall. Democratic members of the House and, to a lesser extent, the Senate, who are already fretting about the possibility of losing their seats in 2010, would almost certainly take Coakley's defeat as an indication of the toxicity of the national environment and head for the hills. Recruitment efforts would also grow far more complicated as convincing ambitious pols to take the risk of running in such an atmosphere would be tricky at best, impossible at worst." It "would set off a panic the likes of which hasn't been seen in Democratic electoral politics in a decade or more."
  • Ugly Legal Battle Politico's Chris Frates and Manu Raju report that a Scott Brown win could spark a potentially protracted legal battle over whether Brown would take his seat in time to vote against health care reform. "Conservative commentator Fred Barnes is arguing that Kirk will lose his vote in the Senate after Tuesday's special election, no matter who wins, signaling a possible GOP line of attack against health reform if it passes with Kirk's vote. GOP elected officials haven't embraced that argument, and two academic election law experts contacted by POLITICO refuted the notion that Kirk will no longer be a senator after Tuesday's election. But it's a sign of the fierce legal and political battles likely to ensue if Brown upsets Democrat Martha Coakley."
  • It's All About Dem Turnout Without Obama's support, says Nate Silver, Coakley would be doomed. Now that she has it, it will depend on turnout from Obama supporters. "Obama carried Massachusetts by 26 points in November 2008. (His approval among registered voters there also appeared to be about +24 as of November 2009). So, if Democrats suffered from the same turnout gap in Massachusetts that they had in Virginia (which was billed as catastrophic at the time), Obama would be at a +17 or so [among likely voters]. Instead, you have several pollsters showing him at a +1 or a +5 [among likely voters] -- which would imply a turnout gap of 20 or 25 points, more than twice as bad as the one Democrats suffered from in VA."