Before it becomes the received wisdom on the left that Scott Brown won because Martha Coakley lost, permit me to express the opinion that Coakley may not have been the most skillful candidate in American political history, but she was defeated not by her own deficiencies but by national trends and factors that transcended her particular race and parochial issues of Massachusetts.
Two simple facts emphasize the obvious national character of this campaign. First, this was a seismic political event by any measure, and would be so if it had occurred in Missouri or Michigan or North Carolina. But that it happened in Massachusetts--which has elected no Republican senator since the Nixon administration--and that the election was to replace none other than Edward Kennedy, is simply astonishing.
The second fact is that, by any reasonable measure, Coakley was a pretty good candidate--especially in a state where Democrats are routinely elevated to federal office over feeble opposition. She is the incumbent attorney general of Massachusetts, a Williams graduate, attractive, articulate, and personally appealing, a successful career prosecutor who is (issues and politics aside) widely respected. Yes, she lacks what we might call the common touch, and is not a natural political performer. But no one ever accused, say, John F. Kennedy of being the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with; and Massachusetts is a state that has repeatedly sent John Kerry to Washington. Above all, in the U.S. Senate, Coakley would have stood head and shoulders above such company as Robert Byrd, Patty Murray, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jim Bunning, Roland Burris, Tom Harkin, and Barbara Boxer, to name a few.