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Blow for Obama as Republicans win Massachusetts Senate seat

Republican Scott Brown has pulled off a surprise victory in Massachusetts' Senate election this Tuesday, stripping Democrats of the 60-seat Senate supermajority and casting doubt on the fate of Obama's healthcare reform.

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US President Barack Obama was dealt a bad blow to mark his first year in office after Republicans won a stunning upset in Massachusetts’ Senate election on Tuesday, humiliating the White House and imperilling Obama’s key reforms.

Republican Scott Brown pulled off a surprise victory with 51.8 percent against 47.2 percent for his Democratic rival, Martha Coakley.

FRANCE 24’s Washington correspondent, Guillaume Meyer, explains that Brown’s victory will strip Democrats of their 60-seat Senate supermajority and potentially cripple Obama’s ambitious domestic agenda.

“There will be 41 Republicans in the Senate and that means they’ll have the numbers to actually block any healthcare bill if they want to,” says Meyer.

Scott Brown’s capture of the late Democratic icon Edward Kennedy’s seat could ironically lead to the blocking of healthcare legislation Kennedy once described as ‘the cause of [his] life’.

Brown has already promised he will vote against Obama’s healthcare reform.

“People don't want this trillion-dollar healthcare plan that is being forced on the American people,” Brown told cheering supporters at a Boston hotel who chanted “41” and “Seat him now”.

Widespread discontentment

Beyond healthcare, Brown’s victory could have wider implications for Obama's political prestige, and complicate his bid to pass other contested bills such as the cap-and-trade climate legislation.

Shortly after the announcement of Brown’s historic victory, Democrats were trying to make sense of this Republican victory in a historically left-leaning state.

Widespread belief in an easy victory prevented Democrats from effectively responding to Brown’s populist challenge. Analysts point to a lacklustre campaign by Coakley and a misreading of popular anger at Washington in a time of recession and at what Republicans say is an over-expanding government.

“Some commentators are suggesting there is wide discontentment in America at the way Barack Obama is running the show. The economy is not doing better, the healthcare reform is not going anywhere, and it seems the voters wanted to send a signal that they want things to be different,” says FRANCE 24’s Meyer.

The Republican Massachusetts triumph could also mean large losses for Democrats across the country in mid-term congressional elections scheduled for November 2010.

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