Mass. Senate Race Becomes Referendum on Health Bill

Candidates to succeed Kennedy cast selves as deciding vote
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 12, 2010 9:06 AM CST
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley speaks during a news conference at her campaign headquarters in Charlestown, Mass. Monday, Jan. 11, 2010.   (Elise Amendola)
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(Newser) – The race to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has turned into a proxy battle over the fate of President Obama's health care overhaul. The contest between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown has coarsened with a week to go, as the two have cast themselves as custodians of the pivotal Senate vote to determine the bill's fate.

"As the 41st senator, I can stop it," Brown said last week during a debate. A poll released Sunday showed Coakley leading 50% to 35%. Republicans are hoping a closer-than-expected finish would bolster a claim that Democrats are at risk of losing their congressional majorities. Democrats want to protect the president from embarrassment over health care, his top domestic priority. Vicki Kennedy, the senator's widow, delivered an emotional endorsement of Coakley last week.

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