SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 27, 2013

Benton: Looking ahead to 2014

The end of the year provides an opportunity for looking back, as well as forward. In the political realm, 2013 brought some notable changes on the local front. But the year about to begin will bring a big test for Democrats and Republicans both in Washington and on Beacon Hill.

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I suspect that even a Hawaiian vacation won’t keep President Obama from fretting over the disastrous rollout of a universal health insurance plan he’d hoped would be the crowning achievement of his eight years in office. Turns out Republicans would have done him a big favor by blocking its implementation.

A few months ago the GOP’s inept effort to hold the functioning of government hostage to the health-care issue had many predicting a Democratic rout in next fall’s mid-term elections. Today, the public’s confusion and doubt over “Obamacare” has raised Republican hopes for a takeover of the Senate in January of 2015.

Indeed, The Associated Press reported Monday, “Thanks to the fiasco that followed the launch of President Barack Obama’s health care law, Democrats are bracing for hard-fought Senate races in states (Michigan and Colorado) they had hoped to win with ease just two months ago.”

Of course this favorable outlook could change if Republicans allow the more extreme elements of their party to control the choice of candidates.

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Here in the Bay State, voters’ attention will be focused on the race for governor. With Deval Patrick opting not to seek another term, the Democratic race will pit two of his fellow constitutional officers – Attorney General Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steve Grossman – against each other. On the other hand, businessman (and former Swampscott selectman) Charlie Baker should have the Republican field pretty much to himself with former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s decision to seek greener pastures and a more friendly constituency in New Hampshire.

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