BOSTON — His health care plan in peril, President Obama laid on a last-minute campaign trip to Massachusetts for Democrat Martha Coakley on Sunday. Polls show her struggling in an unexpectedly close race against Republican Scott Brown to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat.
Vice President Joe Biden, trying to turn the focus of the race away from the president's embattled health care bill, joined the fray, sending an e-mail to Democrats assailing the Republican candidate for opposing Obama's just-announced plan to tax large Wall Street firms.
The late-game White House aggressiveness reflected a sudden deep concern among Democrats that they could lose a seat the party has controlled for more than half a century — and with it the 60th Senate vote that is all that has kept alive the health care overhaul that Obama has spent his first year pushing toward passage.
Beyond that, a poor outcome for Coakley on Tuesday would make moderate Democrats ever more nervous about backing Obama on other issues out of concern about their own re-election chances in November, undercutting his presidency just as he's beginning his second year.
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On defense and on the attack, Coakley made the same argument as Biden on Friday as she tried to appeal to an anti-government, pro-populism electorate. "I'm standing with Main Street on this one. Scott Brown stands with Wall Street," she said.
Brown countered at a campaign event later: "There's only one candidate in this race who's a tax cutter — and it's not Martha Coakley."
Democrats control 60 votes in the Senate, enough to thwart a Republican filibuster of Obama's near-complete health care plan. If Coakley wins, she has said, she will vote, as Kennedy did, with the 57 other Democrats and two independents who side with them. Brown has made clear he would vote against the health plan, which all other Republicans oppose, giving Senate Republicans the 41st vote they need to block the legislation.
"If Scott Brown wins, it'll kill the health bill," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Former President Clinton told a campaign rally, "You just have to decide if you want to pick the person who gets to shut America down."