From San Francisco to North Dakota, Democrats were rocked to their core Wednesday by the loss of the late Edward Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat, presaging a sharp pivot from health care to creating jobs and cutting the enormous federal deficit, which has enraged voters.
That job creation and deficit reduction may be in conflict only deepens the challenge for Democrats. They face an urgent vote to increase the debt limit above $12.4 trillion while moderates are insisting on a special commission that could enact unpopular structural reforms to Social Security, Medicare and other popular programs.
The rebuke by independent voters was felt far beyond the blue Bay State. It reached California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is battling what Democrats believe is a wave of anti-incumbent voter anger threatening to swamp them in November.