Polls have closed in Massachusetts for a hotly contested special election to decide who will take the Senate seat held for 46 years by the late Edward Kennedy.
Hanging in the balance is what the outcome could mean for health care overhaul and President Obama's overall agenda, because if Republican Scott Brown defeats Democrat Martha Coakley, it would mean the end of the Democrats' super majority in the Senate.
Brown, 50, is in a surprising neck-and-neck race with Coakley, 56, even though just a few weeks ago most polls showed Coakley with a solid lead.
The last time a Republican senator was elected in Massachusetts was November 1972, when Edward Brooke won the seat. And given the history of Massachusetts' voting pattern, Brown's popularity is a surprise to many.
Tonight, a lawyer for Coakley alleged there were reports from voters of ballots being pre-marked with a vote for Brown, possibly laying a foundation for a vote recount.
"Let there be no doubt, those are spoiled ballots, they should not be counted. And they should be preserved by the local election officials. We have brought it to the attention of the Secretary of State's office," said Democratic lawyer Marc Elias.
"We just want to make sure for the people going forward for the remainder of the day take the time and they don't just walk out without voting, or cast the ballot that's been pre-marked," he said.
The White House acknowledged today that Obama "was both surprised and frustrated" by how hotly contested the special election has become. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today that the president is "not pleased" with how much Coakley is struggling.
But when asked if Obama believes health care overhaul efforts will die if Brown wins, Gibbs said, "Let's wait for the results. I don't think the president believes that."
Gibbs said that no matter what happens in Massachusetts tonight, "we face a set of circumstances that have to be addressed and have to be dealt with" and there isn't a new agenda that will be based on tonight's results.
If Brown is elected, Senate Democrats would lose the 60-seat majority they now enjoy and that they need to avoid a Republican filibuster of the health care bill.
In case of a Democratic loss, sources said, the White House wants the House to vote directly on the same bill the Senate passed Christmas Eve which would avoid the need for a conference to reconcile the two bills. It would prevent Brown from having any chance to cast a vote on health care.
Administration officials argue that if it's not the Senate bill, then there may not be any health care overhaul. But with some moderate Democrats on the sidelines, there would likely not be enough votes to pass the Senate bill.
"To be honest with you, that's going to be a very hard sell for everybody," Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said Monday in an MSNBC interview. "And it's not just a Progressive Caucus issue. It really would require a lot of trust to say that there would be a follow-on to incorporate some of these changes."