WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2010— -- What happens Tuesday in Massachusetts could affect the entire nation, and President Obama's whole future domestic agenda.
The state's voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose between Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley and Republican state Sen. Scott Brown in a surprisingly close special election to fill the seat held by the late-Sen. Ted Kennedy for 46 years.
If Brown wins, he would break the filibuster-proof 60-seat majority Democrats currently hold in the Senate, a majority that is deemed crucial for passage of health care reform and other top White House initiatives.
In a sign of how high the stakes are, Obama flew to Boston today to appeal to Massachusetts voters in person. To a cheering and elated crowd, Obama brought back some of his fiery campaign rhetoric.
"Fired up?" he asked the crowd, who seemed energized as soon as he took the stage at Northeastern University.
The president tied Brown's agenda with "Washington Republicans" who are against financial reform, clean energy and health care reform.
"When the chips are down, when the tough votes come, on all the fights that matter to middle class folks of the Commonwealth, who is going to be on your side?" he asked.
If elected, Brown would be the 41st Republican senator, enough to block the President's health care bill from final passage. Brown, 50, has vowed to vote against it.
"As the 41st senator I can at least allow them to, you know, maybe look at things a little differently," Brown told ABC News in an interview.
Political analysts say that if Brown wins, the Democrats' health care reform initiative is in serious danger.
A Republican Win Could Kill Health Care Reform
"If Democrats lose this race, healthcare is effectively dead," said ABC News' senior political correspondent Rick Klein. "Democrats on the Hill know that."
Last week, the president taped a robo-call in support of Coakley.
"In Washington, I'm fighting to curb the abuses of a health insurance industry that routinely denies care. I'm fighting for financial reforms to stop Wall Street from playing havoc with our economy. I'm fighting to create a new clean energy economy," the president said in the call.
"And it's clear now that the outcome of these and other fights will probably rest on one vote in the United States Senate," he said.
"Doing nothing is not an option, because his entire domestic agenda hangs in the balance," Democratic political analyst Donna Brazile said today on ABC's "This Week".
Democrats outnumber Republicans in Massachusetts 3-1, but Brown, a lawyer and former model, has burst out of nowhere to make this a race, running a populist campaign, highlighting that image with his black pick-up truck.
He raised more than a million dollars online every day last week, according to a Republican source familiar with Brown's fundraising.
Coakley, 56, said voters are rightfully frustrated.
"Voters are often angry when they are losing their jobs, they can't afford health care now, and they need to understand that the status quo will be worse if we don't do health care reform. I think they are angry and should be angry," Coakley told ABC News.
Political analysts say a win for Brown could hurt Democrats in the upcoming 2010 midterm elections.
"It would be a crushing blow to the Obama administration and I think it would provide an opening for Republicans nationally," Republican commentator Tucker Carlson said.
"It's another signal for Democrats. They have to be concerned about the direction of the agenda," Klein said. "If Massachusetts doesn't come through for Democrats, Democrats across the country are going to be panicked."
Will the President's Appeal Be Enough?
Whether the president's popularity can help Coakley win in Massachusetts is unknown, with the president's own poll numbers having slipped significantly to 53 percent -- 15 percentage points down from when he took office a year ago, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released this morning.
However, the president put forward an impassioned appeal to voters today.
"If you were fired up in the last election, I need you more fired up in this election!" the president called out to the crowd of around 1,100.
"I need you knocking on doors and making phone calls, every vote matters," he said. "We need you on Tuesday."
During the president's speech, a loud protestor holding a sign that said, "Jesus loves all babies!" interrupted the president with shouting.
"It's OK," Obama said, pausing a few times until the protestor was escorted out by police and security personnel. "We're doing fine."