Voters thronged to the polls in Massachusetts today in a special election Republicans hope will be a national game-changer, slowing down President Barack Obama's agenda and loosening the Democratic grip on the U.S. Senate.
As dawn broke in the frosty Northeast, the GOP publicly relished the possibility that a previously obscure state senator, Scott Brown, could wrest the election from Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley, considered the fly-away favorite until a week ago.
In contrast to the light turnout for the party primaries last month, both candidates expected heavy a turnout following the national attention thrust upon their race. There was a clear sign at one polling place: A line of cars stretched for nearly a half-mile from the gymnasium at North Andover High School, the polling place for a community of about 30,000 about a half-hour north of Boston. Some drivers turned around in exasperation.
The race to fill the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts neared its conclusion with not only its outcome, but the fate of Obama's program, under a cloud. Republicans are hoping that Brown can become the 41st vote in their ranks in the 100-member Senate, giving them enough strength to successfully filibuster Democratic initiatives, including the massive health care bill that majority Democrats are rushing to finish.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
BOSTON (AP) — Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is calling today's special Senate election in Massachusetts crucial, saying Democrats who dominated politics a year ago are finding the landscape "very different" now.
Interviewed on CBS's "The Early Show" as the polls opened, Steele didn't venture any prediction as to whether Republican Scott Brown would upset Democrat General Martha Coakley.
But he did say he expects majority Democrats in the U.S. Senate to quickly seat Brown, if he wins, and said that any delaying tactics would be "unseemly." Former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe, appearing on the same show, acknowledged "an anti-incumbency mood" and said his party must get a healthy voter turnout to avoid an upset.
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