In 2008, the Democratic candidate had recently been a no-name state senator with a thin record but good stage presence. In 2010, Scott Brown holds that mantle. The presidential election featured an “establishment” Republican against a “change” Democrat. In this senatorial election, Martha Coakley wears the “establishment” label while Brown gets to claim he’d upend the state’s Democratic dominance. John McCain made himself sound out of touch by admitting he didn’t use e-mail. Coakley did the same by seemingly scoffing at the notion of shaking hands outside Fenway Park, then by suggesting Red Sox legend Curt Schilling was a Yankees fan. (It was a joke, she now says.) Obama in 2008 raised untold funds from grass-roots giving. This year, Brown was the first to use the online “money bomb” technique and last week raised a reported $1 million a day. In ’08, the Democrat was a marvel on the stump, while the Republican was hard to watch. The opposite is true in 2010.

This narrative isn’t especially fair—just as it wasn’t in 2008. But only now are the Democrats realizing the box they’ve been squeezed into…

Coupled with that amnesia is shortsightedness about what a vote for Brown means, said state Sen. Robert O’Leary, who represents Cape Cod. If people knew electing Brown would create more gridlock—for health care and the rest of Obama’s agenda—they might vote differently. “I don’t think people are fully conscious of the implications,” he said. U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt said Democrats have done a poor job of helping voters “connect the dots” between Bush and Brown and the poor economy. Now Coakley, the attorney general from Massachusetts, is somehow seen as representing the nation’s sorry state. “We failed, Congress failed, the president failed, I failed, we failed,” he said. That’s very honest, I said. “Why not be honest?” he said. “It might get us somewhere.”