The Rebuke: What Comes Next?

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Massachusetts voters delivered a stunning rebuke to President Obama and congressional Democrats tonight, by sending a little-known Republican state legislator to the Senate to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat.

The implications of the upset are likely to be far-reaching: Democrats lose the filibuster-proof majority, while Republicans win a jolt of momentum in this mid-term election year -- and maybe a template for winning candidacies in the era of Obama.

A few things to watch in the aftermath of perhaps the biggest setback of Obama’s tenure in office:

1. What does POTUS do? The White House has already been trying to blame Democrat Martha Coakley for her own weak showing, but the race took on national implications even before the president traveled to Massachusetts on her behalf Sunday. Does Obama now strike a humble tone -- or does he grow more combative?

2. Whither health care? Forget Plan B -- we’re on to Plan D by now. No issue is more immediately affected by Scott Brown’s win than health care, and statements by several Democrats appear to take the most appealing option -- quick action by the House to approve the Senate-passed bill -- off the table. Liberals are already pressing for Democrats to use the budget reconciliation process -- where 51 Senate votes would be enough -- but moderates are arguing that costs should be scaled back significantly.

3. Race for the exits? Democrats have privately been worried about a wave of retirements that would make 2010 look like 1994. Tonight’s results are likely to cause at least a few Democrats to reexamine their prospects this year -- and perhaps decide that retirement isn’t so bad, after all. Republicans, meanwhile, are expecting an upswing in donations, along with more luck in recruiting top-tier candidates.

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