1500 miles away, a Republican named Scott Brown beats Martha (or is it Marcia) Coakley for the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat. While primarily affecting Massachusetts voters, the victory after factoring in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia leaves an clear indication for things to come in 2010.

U.S. Representative Travis Childers (D-MS01) is likely about to face the vote of his short political career in Washington. With his seat widely regarded to be on the hotseat by most reputable national political followers, Childers is now officially in a very tight fitting box. The healthcare vote the first time around in the US House was a proxy vote of sorts. Everyone at the time knew that the bill would go to the Senate and likely get changed substantially. The only real goal was to get it through that chamber. Everyone knew that they would get another vote when it came down to a conference bill. While important, the vote was something they knew they’d see again.

And then Scott Brown happened. The magical 60th vote for cloture in the Senate has disappeared and a conference committee now doesn’t look like a viable option for Democrats and a president who is officially desperate to get his key legislation passed.

Now, the conventional wisdom is that the House will be left with the very unpalateable option of voting up or down on the Senate bill. There is also the unlikely option of the “reconciliation” process, which has been called the nuclear option. There will be several factions in the House worth watching, particularly in voting up or down on the Senate bill. The ultra-liberals in the House will decry the lack of a public option and say that the Senate health care bill didn’t go far enough. However, Obama and Pelosi will likely be able to crack skulls and largely keep them in line. There are about 30 so called “Blue Dog” Democrats that portray themselves as fiscally conservative even though they support Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. They will now all be the ones under the hot lamps.

After a great deal of gnashing of teeth, Childers voted against the first House health care bill. He was noncommittal until the day of the vote. He was even noncommittal after the vote. His “no” vote was really just a “not right now”. From his own release.

“Today’s vote represents just one step in a long process. The Senate still has to act on its own legislation and we don’t know what the conference report, the final legislation, will look like after that. While I could not vote for today’s bill, I remain committed to effective, fiscally responsible health care reform that will lower premiums for hard-working Mississippians, ensure coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions, prohibit federal funding for abortion, and provide equal access to care for individuals in rural communities.”

Fellow Blue Dog Gene Taylor (D-MS04) had a slightly more direct approach stating that “I can assure you at this point someone could put a gun to my head . . . i’m not voting for this.”

Childers’ doubletalk led many to believe that he wanted to leave his options open. Nancy Pelosi reportedly gave him a pass and allowed him to not vote for the bill and still stay in the leadership’s good graces. The bill squeaked through the house using some electoral math and vulnerable and first term “conservative” Blue Dogs were given a pass and allowed to stray.

From Politico

Most of the southern and western no’s [Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), Travis Childers (D-Miss.), Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), etc.] were the subject of personal lobbying by the speaker and her deputies, according to several sources. But Pelosi and Co. realized early on that their districts dictated their votes and a yes could be political suicide and more or less let them off the hook.

That may not be an option this time around. Everyone will know that an up or down House vote on the Senate health care plan will be “for keeps”.

Conservatism is not defined by voting with conservatives only when liberal leadership says it’s OK. Now, Childers has a real opponent in Tupelo-based Alan Nunnelee that will be holding his feet to the fire. With only 10 months to an election in what’s shaping up as a a VERY bad political for Democrat incumbents, Childers has to tap dance on the razor’s edge. Local democrats have already threatened to pull support for Childers with a no vote on the final passage. A no vote that kills Obama’s key piece of legislation could also serve to lessen support that DCCC and other liberal interest groups give Childers to fund what looks to be a high dollar fight. And a yes vote on the Senate plan would play into Republican hands.

All of Obama’s political capital is tied up in health care. Cap and trade and many of the other controversial agenda items are all taking a back seat to getting a health care bill . . . any healthcare bill . . . passed. Whatever process is used, it may come down to just a handful of votes. The question is, will Travis Childers cast one of the pivotal ones? The truth is that a “yes” vote for Childers is still political suicide, and I doubt that he’ll cast his vote that way, but how he casts a “no” vote will say a lot. Will he hem and haw till the last minute to try and appease his liberal base or will he come out forcefully against final passage like Gene Taylor did in the first healthcare vote and try to guide other “conservative” Dems away from supporting healthcare?

It’s all on the line and will likely be voted on soon. We’ll be watching back home in Mississippi.

UPDATE (couldn’t resist) – hattip Instapundit

Note: The author has made a reportable financial contribution to Alan Nunnelee in this race.