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Former DNC Chair Howard Dean told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC moments ago that Democrats aren't necessarily to blame for what seems like a likely loss in today's special senate election in Massachusetts.

"I certainly don't think it's a referendum on President Obama," Dean said.

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With the polls closed and a solid lead in the Massachusetts special Senate election, Scott Brown has tweeted his thanks to supporters.

"This was an amazing campaign and I appreciate your support. You were incredible," Brown said.

Brown, a Republican, is poised to win the seat that Democrat Ted Kennedy held for 47 years. He's currently leading Democrat Martha Coakley, the state attorney general, in the vote count.

Republican Scott Brown hit all the campaign's needed turnout projections and aides are confident he's racked up a win in Massachusetts, a former Republican National Committee official tells TPMDC.

The official suggested that the right cities and regions were coming in for Brown, while Boston returns weren't good enough for Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley.

A Democratic source tells us operatives familiar with the state and keeping a close eye on returns think Brown will win with at least a 7-point margin.

No one has called the race yet. You can follow results live here.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, trailing state Sen. Scott Brown (R) as early returns roll in from Massachusetts. (Follow results live here.)

"Thank you for your support and hard work throughout this campaign! #masen," Coakley or her staff tweeted at 8:02 p.m.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) didn't shy away moments ago from comments he made earlier today suggesting that the House was unlikely to simply swallow the Senate's health care bill whole -- something that may be necessary to ensure health care reform is passed if Democrat Martha Coakley loses the Massachusetts Senate race tonight.

If Coakley loses, Weiner said on MSNBC a few minutes ago, "I don't see how we get this done."

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Along with a lengthy package of background material, National Republican Senatorial Committee General Counsel Sean Cairncross just released the following statement about Democrat Martha Coakley and her attorney Marc Elias' charges of voter irregularities in today's special election in Massachusetts. Here's the full text: "A professional like Marc Elias represents multiple Democratic committees and campaigns and we would expect a higher level of truthfulness and candor from him. Prior to making his serious allegations, the Coakley Campaign was told by the Secretary of State's office that Mr. Elias' very allegations were unfounded. Mr. Elias' false alarm demonstrates a deeply disturbing level of recklessness and disrespect for the electoral process both on his part and on the part of the Coakley Campaign."

The two Senate campaigns are now firing rhetorical shots at each other over allegations of irregularities in the election. And the Brown campaign is accusing the Coakley campaign of making the whole thing up -- that is, the Republican says the Democrat is crying vote fraud.

The Coakley campaign sounded the alarm that some voters -- five, by their count -- were handed ballots that had already been marked for Scott Brown.

The Brown campaign seized on reports that the Coakley campaign's press release was originally dated "January 18," accusing the Coakley camp of having written the whole thing in advance. (As of right now, at least, the page is dated January 19. Coakley campaign spokesman Corey Welford told us: "It was a typo.")

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The votes in the Massachusetts special Senate election haven't been completely counted, but conservative Democrats are already backing away from health care reform in anticipation of their party not being able to hang onto the late Ted Kennedy's seat.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza just tweeted that Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) said that "chances would diminish significantly for achieving health care reform this year" if Democrat Martha Coakley, the state attorney general, loses the election tonight.

Health care reform has become a central issue to the race. The Republican candidate, Scott Brown, has vowed to block the current reform bill if he's elected. Brown would be the 41st Republican senator and could help sustain a filibuster of the legislation.

Are rank-and-file members of the House ready to swallow a bitter pill and pass the Senate version of health care reform if Democrat Martha Coakley loses tonight?

As we've been reporting all week, leadership is faced with two basic options: Plan A of keeping up negotiations to merge the House and Senate bill and somehow rush a final bill through regardless of the even tougher political environment they'd be facing come sunrise or Plan B of passing the Senate's bill unchanged and dealing with the differences in another bill down the line.

Leadership sources have insisted to us for days that no such Plan B talks are happening, and the White House won't publicly entertain questions about health care concession plans should Republican Scott Brown win tonight. Some sources tell us that if such a contingency plan is being developed, it's happening between President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to avoid leaks to the press before the election result is known.

But the sentiment among senators who just barely got to 60 votes last month and privately within the Obama White House - which has weathered blows for months on the delay - is that it may be now or never.

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Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) told ABC News that the Democratic Party cannot ignore the lessons of the Massachusetts special Senate election unless it wants to be lead to "even further catastrophe."

The race to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat has become hotly contested in recent weeks, even though the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, enjoyed double digit polling leads up until the middle of December. Republican candidate Scott Brown has called the race a referendum on health care reform and has promised to be the 41st vote to block cloture on the landmark legislation if he's voted into office.

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