In 2006, while researching Democratic gains in Red Montana, I asked a couple of state legislators how they won their tough races. I was looking for the magic message, but instead got a mundane answer: they knocked on doors. Lots of them. And they put tens of thousands of miles on their pickup trucks.
That's the strategy we saw in reverse in indigo-Blue Massachusetts -- a Republican who downplayed his GOP badge while putting in thousands of miles on his pickup truck. 200,000 of them.
Teddy never took his voters for granted, no matter how big an icon he was in the state. Brown didn't take them for granted either. He was aggressive, engaged, effective, and ... lucky as all shit. It's not every day you get to go up against a candidate who takes everything for granted, neglects to negatively define you, and heads out for vacation while the race is still on.
There's several messages to learn from this fiasco, but chief among them -- if you decide to run for office, then respect the freakin' voters and work your ass off for their vote. They are angry, frustrated, and looking for a sign that you get their concerns. Going on vacation doesn't cut it. Campaigning your heart out gets you a good of the way there.
Update: A commenter points to this stat from Marc Ambinder:
Coakley had 19 events after the primary through Sunday; Scott Brown had 66.
Kind of corroborates what I wrote above, huh?