By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Beating Scott Brown

A lot of Democrats assume they’ll be able to take back Scott Brown’s Senate seat (No! It’s the people’s seat!) when he comes up for re-election in 2012.

But take a look at the list of likely challengers Boston Phoenix political columnist David Bernstein has come up with. Marty Meehan? Vicki Kennedy? Frankly, if Brown can find a way to establish himself as a moderate, Massachusetts-style Republican while not alienating the national party leadership, he could be in for a long run.

The only significant new talent to emerge on the Democratic side in Massachusetts in the past 20 years is Gov. Deval Patrick. He’s had a rough time in office. But if he can somehow win re-election, he might be the best of the Democratic contenders against Brown.

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  1. The Dems are all on the remainder table. And if Mass loses a congressional seat, whoever’s squeezed out may give it a try.

    Brown has some star quality: looks, family, dog, pickup…

    It probably will depend on Obama’s popularity and as stated: can Brown move stay in the middle and keep the Republican right establishment happy.


    Brown has a lot going for him so long as he continues to appeal to the mainstream of Massachusetts voters.

  3. Dot

    Brown won’t have much of a record to run on, given his minority party junior status. I don’t think the Senate or the House goes over to the GOP in 2010. And if/when health care reform gets defeated and we’re hit with another ten percent health insurance premium increase, simply being the guy who voted “no” to kill reform won’t be enough. Does Brown act aggressively and associate himself with Republicans around the country who are still very unpopular or does he keep his head down, try not to make waves, and hope to win in 2012 without having created much of a record for his opponents to criticize? I don’t see how Brown moves to the middle–Republicans have declared “no quarter” and are going to live or die with the tea party folks and the straight party line GOP votes in the Senate. There are no moderate Republicans anymore. And don’t try to tell me the Senators from Maine are moderates–you are how you vote, and the Senators they vote with are the conservatives ones. That being said, the Democrats don’t have much to offer at this point, although if they put up Meehan or Capuano at least those two have a record to point to for better or worse, unlike Scott Brown, who will have spent his entire political career in the minority compiling a virtually invisible record. Brown is the mail-order bride Senator. We saw his Cosmo picture and his truck and he’s mastered a few political phrases, but what is he really about?

    I keep thinking that at some point conservatives need to actually provide an alternative vision which isn’t tax cuts, social conservatism, and pretending to be strong against terror, but since a lot of voters apparently believe Obama is leading us to socialism, all bets are off.

  4. Bill Callahan

    Please: Jim McGovern, Tim Murray, Settie Warren, just to start.

    Let’s remember something – Scott Brown got 50,000 more votes than John McCain in 2008. Martha Coakley got 850,000 fewer votes than Barack Obama. In a presidential election year, Brown is toast.

  5. Joey

    Why is nobody including Capuano on this list? Clearly he’s interested in the seat since he already ran for it. He’s also the sort of lunchpail Democrat that has more appeal than than the Starbucks wing of the party like Coakley.

    Plus, as others have noted– we’ll be losing a congressional seat in 2012 anyway, and Obama has a huge following here that was on the sidelines this time around, and Brown only has experience running against a singularly bad candidate who had no organization. Put him up against someone more popular, with a stronger organization, who will have the support of a powerful president *who can raise more money than God* (Republicans seem to forget that), and my gut tells me Brown could have a tough time.

    Nor should we discount the threat of the tea-bag wing of the party doing something stupid like forcing a vote on gay marriage or abortion, putting Brown in a no-win situation politically. Anyone who thinks the GOP can’t overplay its hand should talk with that newly elected Democratic congressman in upstate New York.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Joey: Anything’s possible. But I think Capuano has a lot to prove after losing two-to-one to a candidate who then turned around and lost to a Republican.

  6. Brad Deltan

    You’re kidding, right Dan? Thanks to our Supreme Court, all the usual rules about elections have been completely tossed out the window.

    I find it very hard to believe that there won’t be SOME major corporation that will want to see Brown voted out of office. Surely there will be some who want him to stay in, but at least one will want him gone. That corporation will undoubtedly bankroll some Democratic candidate that, no matter how weak they may appear now, a steady diet of $100 million dollars’ worth of TV ads will build them up into a Democratic Superman (or woman).

    I suspect we’ll also see some player in the Obama cabinet dropping out to run in Massachusetts, too. People tend to forget that Cabinet secretaries often have a high turnover rate, and a lot of Obama’s Cabinet is former elected officials. I’m not sure how well Massachusetts will react to a “carpetbagger” coming in but it worked well enough for Hillary Clinton in New York, so I’ll bet it can work in Massachusetts.

  7. Harrybosch

    “I find it very hard to believe that there won’t be SOME major corporation that will want to see Brown voted out of office.”

    A corporation . . . wanting a Republican out of office?

    Unless we’re talking about the Public Broadcasting Corporation, I can’t really think of any that don’t benefit from Republicans in office.

  8. Bill Callahan

    What I would like to see is a vote on the Employee Free choice Act this spring. Brown won union households, and if he votes with his party to filibuster or kill that bill, he can kiss a lot of pickup driving votes goodbye.

  9. mike_b1

    Not to say this was necessarily a factor, but Mass. remains a tough place for a woman to get elected to a major office. We’ve seen two females candidates defeated in the past gubernatorial races (not to mention a sitting governor deciding not to run), and now Coakley goes down in the senate race.

    In each case, the female candidate was either weak or ran a lousy race or both. Still, we are proving to be a difficult place for the fairer sex.

  10. paul

    A huge problem is that the State House & Senate are great places from which to draw talent for a US Senate run, but it’s tough for a fresh young Democratic pol to get a chance to shine on Beacon Hill — the leadership is deeply entrenched and not really interested in giving these folks an opportunity to get some statewide attention. But Scott Brown came out of nowhere and maybe a Democrat could pull that trick off too.

    It’s hard to see how Brown manages to walk the tightrope between party loyalty to the all-filibuster agenda and being an independent voice, but maybe he pulls it off. If he plays his cards right, he could end up as a GOP version of Ben Nelson.

  11. Check out the Ben Affleck Should Run for Senate in Massachusetts in 2012:

    Ben Affleck grew up and lives in Massachusetts. He is a good Democrat. Hell, he is even a genuine Red Sox fan, which I wish we could have said about Martha Coakley.

  12. rozzie02131

    Governors are managers, senators vote on policy. Govs. Romney and Weld won a lot of support by keeping things orderly, and their political views were less important to many supporters.

    Senator Brown will have to vote on many abrasive issues, and if he votes with his party he’ll be going against much of his constituency in Mass. He could build up quite a track record of voting that could be used against him in negative ads – maybe enough to swerve the 100,000 vote margin he just received. Either that, or he’ll be up to his neck in hot water from his party leaders.

  13. Harrybosch

    “Ben Affleck grew up and lives in Massachusetts.”

    Heh. To paraphrase Jack Warner, “No. Matt Damon for Senator. Ben Affleck for best friend.”

  14. Ben

    “A corporation . . . wanting a Republican out of office?”

    Here’s a few Corporations that may not be too happy with Brown:

  15. Al

    What makes anyone think that Brown is an independent voting Republican. Is it based on his voting record as 1 of 6 Republicans in the MA Senate? Is it based on his campaign rhetoric? I think he is emboldened by his victory, and all the attention from the Republican hierarchy. We’ll see after a few months, but I see another conservative Republican. His claim of independence was just a successful pitch to the independent voters in MA, nothing more, as evidenced by his adoption of Republican speaking points throughout the campaign.

  16. Harrybosch

    Hilarious, Ben. The already rapacious pharmaceutical and insurance companies will indeed be denied a windfall should “Health Care Reform” not come to pass.

    Point taken.

  17. O-FISH-L

    Other than Steve Lynch, who is unlikely to risk his safe seat for a run, the Democrats have nobody moderate enough to win. Even if Lynch risked his seat, MA Dems are so far left, he might not even win a contested primary.

    A Patrick candidacy is laughable. He’d be lucky to win dogcatcher in Milton and only has a prayer to retain his seat because Cahill and Baker might split the vast majority against him. Anyone credible who thought they could win a US Senate seat would’ve run this time since nobody had to risk his/her seat. Still, the Democrat field was pathetic.

    Suggestions that Brown needs to tack to the left are hogwash. He should stay right (pun intended) where he is. Whether in the supermarket or the voting booth, when faced with the choice of an imitation or the real thing, people choose the real thing. If Brown starts to imitate the Democrats, he will be replaced by a real one. MA voters soundly rejected the radioactive, left-wing politics of Obama and Coakley. Why go near it?

  18. Treg

    Dan, I still think you’re reading too much into a special Democratic primary in which practically NOBODY voted. Coakley had statewide name recognition going in, giving her a huge advantage over Capuano. Given more time, I expect he’ll do much better.

  19. Ben

    Harrybosch: Almost as hilarious as Obama’s claim to be well on the way to defeating the special interests:

  20. All interesting speculation.
    I would bet that Brown would be in trouble if the Dems can get any kind of turnout that they got in 2008, even if they had a bobblehead as a candidate. While the turnout was high for a special election, Bill Callahan kinda nails it: Had this been 2008, Coakley would have won on the coattails easily. Of course, I don’t think the other three would have run the “let’s coast to Election Day campaign” that Coakley ran.
    Look at 2004 when Romney spent $6M to elect Republicans to the State House. They had a precinct-by-precinct operation with credible candidates. The last minute Halloween mailer sent out by the MassGOP – not unlike the emergency contraception mailer the Dems sent out this cycle – hurt the candidates. But the larger pain was the huge turnout for Kerry that year and the Republicans lost seats.
    That all said, if Brown goes to D.C. and does not become a complete lunatic, he might be able to hold on. If things get worse and the Democrats continue to not implement any real reforms and there is a moderate Republican running in 2012, Brown might win re-election. I’ll go further: He might be safe for a third term, since 2018 isn’t a presidential election year and the turnout will be lower, especially if people are frustrated and Brown does a good job as Senator. But, be prepared, perception-wise for a lot of Massachusetts voters, anyone who doesn’t have a big “D” in front of their name is automatically a fascist who wants women to die in dark alleys, etc. Brown will have a very hard time getting re-elected.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Tony: What about 2024? By then, Chelsea Clinton may be the Democrats’ presidential candidate. Isn’t it likely that latent anti-Clintonism would ensure Brown an easy re-election victory?

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