Scott Brown Can Win

Sean Bielat returns to Massachusetts, Scott Brown is about to formally launch his reelection effort, Paul Cellucci endorses Richard Tisei, and Mitt Romney is poised to secure his party’s presidential nomination.  Not a bad week for the state’s minority party. 

But like a black fly in their chardonnay (don’t judge that I like Alanis), my colleague Professor Duquette has applied some logic to Election 2012 here in the Bay State and has called the Senate election for Professor Warren

He makes a compelling case to which I only have a few tepid responses. 

The election is just over 10 months away and, to state the obvious, a lot can happen that we can’t predict.  The President is more popular here than in many other places but not overwhelmingly so. Voters still believe the country is on the wrong track and the economy is not showing signs of robust growth.  Recession fears again haunt Europe.  The White House has, yet again, shuffled its staff in an attempt to regain its footing.  And the GOP nomination fight will end shortly and I believe Romney will be stronger candidate against Obama than many here in the Bay State will admit.   Nor am I convincened that preferred narrative of the White House and Warren camp will  be the one that resonates in the fall.

Obama will win Massachusetts but the factors above may help loosen the grip his party has over voters here. 

Still, over the next 10 months, the Brown camp needs to find a way to do what has never been done in modern Massachusetts history: convince an electorate that will vote for the Democrat in a presidential election to simultaneously pull the lever for the Republican in a Senate race. 

Shades of this have occurred in the past: A Republican, Ronald Reagan, won Massachusetts twice while the state sent a large number of Democrats to Congress.  In 1984, Massachusetts voters sent Reagan back to the White House and John Kerry to the Senate for the first time.  A Democrat, Bill Clinton, won the state in 1992 while two Republicans were sent to Congress.  But in 1996, those two Republicans lost as did Senate candidate Bill Weld when Bill Clinton marched to reelection here.  You have to go back to 1972 to find a time a Democrat won the state at the presidential level (George McGovern) while a Republican was sent to the Senate (or, sent back to the Senate in the case of Ed Brooke).

Brown is still popular among Bay State voters and though the 2010 special election was a relatively low turnout affair not to be replicated in 2012, he established a persona that voters found attractive.  Voter behavior is a tricky thing and they will vote for a candidate they like even if they oppose some of his policies (see Reagan, Ronald).  The Republican drive to taint Elizabeth Warren as a radically left-wing elitist is nothing more than an attempt to make the Senator seem like one of us while she is one of them.  Us versus them rules American elections. Can Brown convince unenrolled voters and enough Democrats that he’s more in touch with their concerns and their values?  I think he can though Warren’s biography will make it difficult for him.  As will the resources she has at her disposal to fight back.  

Finally, one party control of the state continues to irk voters.  Recent headlines have braced us for another round of indictments that will reach into the State House and the Democratic Party.  Can unenrolled voters be persuaded to view Brown as the only thing that stands between them and greater levels of one party corruption?  It will be tough as Warren is not a product of Beacon Hill or the state Democratic Party.  But she will inherit these issues as the party’s standard bearer in the fall.  Look for the Brown camp to push this issue aggressively.

Turnout will be key and on that score, the GOP has a lot of catching up to do and little time in which to do it.  They need to create a Massachusetts version of the GOP’s efforts in Ohio during the 2004 election.  President George W. Bush won in 2004 by losing independent voters and receiving very few cross over Democratic voters.  He won by finding more Republicans and getting them to the polls.  Brown can’t follow this too closely as he really will need cross-over Democratic support.  And where Bush confronted a Kerry-Edwards campaign that essentially bungled Ohio, the Democrats here have mastered a GOTV effort that stalled the Republican efforts in 2010.

Polls show that this is still a close race.  We know the Bay State routinely favors Democrats and that in Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown has a top-tier challenger.  But I am not yet convinced that Bay State voters will be sending him back to Wrentham.

About Peter Ubertaccio

Peter Ubertaccio is the Director of Joseph Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College in Easton and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies. His work focuses on political parties, marketing and institutions. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Professor Ubertaccio and his family live on Cape Cod where he is on the Board of Directors of the OpenCape Corporation and the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation.
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5 Responses to Scott Brown Can Win

  1. Jeanabella says:

    Brown has proven he is in the game for himself as shown by his “begging” the Koch Bros. for more money for the 2012 election. The video with him shaking hands and asking for money is out and cannot be taken back.
    He is part of the gop gang in congress who have blocked everything and anything supported by our President and even supported by traditional republicans.
    He is against the 99% and is with the 1% most of the time as shown in his voting record.
    We do want to go forward in this country and Brown is not the way forward. He slipped by in 2010, he won’t be able to do the same this time.
    Elizabeth Warren has a cause and it’s the peoples’ cause. That makes the difference.

  2. Neil Sagan says:

    People like Scott Brown. He’s handsome and athletic.

    The more they learn about his politics however, the less they want to have him as their Senator.

    Scott has been masterful in publicizing the votes he takes that are popular with MA voters, the moderate and liberal votes, and avoiding publicity on the votes he takes with Mitch McConnell and other Republicans, which is the way he votes most often. His publicity portrays him as a good guy, very active and virile, and it keeps the focus off of his politics. This is the bright shiny object strategy and it was working, until about 6 months ago.

    Note, this Republican caucus is not your father’s Republican party. They seek radical change including ending gov’t social safety nets and redefining the social contract by making federal income tax regressive. The aim is to reduce taxes on the most wealthy Americans — this, after 30 years of economic policy stacked against the American middle class including the globalism agenda and domestic anti-labor law.

    Scott is on board to the extent he can be so and still get re-elected. Speaking to a Republican audience, Scott ‘thanked god’ for Paul Ryan’s plan that ends medicare as we know it, and then voted against it in a bid to keep his seat. It wasn’t going to pass the Senate anyway.

    Scott is a good Republican in that he favors the privilege of the wealthy, a decidedly undemocratic value. He takes their money and does their bidding. Scott is a Koch sucker (a term for a politician who takes campaign donations from the wealthiest Americans and then backs their agenda – anti labor, pro pollution, ending social programs.)

    The only way Scott can get re-elected is if voters don’t know what he stands for. I’m better they will.

    Since Scott brown was elected, the debate has changed from austerity in response to our severe financial crisis – Scott’s wheelhouse – to a debate about American values, and the undo privilege of wealth and power in the economy and our government. Scott loses this one.

    Brown’s steadfast refusal to be accountable to voters, to meet with then and answer their questions, feeds into the narrative that he cannot to defend his conservative policies in Massachusetts and get re-elected.

  3. Pingback: Announcement Day! Scott Brown Strengths and Weaknesses | MassPoliticsProfs

  4. Robert Pacheco, Jr says:

    Great analysis. Massachusetts is, obviously, a blue state. But, at times, we can have an independent streak where Repubclians can win. Don’t forget, we had Republican governors for 16 consecutives years from Bill Weld to Mitt Romney. Peter’s Blute and Torklidsen represented MA in Congress for part of the early 90’s, and now Scott Brown has shown us that a Republican actually CAN win statewide in Massachusetts. Brown has done what he needs to do in his time in the Senate so far: he has stood up for what he believes in. And as long as he does that, it doesn;t matter to him if he sides with the Republicans or Democrats. Massachsuetts may be a blue state, but we have more indepenedents than we have either Democrats or Republicans. (though, based on elections of the last 20 years state and national, independents usually swing blue here). Independents, and perhaps a few Democrats, will find Brown’s ability to work with Democrats and buck the GOP party line appealing. Appealing to the base will no win either candidate the election in November. Scott Brown has shown over his two years in the US Senate that he has the ability to work with members on both sides of the aisle if he thinks it is good for massachusetts. And with 14% of Massachsuetts voters being Republicans, his willingness to buck the GOP party line when nexessary will be appealing to the independents he needs to win again in November.

    • Political Guy says:

      Technically we are a pretty purple state when you look at party affiliation…more voters are registered independents than either D or R.

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