I was gently chided by a reader after my last post on the upcoming special election where I suggested that Senator Brown might not be the odds on favorite. This reader reminded me that despite his loss, Senator Brown remains enormously popular in the state with approval ratings the envy of most politicians. WBUR confirmed this yesterday.
What we have now is a good snapshot of our leading politicians. Brown remains well liked by his fellow citizens and if the election were held today in the absence of an actual campaign, he would win.
But the good polling news for Brown will surely be tempered by the sobering reality that the national Republican party will continue to drag down GOP candidates for federal office in Massachusetts. That may change in the future and a more assertive New England Republicanism that challenges the national party can help but those efforts have been launched before with little success–recall Bill Weld getting the boot from a speaking engagement at the 1996 Republican Convention.
Despite this, Brown will surely be a formidable candidate because his popularity will clear the Republican field of serious challengers and help him put together a field organization and raise the money necessary to compete. How his campaign chooses to confront the headwinds from DC will be the most interesting question of the cycle.
Michael Graham of 96.9 makes the argument against a Brown Senate candidacy in a more colorful fashion.
But there is an alternative and it comes gift wrapped this holiday season from soon to be former state representative Stat Smith of Everett. He is the latest Democrat to meet with the US Attorney and not at a Christmas cocktail party. There is a larger issue there that Brown could make his own and given his popularity and ability to attract attention, amplify like no other Republican.
Many of the issues that hurt Brown in 2012 disappear if he puts together a team of Republican reformers to take on the Democrats in the 2014 statewide races. A Brown candidacy leading a team that might include the likes of Dan Winslow, Mary Connaughton, Randy Hunt, Charlie Baker all focused like a laser on cleaning up the culture of Beacon Hill won’t trip the wire of ultra conservative politics that dominates the GOP in Washington and hurts their Massachusetts wing.
This doesn’t guarantee success–see 2010, Massachusetts Republican failures statewide. But a two-year effort at party building headed by Scott Brown and running with a team of folks known for their innovative public policy ideas is more likely in my mind to be successful in the short-term while helping the party put together the farm team necessary for future competition.
That’s something only a challenger with a long-term view can do, not an incumbent Senator imploring people to vote the person not the party.