Nearly fourteen months have passed since Scott Brown shocked the political establishment when he captured “the people’s seat” in the U.S. Senate. This, of course, was the seat that once belonged to Ted Kennedy. The question that remains is whether Brown will be but a footnote in Massachusetts political history or become the face of politics in the Bay State for years to come.
Well, at the moment, the winds appearing to be sailing with Brown. According to a poll done by Western New England College earlier this month, if an election were held presently Brown would win by double-digit margins over such prospective Democratic contenders as Rep. Michael Capuano and Obama adviser Elizabeth Warren. Brown also has a favorable to unfavorable ratio of nearly two to one, with 53% of registered voters in Massachusetts viewing him positively compared to only 27% who view him negatively. These favorability ratings have certainly been augmented by his recently released autobiography Against All Odds,which this week entered the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Sellers List at number four.
Frankly, these results don’t exactly come as a surprise. Back in January, Boston Mayor Tom Menino raised eyebrows when he spoke about Democratic prospects against Brown in 2012. Menino, who was elected to an unprecedented fifth term last November, told the Boston Herald, “There’s nobody that can beat him.” While it is one man’s opinion, let us bear in mind that these are the words of one of Massachusetts’ most prominent Democrats in the bluest of blue states. I think it would only be a slight exaggeration to say that Menino has probably walked on every street, road, and public alley in Boston. While Menino might not represent the entire Bay State, he does know the public mood of a substantial part of it.
Make no mistake. Ted Kennedy might be gone, but Massachusetts Democrats still consider that Senate seat theirs and want it back. Let us also consider that this seat might be all that stands between Democrats and retaining control of the Senate in 2012. So this means Democrats will need to put up their heaviest hitter against Brown. From where I sit that would be Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. After all, Patrick has already indicated he will not seek a third term in 2014. While Patrick also says he will serve a full second term, he might change his tune if his old friend President Obama were to twist his arm. Besides, Patrick wouldn’t be the first Massachusetts Governor to seek higher political office.
Yet Patrick might not prove to be Brown’s biggest obstacle. Brown has undoubtedly disappointed some of his conservative supporters with his votes in favor of the tax cut compromise, in favor of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and his support for the START Treaty. Last December, Christian Varley, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party, warned that he could face a Republican primary challenger in 2012. In late January, the National Republican Trust PAC (a group that had given money to Brown in the 2010 campaign) publicly stated it would use its resources to defeat Brown in the 2012 GOP Primary.
But it isn’t exactly as if Scott Brown had set out to be Jim DeMint or Tom Coburn much less a Tea Partier. Shortly before the vote in 2010, Brown did an interview with the FrumForum in which he was described as “a moderate, New England Republican; and, if he is elected, a senator that will be sorely disappointing to the tea partiers currently backing him.” For his part, Brown said, “I’m a Massachusetts Republican…. I look at the issues and make a determination based on the facts. I’m the closest thing [Bay Staters] will get to a Reagan Democrat.” In retrospect, perhaps Tea Party activists ought to have familiarized themselves with Brown’s worldview before giving him their support.
Take it from someone who has called Massachusetts home for a little over a decade. I can tell you that it will not turn into a red state anytime soon. Like it or not, the best conservatives can hope for is that it becomes a Brown state.
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