GOP Finds Star in Scott BrownJanuary 20th, 2010 by Lee Eldridge
Whenever I write something political, I feel compelled to explain that I’m a registered independent, and have no love for either political party. I watched Massachusetts’ new senator Scott Brown give his victory speech last night, and couldn’t help but think of Barack Obama’s famous speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
As a quick reminder, Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, but it was his impressive speech at the Democratic National Convention that year that catapulted him into the national spotlight. The party knew they finally had found a young, charismatic star, and immediately started to position him for a run at the presidency in 2008. As they say, the rest is history.
Brown’s rise to prominence has been almost as impressive. Elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1998, Brown served in this capacity until winning a special election in 2004 to fill a vacated seat in the Massachusetts Senate. Last night Brown won in another special election filling Ted Kennedy’s old seat in the U.S. Senate. If you don’t follow national politics it’s difficult to understand what a big win this was for the republicans. Massachusetts hasn’t elected a republican senator since the ’70s. Democrats outnumber republicans in the state by a margin of about 3-1. Few saw this coming until polls the last few weeks showed Brown making a run at democrat Martha Coakley. Last night, Brown was energetic, charismatic, funny and likable. When was the last time you could say that about a republican candidate?
I’ve been surprised for months about the democrats’ reaction to the anger in this country. When Nancy Pelosi called the conservative groundswell “astroturf” instead of grassroots, she angered many. When democrats belittled the tea parties as rightwing propaganda, they angered a lot of independents. When democrats criticized everybody who criticized health care reform, they angered a lot of voters. They really don’t seem to get it. Real people are angry in this country. And not just the rightwing extremists as the democrats would like to believe.
If the republicans think of Brown’s win primarily in terms of the national debate over the economy and health care, they will struggle in the 2010 and 2012 elections. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that it’s the candidate that makes the difference. The GOP will certainly gain seats in both the House and the Senate in 2010, but how many will depend on the quality of the candidates, not just the anger of the voters.
Why the Pundits Will Get This Wrong
The national pundits and political activists will be talking for days about Brown’s win against the democrats. The left will be forced to downplay the significance of Brown’s win. It will be interesting to see how they try to spin the loss. They likely will throw Coakley under the bus and talk about what a poor campaign she ran. The right will say that this is a referendum against Obama’s failed economic policies, and against the healthcare legislation currently in Congress. And they’re all partially correct. But many seem to have missed one simple fact. Brown was by far the more likable candidate in Massachusetts. He ran on a fairly populist platform. And independents liked him better.