Scott Brown: It’s not Teddy’s seat. Try before you buy.

Scott Brown: It’s not Teddy’s seat. Try before you buy.


This moment from the Massachusetts Senate debate is getting a lot of play:

Gergen served up a softball and Brown knocked it out of the park.

“It’s not Ted Kennedy’s seat. It’s not the Democrat’s seat. It’s the people’s seat.”

If Brown wins, this may be the moment that put him over the top. Over a million dollars flowed into his campaign coffers in the 24 hours after the debate. The Democratic party establishment took note and sent out a call for cavalry. Of course Big Union is riding to the rescue. But in the meantime, while Coakley is measuring the drapes in Washington D.C., Brown is on the ground in Massachusetts.

Watching from afar out here on the left coast, I have a hard time believing that Massachusetts would elect a Republican to finish Ted Kennedy’s term in the Senate. It seems as unlikely as unseating my Representative Nancy Pelosi or Senator Barbara Boxer in the upcoming mid-terms. Just not a good bet.

There were some interesting insights on this election in the comments to Frank’s post on the race. In terms of prognostications, I’ll defer to our man on the ground and agree with Kranky. The Dems may get a scare, but on election night Martha Coakley will prevail. As Nick points out, all this national attention and the tightening polls should serve to motivate the rank and file Democrats to get out the vote. Excitement about their candidate being heretofore the very thing that is missing from the Democratic campaign. Scott Brown is givng them the gift of panic excitement.

That said, Scott Brown is doing some very smart things. Challenging Massachusetts voters to rethink the notion that this senate seat is an entitlement of the Democratic Party was exactly the right thing to do. In addition, he is soft pedaling the commitment required by voters, noting there are only three years left in the term. Saying in effect – Just try it out for while. If you don’t like it you don’t have to buy. Very smart salesmanship – first deal with the objection, then make it easy to sign on the dotted line.

It will still be a miracle if he pulls it off, but if he does I’ll have to change my prediction for 2010. Who knows? If the GOP can pick up this seat, four more seems reasonable, and if Joe Lieberman gets tired of his abusive relationship with the Democrats, well, that means a new majority in the Senate in 2011.

Dare I even dream the impossible dream? Replacing Barbara Boxer with Carly Fiorina?

If Brown can win in Massachusetts, anything can happen.

cross-posted at Divided We Stand United We Fall

  • wj

    I haven’t paid too much attention to Pelosi’s situation (not being in her district myself). But Boxer could definitely be beaten. My view is that she has simply been extremely lucky in her opponents. Can you remember an opponent who was not either an extremist nutcase or so inexperienced that he was simply not credible? I sure can’t.

    Granted, it is relatively improbable the the California Republican Party will come up with a candidate who is actually within sight of moderate. (Not an actual moderate, mind. Just someone who moderates did not immediately recoil from.) But if they did, Boxer might be in real trouble.

  • mw

    According to the local fishwrap, we may have a 3-way in the primary to determine Boxer’s opponent. Two moderates (Fiorina, Campbell) and one hard right entry (DeVore). The news is that Campbell is switching from governors race to the Senate. If that happens, it opens the door to the exact scenario you envision – Campbell and Fiorina split the moderate vote, giving DeVore the nomination and Boxer another easily beatable opponent.

  • wj

    Sad but true. The only real hope is that a couple of more hard right types decide to jump into the primary as well, splitting that vote also.

  • Frank Hagan

    While some said the PPP “robo poll” didn’t mean anything … it had Brown +1 in the race … the Rasmussen poll out yesterday shows Brown within the margin of error with Coakley at +2:

    A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley attracting 49% of the vote while her Republican rival, state Senator Scott Brown, picks up 47%.

    Brown may be peaking too early, but its obvious this is a repudiation of Dem DC policy by voters in the bluest-of-blue states. Anytime a Dem is polling less than 50% in that state they are in trouble. If Coakley squeaks out a narrow victory, the House Dems have to take notice; their turn at bat is in just a few months, and the electorate is feeling frisky.

  • kranky kritter

    Brown’s not going to win. I watched the debate. The libertarian, Joe Kennedy, acquitted himself quite well, and he’ll steal votes solely from Brown. If you ask me, he’s the one who won. With Brown and Coakley, their mouths were open and making noise, but they never said anything. They both seemed full of sh!t if you ask me.

    The “Kennedy seat” thing? I grow to hate this sort of gotcha stuff more and more every year. Like it matters or means something. Give me a break. We all know that Kennedy held that seat for 40-something years, so everyone knows what Gergen meant. Everyone still knows its the “people’s seat.” So fricken what!

    I saw another story where some progressive moron wants to start calling “at-risk” kids “at-hope” instead. How sad for us that we think that if only we talk about things using the correct language, we’ll achieve something important.

    I remember Romney had some good poll numbers at one point when he ran against Ted Kennedy (or was it Kerry? Can’t recall.) for senate. Kennedy still won easy. Whenever its close, more democrats end up voting. Close poll results near an election often make the “likely voter” profiles inaccurate.

  • kranky kritter

    BTW, I agree that if Brown wins, people will make a huge deal about it and say that now anything can happen.

    I continue to believe that politics is overwhelmingly local. Scott Brown beating Martha Coakley won’t help some other republican beat some other democrat in some other state. I mean, seriously, think about it. Is someone in Cali going to think “well I was going to vote for Boxer, but Brown beat Coakley, so I think I’ll vote for Fiorina.” That’s silly.

    Coakley’s performance in the debate was not especially strong. Still, I expect she wins and that afterwards, everyone notices a pretty big gender gap in the results.

  • Nick Benjamin

    For one thing that’s a straw man. Nobody’s brought it up. For another you didn’t even knock it down very well. Both PPP and Rusmessen use robo-polls.

    Think of this like an incumbent Senator, or hotshot rising star in some state party. Half the political elite is convinced this year is a Republican tide, and that it smart Democrats don’t want to run this year. Smart Republicans, OTOH, should run.

    The GOP Tide Theory is based on a few major assumptions. A big one is that the entire country is so outraged by Obama’s excesses that they will all vote against him. The whole thing is backed up by polls from Rasmussen and PPP, which use extremely tight voter screens.

    If Coakley kicks Brown’s pasty white behind that whole theory starts looking like BS, and weak GOP Congressman may retire, and strong potential Congressional candidates may bow out. If it’s close, or Brown wins, the theory starts looking great and the opposite happens.

    Regardless of what those guys do I guarantee the punditocracy will use this race as a test case for the GOP Tide Theory, and woe to anyone who dares to believe, for example, that the Dems could lose Senate seats after Coakley wins by 20.

  • mw

    As I said in the post, I defer to your local knowledge, and expect Coakley to win. But I’ll take issue with a couple of your other points.

    Whether or not Brown’s statement “It’s the people’s seat” makes any sense or communicates some new information is irrelevant. It was a moment that got attention, that squarely addressed the “gotcha” Gergen was trying to construct, and it made Brown look good. I expect he knew that question was coming and had that riposte in his pocket. You could make the same “So fricken what?” comment to: “You are no Jack Kennedy.” Everyone knew that Quayle was no JFK. “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Everyone knew that Reagan quip was prepared in advance for the “age” question. – or- “Are you better off now than you were four years ago”– or- “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11.” All memorable moments that stick in the voters mind, that speak to real political issues, that had an impact, but don’t really mean much outside of the theatrics of a political debate.

    Regarding Tip O’Neil’s maxim “All politics is local” – It is a great rule of thumb, and certainly true most of the time. But not all of the time. It is more true in House elections where it is reinforced by gerrymandering and the more intimate political connection between a representative, voters, and local issues. That is why it is harder to flip a House majority than the Senate. But even in the House, local politics can be swamped by national politics in a given specific election. 1994 was an example. 2006 was another. 2010? To Be Determined.

    Regarding Massachusetts affecting California voters – of course no one in CA is going to change their vote based on what happens in MA. You’ve got your causality inside out. The question is not whether CA is affected by MA, but whether both CA and MA are affected by the same national political “tidal wave” (to use Nick’s metaphor) this electoral season. Maybe we got a first indication of the wave in New Jersey and Virginia. Maybe we’ll get a clearer indication in MA, or maybe not.

  • rachel

    Dare I even dream the impossible dream? Replacing Barbara Boxer with Carly Fiorina?

    Can’t we dream about replacing Barbara Boxer with a competent person, instead?

  • mw

    Ok. I guess you can put me in the ABB camp – (Anybody But Boxer). I just think Fiorina has the best chance to unseat her. yeah, she screwed up at HP, but they are better off today for the unpopular moves she made then. She also is not very politically astute, as she puts her foot in her mouth on a regular basis. But – I do think she is smart and competent.

  • wj

    Personally, I’d much rather see Campbell as my Senator. I am clear that it’s an outside shot at best. But that’s what dreams are all about.

  • kranky kritter

    MW, I am sure you are right that many people like gotcha stuff like Brown’s little sound bite and Lloyd Bentsen’s. My point is that I don’t, not if it’s a substitute for substance.

    Brown seems to lack much beyond talking points. Even more annoying, he keeps bringing up JFK in the context of tax cuts. If the top marginal rate was still 70% like it was when JFK ran, he’d probably have a better point.

    I don’t like it when candidates have nothing to offer beyond symbolism and cant. That’s what Brown is trafficking in. Not that Coakley is better, mind you. Feels to me like she’s running out the clock. [BTW, she went hard negative after the debate, running an ad about how Brown supported allowing religious hospitals to refuse the morning after pill to emergency rape victims.]

    As to politics being local, here’s the real point. To win, you need to be more appealing than your opponent in your particular race. You need the better overall message. National issues can certainly play some part in that. I don’t disagree with the idea that there’s substantial dissatisfaction with big government and current overspending levels these days. More than liberals care to admit. So I agree with you if your point is that the Coakley-Brown race is to some extent indicative of how national trends can affect outcomes across the country. My point is that neither the polls nor the outcome should be expected to have causal effects elsewhere.

    Maybe it’s just careless language that makes us say things like “If Brown wins then….” which suggests causality,