Two years ago, while campaigning in the special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy as Massachusetts Senator, Scott Brown vowed to be the 41st vote to stop the health care law. Once in the Senate, he forced deletions of critical portions of the Dodd-Frank Act weakening our oversight of the financial services industry. He was elected with the support of the Tea Party and he was goose stepping in line with their policies.
That was then. This is now. Now Brown is facing the normal cyclical election for his seat and his probable opponent will be the irrepressible, passionate, articulate, down-to-earth, almost irresistible Elizabeth Warren, the woman charged with creating the mechanisms of the financial reform bill and whose appointment to head the new consumer protection bureau was blocked by Brown and his fellow Republicans. Warren is determined to restore the so-called Kennedy Senate seat to the Democratic Party. From December 1960 to November 1962, the seat was held by the appointed Benjamin Atwood Smith II. That two year interval was just a bump in the 54 years that the seat was held by a Kennedy brother.
Now, Brown is facing three problems to get re-elected. The first is the fact that he is part of a Congress that has a 13% approval rating, the lowest in the history of polling. Second is a general sense of buyers’ remorse across America over the Tea Party. It is one thing to espouse an ideology. It is quite another to watch that ideology virtually shut down Congress. Though Brown may be a reasonable man, there were too many crazies who were running as Tea Party candidates in 2010. Lastly, Massachusetts is starting to feel picked-upon. Even Mitt Romney has disavowed RomneyCare. It may not be the perfect health care plan, but 84% of Massachusetts residents are satisfied with it. That is an impressive majority, and one that makes the Republican promise to repeal ObamaCare and the constant harping on Romney for signing their health care system into law very difficult for Brown.
Brown is trying to separate himself from his own party. He is presenting himself to Mass voters as deeply committed to bi-partisanship. The President has called for a bill banning insider trading by members of Congress. Brown has sponsored such a bill, and after the State of the Union Address, urged the President to talk to Majority Leader Harry Reid about bringing the bill to the floor. The exchange was caught on camera and the video is being used in Brown’s campaign. He voted against his party for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and has supported the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to the post denied to Elizabeth Warren. Brown said “If we’re going to make progress as a nation, both parties in Washington need to work together to end the procedural gridlock and hyper-partisanship.” Dangerous words for a Republican. His party may want to hold his seat to maintain their ability to filibuster everything that comes from the President, but taking such a bi-partisan line could cost Brown support from the right wing media.
Elizabeth Warren would be a formidable opponent even in a state less devoutly Democratic than Massachusetts. She has a quick mind, a dry wit and an ability to talk with anyone without talking down to anyone that makes one wish there were more college professors like her. I certainly never had a college professor who could have made Jon Stewart double over laughing. No one can fake the passion Warren brings to her beliefs and her policies. Though there are other Democrats on the March 6 primary ballot, Warren is considered the winner already, and she has the war chest to prove it. She raised most of her $6 million campaign fund in just three months. Brown has $12.8 million in his coffers, but it is a gap Warren should be able to close easily.
Though Massachusetts is considered a Democratic state, the majority of Massachusetts voters are registered independents, something that Brown hopes will work to his favor if he stresses his “independent streak” But in the end, Brown is not running on his record, which is more Republican than independent, but is running against his own party.