So, a fairly young, handsome, dynamic Republican won a surprising victory in Massachusetts, one that was a shock and that nobody expected.
I refer, of course, to Mitt Romney. And Mitt’s going to be fairly instructive on what’ll happen to Brown.
For all their celebrating, Republicans need to remember one thing: Brown only won by a five-point margin. If just 51,000 votes had gone the other way, Coakley would be headed to the Senate. If Brown’s smart, that’s got to give him pause, because that’s a tiny margin. Pissing off 51,000 voters in a liberal state when you’re a Republican is not remotely difficult, which is why I bring up Mitt Romney.
Of course, Romney’s gubernatorial campaign was just a springboard for higher office, but since that’s what Brown’s is going to turn into, the comparison is just more valid.
Don’t think so? Stop and consider. Brown’s got some amazing political capital right now. He’s shown he can pass himself off as moderate despite, well, not being one when it was convenient to him (again, shades of Romney). He’s a powerful symbol, and the GOP’s going to milk that for all its worth.
Then consider the Presidential field in 2012. Palin, who can’t win. Romney, who a quarter of the right won’t even vote for because of his religion (it’s distasteful, folks, but there it is). Pawlenty, who is basically an undistinguished doughy white guy. Keyes, who’s nuts. Santorum, who gives even right-wingers screaming terror fits.
Ideal ground for a fresh face, no? After all, the guy who took that Chappaquidick guy’s seat would be perfect to run against Obama, at least by the GOP’s standards. And his daughter was on American Idol! If the Democrats can run some community organizer, we can run this guy! Yes, it’s the face of desperation, but it’s there.
However, again, Romney is instructive. This is how much Massachusetts hated Mitt Romney after one term in office: Deval Patrick blundered into the nomination because the other nominees all killed each other in the primary. He had no campaign or much of a personality (still doesn’t). Kerry Healy outspent him, using $10 million of her own money.
And she still lost by a margin that’s generally reserved for candidates going out on a miserable scandal. Against a milquetoast. Hell, I can see Brown’s victory leading to Deval pulling another “Being There” and winning the governorship again just as a lesson to teabaggers and to limit Brown’s ability in Massachusetts. Romney doesn’t like to talk about this, but it’s an uncomfortable truth: he got his ass kicked, “liberal media” or no “liberal media”.
Whether Brown realizes it or not, he’s trapped. He can’t get too cuddly with his own party, because that will hurt his chances of getting re-elected in the state, which still loves Obama in the high fifties (don’t delude yourself, Republicans; the poll that Obama had somehow dropped to 44% in Massachusetts is a joke).
Make no mistake, he has a tough fight ahead of him in 2012. He’ll most likely be up against Mike Capuano, a long-time representative who has none of Coakley’s reputation or image problems, and the backing of a Democratic machine that even with a candidate who took the race for granted still nearly beat him. You know, like how Kerry nearly took Ohio in 2004, despite a lackluster campaign. So Brown has to avoid, over the next three years, giving that machine any rope to hang him with.
So, cuddling up to the party is a mistake. But trying to play a moderate will ruin him on the national level.
The GOP, as repeatedly noted, votes lockstep NO! against Obama. They’re not interested in debate or moderation. So, if Brown plays along to get along, and quite frankly, we’ve seen that’s exactly what he does, he’s going to put the torch to the bridges he needs to get reelected in 2012 as a Senator awfully fast.
So, in short, for him to last beyond 2012 as a Senator, he’s going to have to grow some balls, stop flip-flopping, and choose between the GOP’s future and its past. I don’t see Brown as some sort of catalyst for the GOP to develop some hindsight, so, you can guess how I think that’ll end.
As to what chance Brown has in 2012 as a Presidential candidate, talk to me in a year for a fairer assessment, but as of right now? Hell no. Two years is plenty of time for the economy to turn around enough for Obama to win a second term. That the GOP is committing the same political suicide they committed against Clinton less that twenty years ago is an eerie echo of, I suspect, how things will go in 2012.
The reality is, the Democrats still have a majority, and the GOP is basically hoping they drastically fuck up and the economy (which they ruined) is still bad in 2010 so they can go back to the same old policies. They’re facing fourteen retirements to the Democrats’ ten. They’re still fighting over their party’s future.
In short, Brown’s likely just another dollop of the same old shit. But who knows? Maybe he really will manage to be a conservative anomaly in a liberal state.
Until he proves himself, though, color me skeptical.