Dan Payne

Brown’s Irish dance to victory

By Dan Payne
March 26, 2011

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I WAS watching the Saint Patrick’s Day political breakfast on TV last weekend when it dawned on me: This Brown guy knows how to act like a Democrat. Here’s Republican Scott Brown at ground zero for Massachusetts Democrats, and he’s completely at ease and a hit. Deval Patrick did all right. No other Democrat did. No other Republican even spoke. Liberal lion Jim Braude said Brown was treated “like a rock star.’’

The Dude. Brown was as cool as Jeff Bridges as The Dude in “The Big Lebowski.’’ He poked fun at Speaker Robert DeLeo, who had invited previous House speakers to his swearing-in. Because said speakers were convicted of various offenses, Brown remarked that DeLeo is the first speaker to ride in a car with license plates made by his predecessor. He told jokes like an Irish pol, a Democratic Irish pol.

The barn jacket, the pickup truck, the nude posing. Brown is comfortable in his own skin, so to speak. Like Bill Weld before him, he gives off a Democratic vibe. Like Weld, Brown has a daughter, Ayla, who voted for John Kerry. She’s no debutante, she’s a jockette with an itch for show business. Downtown Scotty Brown, as he was called when he played high school basketball, brags he can still knock down a 12-foot jumper. His most memorable line on election night was announcing his daughters were “available,’’ presumably for male suitors; he knew instantly he’d messed up.

Jock talk. If sports is a passion next to politics around here, Brown is treated like Tom Brady on jock radio. He has a blue-collar sensibility that hosts of sports talk radio seem to admire. When Brown recorded a clumsy, canned endorsement of Celtics TV announcers’ 30 years of service, they fairly gushed.

A media darling. He writes a book about his upbringing and describes having been molested by a camp counselor. He’s interviewed about it by Lesley Stahl, a usually tough interrogator for “60 Minutes,’’ and she practically melts in the seat of his pickup. His wife, Gail Huff, was until recently a member of “the media,’’ which outside of Fox News and certain radio Neanderthals, are frequent targets of Republicans. Huff is so liked by her colleagues that it gives her husband about 100 yards of slack.

Pour me some tea. If I were advising Brown, I’d try to figure out a way for him to get attacked by, say, the Tea Party. No need. They’ve already attacked him, which had to boost his popularity among the 90 percent of the state’s voters who don’t drink the stuff.

To the left of Kerry. Weeks ago, when Kerry called for a no-fly zone over Libya, Brown got to Kerry’s left, saying the United States should wait before making such a move. Defense Secretary Robert Gates correctly worried that we have two other wars going on in Muslim countries (6,000 US fighters dead, 30,000 wounded). Now that President Obama has ordered airstrikes, Brown, an Army National Guard lawyer, supports the action. But he’s well-positioned when we discover that there is no such thing as a limited engagement with a cobra like Moammar Khadafy.

A Stepford Democrat. When analysts say Brown will be tough to beat, they inevitably cite his votes for a Democratic small-business aid bill, the new START treaty to limit nuclear weapons, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms.

But Brown insisted on keeping tax breaks for millionaires; dithered on “don’t ask, don’t tell’’; helped kill a jobs bills; and rejected extending unemployment benefits. Now labor is gunning for him. And he’s stuck with Mitt Romney for president.

Still, the only way Democrats beat Brown next year is to find a candidate of substance and stature, like Elizabeth Warren. Otherwise Brown, like The Dude, will likely abide.

Dan Payne is a Boston-based media consultant who has worked for Democratic candidates around the country.