What does it mean? | Joan Vennochi

For Brown, a little less gloss

By Joan Vennochi
November 4, 2010

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SCOTT BROWN still has the pickup truck, the barn jacket and the US Senate seat. What’s missing is the air of invincibility.

That old Brown magic is less magical after an election day sweep by Massachusetts Democrats. The armor and aura are gone, along with the “Saturday Night Live’’ skits. He was always the Bay State’s lone Republican, but after the dashed hopes for a resurrected GOP, it must feel even lonelier.

Brown’s name wasn’t on the ballot. But, when the Bay State’s political ground shifted back to its true blue roots, he lost too. The ground shifted under his feet not only because a slew of Republicans lost, but because one Republican in particular lost. Brown vouched for state Representative Jeff Perry, the losing Republican congressional candidate entangled in a long-ago police scandal involving the strip-search of a young girl. When Brown went all in for Perry, vouching for his integrity and honesty, he put his own image and reputation on the line.

Mitt Romney backed Perry, too. But Romney’s an ex-governor whose political future lies beyond Massachusetts. He’ll have to explain his way out of Romneycare long before anyone asks him about Perry. Besides, with typical Romney expedience, he sidestepped the integrity question about Perry, and backed him solely on the issues.

It’s a long way to 2012. Pre-election day polls show that Brown is the most popular politician in Massachusetts, and his appeal won’t disappear in a poof of Perry-tainted smoke. But, after this election, some of the qualities that first attracted independent voters to Brown’s side could lose their gloss.

Remember, he ran as a “Scott Brown Republican’’ against Democrat Martha Coakley. He promised voters more independent thinking and less knee-jerk ideology. But on the campaign trail with Perry, he stood beside a candidate with an aggressively anti-Democratic, partisan agenda.

It’s too soon to say the Brown revolution is over. But it surely inspired a passionate counter-revolution by Democrats determined to reclaim their primacy. From cities to suburbs, from urban precincts to congressional districts, the Democratic machine fired itself up. No one wanted to be the next Coakley. Brown’s victory last January made it harder for fellow Republicans this November. A sneak attack, like the one he pulled off, was no longer possible.

In Washington, Brown now faces a changed landscape that will be even more challenging for a Massachusetts Republican to negotiate. He’s no longer the 41st vote, a position that gave him cachet and bartering power with both parties. He’ll be under increasing pressure to embrace the Republican national agenda, now that Republicans control the House of Representatives and the GOP has a nucleus of 47 in the Senate.

Embracing that agenda is dangerous to Brown’s long-term political health here in Massachusetts. He still must come home to the newly asserted bluest of blue states in the country. In Massachusetts, he ducked when asked if he supported Question 3, the sales tax rollback proposal that went down to defeat, along with the GOP’s statewide candidates. It will be harder to duck the fiscal questions in Washington.

After Tuesday, the breath of ambitious Democrats is hot on Brown’s neck. US Representatives Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch are already on record saying they are keeping their options open for a Senate run. Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late senator, insists she is not interested; but she’s out on the circuit enough to keep hope alive for those who still hold Camelot dear. And what about Deval Patrick?

Brown is now the last man standing for Republican and unenrolled voters who want more political diversity in Massachusetts. They had their chance this election cycle to even out the balance of power, but took a pass. Many will blame the Democratic machine for the wash-out, but it’s more complicated than that. On the congressional level, voters stuck with the devils they knew instead of switching to those they were just getting to know.

Democrats are lucky. There’s only one Scott Brown. He can’t run for everything and after Tuesday, opponents will be gearing up to run against him.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at


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