WATERTOWN — One is a two-fisted Republican rock star known for his mince-no-words confrontations with unionized teachers, liberal activists, and other who dare to cross him. The other is a gentle troubadour known for his melancholy ballads of love and loss.
On Wednesday, both hit the campaign trail in Massachusetts.
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey told reporters in Watertown that Senator Scott Brown would help break the gridlock in Washington. Hours later, James Taylor serenaded Elizabeth Warren’s supporters at a concert in Boston.
If the Brown-Warren Senate race has not exactly turned into a red-carpet affair, it has taken on a certain limelit hue in recent days, as a parade of big-name supporters have come out to campaign for both candidates.
There has been something for sports fans (Bob Cousy for Brown), young people (Zach Braff for Warren), and veterans (Senator John McCain for Brown, former senator Max Cleland for Warren). Granted, some of the notables have been less-than-boldfaced names (Sheila Bair, a former chairwoman of the FDIC, for Warren; Christine Todd Whitman, a former New Jersey governor, for Brown).
Still, actors, athletes, and well-known politicians are useful because they can attract media coverage and motivate supporters, political consultants said.
“It’s like, ‘I’m with Warren and, hey, look at who else is with her? Just like me, James Taylor is there,’ ” said Michael Goldman, a Democratic consultant. “Or, ‘I’m with Brown and America’s most famous governor, Chris Christie, is with me.’ The idea is to keep your people pumped and remind them you’re out there.”
The Massachusetts Senate race, among the most expensive and closely watched in the nation because it could determine which party controls the Senate next year, has become a particularly busy showcase for prominent visitors, Goldman said.
“It’s not that in the past we haven’t had people of note come in, but it seems as though it is much more frequent, and it’s on both sides,” he said. “It speaks to the national stakes.”
Geography also plays a role. Many who campaign for Brown or Warren continue on to New Hampshire to stump for Mitt Romney or President Obama in the presidential race. Christie, for one, held two events with Brown on Wednesday and then held a rally in New Hampshire for Ovide Lamontagne, a Republican candidate for governor.
In a parking lot outside the Aegean Restaurant in Watertown, the Christie Effect was on full display, as a crowd of Brown supporters swarmed the governor, cheering and squeezing in for photographs with him and the senator. One elderly couple wanted to know if Christie was Greek. (No, Italian.) One young woman told the governor she was from Mendham, N.J., and screamed when he said that was his hometown, too.
Christie spoke through a bullhorn to the assembled enthusiasts, blasting Warren as a member of the “partisan liberal Democratic elite” who would always toe the party line.
“She won’t even look across the aisle, let alone reach across the aisle,” Christie said. “And yet, you’ve got a senator here who has served the state incredibly well by making sure he talks with everyone — Republicans, Democrats, independents — everyone.”
Brown said he was honored to have Christie’s backing.
“He’s a great guy, he’s somebody who knows the value of a dollar and how to balance a budget, and that’s why I’m supportive of him, and vice versa,” Brown said. “Every little bit helps.”
Jay Dwyer, a Tea Party activist and loan officer from Lincoln, was among those who turned out to see Brown and Christie. He unfurled a banner that showed a galloping horseman with the slogan, “The voters are coming.” His necktie had the same image and motto.
“It motivates the base,” Dwyer said of Christie’s visit. “And, with somebody like Christie, you may get a good soundbite,” if someone challenges him, he said. Alas, at the Aegean Restaurant, the supportive crowd did not include anyone who wanted to test Christie.
At Taylor’s concert for Warren at the Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre, the singer — along with Governor Deval Patrick — showered Warren with on-stage support before playing crowd favorites such as “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Fire and Rain” for cheering fans.
Warren stood on stage for the encore, singing along with Taylor and the crowd. In a separate interview, she said she was proud to have Taylor’s star power behind her.
“James Taylor is a supporter, and I am very grateful for his support, and he’s offering it — he’s offering his support in a very tangible way, and I’m very grateful,” she said. “Boy, that was a long and rambly sentence. Sorry about that. You’re welcome to put periods in anywhere you want.”
Christie was also the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in Tampa while Taylor performed “Carolina In My Mind” at the Democratic convention in Charlotte.