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Scott Brown’s political star rose fast, set quickly

He reawakened the state Republican Party, which had been out of power and losing ground. He energized national Republicans who were giddy at snatching the seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal lion, right in the lion’s den, Massachusetts.

But Tuesday night, US Senator Scott Brown was pushed out, a casualty of what he likes to call the state’s Democratic machine. Brown, whose star rose fast and high and who was, for a time, the most popular politician in Massachusetts, was ousted, three years after he was swept into the Senate.

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A candidate who riveted the political world with his singular story – a childhood in an abusive home, a modeling career that took him to the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine, a political trajectory that began in the humblest of offices, town assessor – was defeated.

The loss immediately set off an anguished bout of mourning and soul-searching among Republicans. At Brown’s party at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, the mood darkened throughout the night as word spread that the senator had lost.

“I just don’t want to see a good person like Scott Brown not utilized,” said Rick Pearson, a Brown supporter from Newton. He said he hopes President Obama will appoint Brown to a post in the administration. “He’s a good man who can help bridge the gap between the parties,” Pearson said.

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Daniel Winslow, a Republican state representative who was the Brown campaign’s chief lawyer in 2010, attributed the loss to the “Obama juggernaut” — the advantage that Democrats enjoy in a state that the president carried by more than 20 percentage points.

“Scott Brown will continue to be a significant force in Massachusetts,” Winslow said. “I’m convinced we’ve not seen the last of him.”

Indeed, few believe Brown’s career is over. He remains a popular figure, even after pounding Elizabeth Warren with attacks and taking a beating from her ads. Republicans Tuesday speculated that if Obama taps Senator John Kerry to serve as the next secretary of state, Brown could run for Kerry’s seat next year. It would be his third Senate run in three years. Brown has also been mentioned as a possible future candidate for governor.

“Defeat is only temporary,” Brown said, sparking loud applause from supporters, some of whom shouted, “Governor Brown!” To his supporters, Brown had done what voters had sent him to Washington to do: serve as a bridge between two parties.

He crossed party lines to repeal the ban on openly gay men and women from serving in the military. He backed the tough Wall Street law known as Dodd-Frank. He praised Obama and downplayed his support for Mitt Romney.

And yet it was not enough for to win him reelection in Massachusetts, hostile territory for any Republican.

With Richard R. Tisei defeated by US Representative John F. Tierney, the highest-ranking Republicans in the state will now be Jennifer L. Caissie, a member of the Governor’s Council, and Bruce E. Tarr, who leads the four Republicans in the state Senate.

That is a bitter loss of stature for a party that had looked to Brown for inspiration.

Only three years ago, he was an object of fascination in political and popular circles, sought out for profiles in national magazines, interviews on late-night talk shows, a major book deal. His appeal was easy to grasp: the little-known state senator with the telegenic family who rode a pickup truck to an improbable victory.

Jon Hamm portrayed him on “Saturday Night Live.” David Letterman and Jay Leno mocked his nude spread in Cosmopolitan, back when he was law student. He was featured on “60 Minutes” and wrote a memoir that chronicled his triumph over abuse and rise to prominence.

All the attention underscored how explosively he had entered the national stage, becoming a man in demand.

Just two months after his election, no less an establishment figure than Arizona Senator John McCain, desperate to hold onto his seat in a tough race, called on Brown to campaign with him, hoping it might bolster his standing with irate Tea Party activists.

Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the Senate, welcomed Brown to Washington as the crucial 41st vote that would stop Obama’s health care bill. With his victory, he heralded the rise of the Tea Party movement that would sweep Republicans into power in the US House in the 2010 elections.

And yet, there was always a nagging sense that Brown’s hold on the office was threatened, that he was standing on uncertain ground. Democrats conceded after that race that Brown had beat them at their own game, running the kind of grass-roots, handshake-by-handshake campaign the party prides itself on.

In this race, Democrats built a stronger organization that was ultimately too much for Brown, particularly with Obama at the top of the ticket. In Warren, they also had a candidate with star power, fund-raising prowess, and a natural connection to the liberal base.

Brown was emotional but gracious Tuesday night, saying he accepted his loss, though it was not the result he wanted. “For me, it was an honor to carry your flag,” he said, “even only if for a little while.”

Mark Arsenault of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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