“U r the first to know I am not running.”
And so, with the statesmanship of a tween, Scott Brown revealed he is, like, so not going after John Kerry’s US Senate seat.
The news, first delivered in that text to the Boston Herald on Friday afternoon, about an hour ahead of a more formal, grown-up statement, came as a disappointment to many.
A lot of people believed in Brown, hundreds of average folks who worked their hearts out knocking on doors and making calls; the many who donated hard-earned money to his cause in the obscenely expensive US Senate race he lost to Elizabeth Warren last November; the national Republicans who could see Brown was turning away from another Senate race and tried to convince him, as recently as a few days ago, that he was his party’s best hope.
For many of them, the nice guy of the 2010 special Senate election, the one with the barn coat unsullied by political muck, was real. Brown promised to take his average-guy, independent self down to Washington, there to float above the partisan rancor.
Of course, it’s easy to avoid the fray when you’re hundreds of miles away from it. Once he was in Washington, Brown had to take votes. On most of them, he fell into line with a GOP leadership that made obstructing the president’s agenda its mission. When he sided with Democrats — voting to repeal a ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military, for the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, and against a plan to remake Medicare and Medicaid — he did so mostly after the die had been cast. This was not the bold leadership he had promised.
And what of the nice, accessible guy in the barn jacket? He receded, too. Brown was almost always cagey with reporters, unwilling to be drawn out on issues. In last year’s Senate campaign against Warren, Brown embraced the pettiness he had condemned two years earlier, spitting out the word professor as if it were an insult, relentlessly attacking Warren for her claims of Native American heritage.
Supporters who gave Brown all the credit for his victory in 2010 gave him none of the blame for his 2012 defeat.
“A good man ran and won” in 2010, said state Representative Dan Winslow. But last year’s election, he said, was all about the underlying architecture of Bay State politics. “The Democratic machine doubled down . . . and they have more voters.” Warren won by making the race about “the specter of Republican control in the Senate,” Winslow said.
That’s only partly true. The Scott Brown Warren ran against simply wasn’t the man of 2010. He was smaller. Small is less appealing, and more obvious, in a really big job.
So, what now? Brown’s exit leaves a dark cloud over his party. Even if he had run, this Senate race was going to be a battle, given Brown’s record and that of the national GOP. It will be an even tougher race for another Republican, who will find it mighty difficult to raise money and build a competitive operation in the sprint to the June 25 special election.
But that cloud might not be without its silver lining. Very good candidates could step into Brown’s spot, including Winslow, former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, and former state senator Richard Tisei, who lost a close race for Congress last year. All three of them are smart, thoughtful, appealing to independents, and up to the job.
It would be nice to see one of them give the current Democratic candidates a good fight, raising their own profiles and political fortunes while they’re at it. And who knows, maybe lightning will strike, and the Republican nobody expects to win will surprise us.
I hear it happens.