Scott Brown ran a small campaign for a large office — and on Election Day, voters opted for a bigger figure. And so Elizabeth Warren, who was largely unknown to Massachusetts when she kicked off her campaign, has beaten the man who, two short years ago, was hailed as a rising national star.
This defeat shouldn’t end Brown’s political career. But it should teach an important lesson. Brown started this race with the advantage of incumbency, a substantial war chest, and an aura of nice-guy likability. He squandered those advantages. He failed to anticipate obvious obstacles, while doubling down on tired, tinny GOP stands.
It should have been apparent from the start that the possibility that his reelection could put Republicans in control of the Senate would be an albatross around his neck. Yet Brown never found a remotely persuasive way to address that issue. The freshman senator’s central message, meanwhile, was based less on issues than on an exaggerated sense of self. Brown portrayed himself as a pragmatic moderate who decided his votes not on ideology but on what was best for this state.
Yet that conceit was badly undercut by some of his own stands. Exhibit A: His reflexive no-new-taxes stand, which made him seem more like Grover Norquist’s remote-controlled robot than a true Senate iconoclast. Brown also hurt himself by running a relentlessly negative campaign against Warren’s character.
Warren, by contrast, confined her critique to Brown’s stands. Her own attempts to argue that she would be a bipartisan deal-maker weren’t convincing; she came across as more of a feisty, resolute progressive. But she did make a persuasive case that Brown wasn’t as reliable a champion for hard-pressed families or for women as she would be.
In the end, she didn’t just out-debate Brown. She outclassed him.