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JOAN VENNOCHI

Despite loss, Brown taught Democrats a lesson

Scott Brown looked back at last November’s results, realized how devastating his loss was to Elizabeth Warren and wisely decided against another run for US Senate.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Democrats should thank Brown, his barn coat and pickup truck for teaching them an important lesson.

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Taking any election for granted is a mistake and anyone who does deserves their fate. In 2010, Democrats believed there was no way to lose Ted Kennedy’s seat to a little-known Republican state senator. Taking advantage of their arrogance and complacency, Brown shocked the Democratic establishment with a victory that turned him into a national GOP celebrity.

However, back home, his instant notoriety also turned Brown into the man Democrats vowed to unseat. And last November, they did. Elizabeth Warren, a consumer advocate with gravitas and a national profile of her own beat him by 8 percentage points. Star power was not Warren’s only calling card. She deftly turned the race into a referendum on the national Republican agenda, and put Brown into the same box as the John Boehner/Mitch McConnell wing of the Republican Party, which has negligible appeal in Massachusetts.

Warren also benefited from a tremendous grassroots effort fueled by Democratic party activists who turned out women, minorities, labor, and young people in urban centers and liberal suburbs across the state. Brown was knocked over by a crushing wave of diehard liberalism. He chose not to go up against it again.

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Brown’s next move will be interesting. A recent poll indicated that Massachusetts Republicans prefer that he run for governor rather than senator.

With no obvious Democratic star available for the next gubernatorial race, it looks like the better bet for Brown. Divisive social issues that play in a US Senate contest could be easier to duck in a governor’s race. Governor Deval Patrick’s call for nearly $2 billion in new taxes puts fiscal issues in the spotlight, leaving an opening for a Republican candidate who runs against the dreaded, old Taxachusetts.

Voters know Brown and his likeability rating is still high. He has an easy way of connecting with ordinary people. That, plus a better media strategy, could make him a strong Republican candidate against a relatively weak Democratic field.

Whether he chooses to run again for any elective office, the Brown era that just ended will be remembered in Massachusetts. It fanned hope in Republicans that the right candidate with the right message could shift power away from an entrenched Democratic establishment. And at least for a moment, it instilled fear in Democrats that Massachusetts voters are finally growing weary of one-party rule.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.
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