Desperately seeking relevancy has to be the unofficial theme of Scott Brown’s latest campaign.
He was going to run for John Kerry’s Senate seat, after losing his own. But he decided against it, and left his party in a last-minute lurch.
Then he considered a run for governor. When he ruled against that race, he decided to insult Charlie Baker, the Republican who announced he would run, by musing publicly about Baker’s lack of charisma.
He also told Iowa State Fair-goers he might consider running for president. Now, his Wrentham home is on the market, and he might be thinking about a run for US Senate in New Hampshire — or at least he wants others to think he might be.
Losing an election isn’t easy. The rejection runs deep. Kitty Dukakis once called it a “public death,” and she wasn’t the defeated candidate; her husband, Michael, was. So it’s understandable that Brown, who lost his US Senate seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012, is feeling lost and even worse — in danger of being consigned too soon to the political graveyard.
When he beat Democrat Martha Coakley in 2010, Brown won adulation and a quick ticket to national celebrity. His truck and barn coat became touchstones for a broader conversation about how he redefined politics. Actor Jon Hamm played him in a “Saturday Night Live’’ skit. Time magazine named Brown as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. When Brown’s memoir, “Against All Odds,” was published, “60 Minutes’’ profiled him as an antitax fiscal conservative who helped launch the Tea Party movement. He told interviewer Lesley Stahl about the abuse he suffered as a child.
Brown did come a long way — from a broken home to Boston College Law School, from winner of a magazine’s “sexiest man” contest to local politician, and then to winner of the Senate seat that was held so long by Ted Kennedy and that he rechristened “the people’s seat.”
Then he fell back to earth and the mercies of the local press.
In a recent editorial, the conservative Union Leader of Manchester, N.H., sarcastically noted that Brown has done so many Granite State events that “we half expect to run into him everywhere we go — apple picking, the Deerfield Fair, any random corn maze.”
That newspaper’s editorial board doesn’t think much of Brown’s “toying” with the idea of running against Senator Jeanne Shaheen, because the speculation helps Shaheen, a Democrat, raise money, making her stronger “and the state Republican Party relatively weaker.” Enough with the flirting, concluded the Union Leader: “He needs to make his intentions clear or turn his big, brown eyes elsewhere.”
That’s good advice for Brown, who is not without a place to hang his barn coat. He signed on as a Fox News commentator and was hired by Nixon Peabody, a Boston law firm. The official bio on the law firm’s website stresses Brown’s record of reaching across the aisle. Today that appears to stand for Brown’s conclusion that when it comes to the government slowdown over Obamacare, “everybody’s to blame.”
He also said he would have backed a plan to fund the government while delaying the Affordable Care Act. And that is exactly why Brown’s 15 minutes of fame as a senator from Massachusetts are up. His successor is now the Bay State’s big star. A speech that Warren recently gave on the government slowdown has gone viral. In it, she lambastes House Republicans for what she calls “hostage tactics.” Warren is the new face of her party’s left wing. Her quick rise to national prominence was recently documented in a page one story in The New York Times.
According to Public Policy Polling, Warren is the most popular politician in Massachusetts, with a 52 percent approval rating — ahead of President Obama, Governor Deval Patrick, and newly elected Senator Ed Markey. As for the current state of Washington gridlock, only 31 percent of Massachusetts voters support shutting down the government unless Obamacare is defunded. Brown, who’s called for a one-year delay in the law, isn’t exactly where Bay State voters are on a very important issue.
In a state like Massachusetts, it will be hard for Brown to recapture the relevance he enjoyed for a brief moment in time. He should bask in the memories.Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.