Scott Brown embraces new role: Trump cheerleader
Scott Brown says he has “no expectations whatsoever” that Donald Trump is going to make him his running mate — despite persistent speculation to the contrary.
Not that he’d turn down the offer.
“Of course I’d do it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Brown said Tuesday.
In fact, Brown said, he has recommended directly to Trump three names for his vice presidential running mate: Senators John Thune of South Dakota, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Ernst and Corker on Wednesday both indicated they’re not interested.
That Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts, is even engaged in the conversation is one measure of his unlikely new role as one of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s most prominent supporters.
Brown won’t say how often he speaks with Trump — “that’s personal” — but says he has “total access.”
“I’m in touch with him whenever I want,” Brown said in a phone interview.
After riding to fame in 2010 on an out-of-nowhere special-election victory for the Senate seat vacated when Ted Kennedy died, Brown in 2012 lost to Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. Two years later, after establishing residency in New Hampshire, Brown took on Democratic US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, but fell short by three percentage points.
This cycle, he has reasserted his relevancy, hosting 10 GOP presidential hopefuls at a series of “no BS backyard barbecues” before the New Hampshire primary. Days before the state voted, he endorsed Trump, whom he has said he counsels “regularly.”
Brown speaks up for Trump in his Fox News radio and TV hits and on his active Twitter feed, and pushes other Republicans to line up behind the reality-show-star-turned-candidate. He also engages in an ongoing feud with Warren, one of Trump’s — and Brown’s — most vociferous critics, and often calls Warren’s continued needling of him “a little creepy.”
Amid his public support for Trump, occasionally Brown tries to pull Trump back from some of his more politically dicey remarks, as he did last month by calling Trump’s questioning of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s faith “probably out of bounds.”
But Brown says he’s not angling for a job in a Trump administration. Between his Fox News contributor role, various nonprofit and for-profit boards, speaking engagements “all over the world,” and taking care of his mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, Brown dismises those who suggest he land traditional full-time employment.
“I’ve got some freaking great jobs, you kidding me?” Brown said with a chuckle.
Last week, Brown introduced Trump at a closed-door fund-raiser in Boston, and celebrated how he had once again disproved doubters by predicting Trump would win the GOP presidential primary, according to two attendees.
At the same event, the attendees said, Trump “said that they would play in Massachusetts. ‘Unless Scott tells me it’s not worth it, then we won’t.’ ”
Now, Brown said, he expects Trump to beat Clinton, largely because of widespread public antipathy toward the former secretary of state.
“I have friends who say, ‘I don’t like Donald Trump, but I’m voting for him.’ I say ‘Why?’ and they say, ‘Because we hate Hillary more.’ ”
Initially, Brown said, he planned to endorse Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for president. Like Brown, Walker is a plain-spoken Republican from a blue state that has not voted for the GOP in a presidential election since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection.
But Walker, after a surge to the top tier, faded over the summer of 2015 and dropped out in September.
In Trump, Brown said, he found a kindred spirit in their shared ability to drive a message of change.
“I think he’s going to win because there’s so much anger and frustration out there, that people want a change,” Brown said of Trump.
By supporting Trump, Brown is again breaking with elements of the Republican establishment. His January 2010 victory was hailed as an early harbinger of the Tea Party wave that swept Republicans into the congressional majority later that year.
But Republican insiders say Brown is unlikely to land a top post in either a Trump campaign or administration.
“Is Scott Brown clinging to the life raft of Donald Trump somehow trying to get one more turn at the wheel? That’s the only scenario that I can see that explains his affection for Trump,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican strategist and one of the party’s most outspoken Trump critics.
“He’s looking for one last play here, because obviously he’s burned a lot of his bridges and cashed out a lot of his chips in the last couple of cycles, and he’s not a flavor like he was before,” Wilson said.
Fergus Cullen, the former New Hampshire GOP chairman who endorsed Ohio Governor John Kasich in the primary, praised Brown’s retail politicking skills and said he “connects with ordinary people better than pretty much any politician that I can remember.” But Cullen said he was “really taken aback” when Brown backed Trump.
Noting that Trump’s appearance in Manchester last week drew none of the state’s leading elected Republicans, Cullen said, “Brown, by supporting Trump, is something of an outlier.”
“After Trump loses badly . . . I wonder how much credibility Scott Brown will have at that point,” he said.
But New Hampshire state GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn, a Trump critic, called Brown a “good and loyal person” and said he has retained “real affection” among the state’s grassroots activists.
“Since his race for Senate, he has remained very involved up here in the party,” she said.
There is also some political poetry behind Brown’s endorsement. Trump is capitalizing on the same breed of largely white, disaffected voters who fueled Brown’s 2010 win. That year, Brown won labor-friendly towns like Weymouth and racked up big margins in Plymouth and Worcester counties.
Trump borrowed from that coalition in the state’s March primary, posting a sweeping victory and coming up just shy of 50 percent. Unlike Brown, who famously drove a pickup to campaign events, Trump takes a private jet and sometimes does fly-bys of his campaign rallies to the theme from “Air Force One.”
But their supporters overlap.
Asked about similarities between the two, Brown said, “We’re two different people obviously, we come from different backgrounds and different lifestyles.” He added, “The similarity is that there’s a lot of people helping and a lot of people energized.”
Like Trump, Brown routinely engages in media criticism, most of it finding fault with allegedly biased reporting. Last month, he suggested on Twitter that a Globe columnist who had criticized him in print was not in peak physical condition. He later apologized.
And, like Brown, Trump has bested oddsmakers who incorrectly predicted his political demise.
“He’s always been kind of underestimated,” Brown said.