Friday roundup: People’s Pledge and the Mass. National Guard

Two stories worth talking about this morning:

  • The Globe’s Glen Johnson hypothesizes that the People’s Pledge – the groundbreaking agreement between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren that is designed to keep third-party advertising out of the Senate race by financially penalizing the campaign on whose behalf the ads run – could end up being a huge albatross around Scott Brown’s neck.  Here’s the theory:

    now, with recent polls showing Brown’s persona and likability as major advantages for him in his expected match-up with Warren, political strategists from both parties in the nation’s capital believe he may find himself boxed in as the campaign intensifies.

    Brown almost certainly will have to attack Warren and her policies if he hopes to overcome the electoral advantage a Democratic candidate will enjoy in Massachusetts during a presidential election year, when the party’s turnout is traditionally high.

    Without a third-party to do that dirty work for him, though, Brown may be forced to do it himself. And doing so could risk his key strategic advantage – his likability and the everyman persona he has crafted with his pickup truck, barncoat, and basketball playing…. Attacking Warren personally would also contradict Brown’s 2010 calls for a non-negative campaign.

    I think this is correct – in fact, I made a very similar argument a week ago in arguing that the People’s Pledge was likely to turn out to be an advantage for Warren, despite earlier predictions to the contrary:

    The big opportunity with a relatively unknown candidate like Warren is to define that candidate negatively before she gets a chance to define herself. That’s what third-party groups are really great at doing – witness the negative ad blitz from the Republican Governors Association that sent Tim Cahill into a tailspin from which he never recovered. But the candidates themselves – especially candidates like Scott Brown who depend heavily on their positive image – don’t want to be running negative ads against their opponents this early in the cycle (or, really, ever). So the People’s Pledge takes away a huge weapon from the Brown campaign.

    Johnson says that he’s talked to strategists who are debating whether the Pledge will survive as the campaign kicks into high gear. That will be a fascinating one to watch. My sense is that the Warren campaign is committed to it – I suspect they see keeping Karl Rove & Co. out of the race as a huge boon to them that more than outweighs whatever modest boost they could get from the League of Conservation Voters and the like. Because the fact is, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers plays hardball, and most of the third-party groups on our side don’t. So, advantage Warren.

  • This photograph:

    is potentially a problem for the guy on the left, and the guy on the right.  Because the guy in the middle is Brig. Gen. Joseph Carter, the head of the Massachusetts National Guard, who is now under investigation for an alleged rape almost 30 years ago. Carter says he’s being smeared in retaliation for trying to make changes in the way the Guard is run, and the story in today’s Globe does suggest an impressive level of dysfunction within the organization.

    Obviously, I have no idea whether the allegations against Carter have any merit.  But Scott Brown has made his position within the Guard a big part of his story, and Deval Patrick gave Carter the job.  So if Carter goes down, it could pose a problem for either or both of the other guys in the photo.  Keep your eye on this one as it unfolds.


7 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. My prediction was that

    it would harm Warren, but that may not be the case. I was anticipating that it would take negative attacks to decrease Brown’s approval. It’s possible that he can do that all by himself.

    It’s also possible that the lack of negative advertising will be a wash.

  2. The "People's" Pledge

    I forgot they called it that. My eyes just rolled completely around.

  3. If the alleged rape happened 30 yrs ago,

    I don’t see how that could be a problem for either Brown or Patrick unless they knew about it. It’s a far stretch to tie that to either of them.

  4. I hate the latter thing

    Smearing someone because of something someone else did is ridiculous. It should only be a big deal if that someone knew that something about that someone else beforehand, like Governor Huckabee letting a bunch of violent criminals go with pardons, who then went on to be violent criminals again.

    RyansTake   @   Fri 13 Apr 2:09 PM
  5. People's Agreement

    I’ve heard so many different takes on this.

    With Brown’s massive money advantage, can’t he just afford to let his allies go negative on Warren and pay the “fines”?
    This Brown advantage seems to be closing quickly.

    Did Brown make it harder for any organization to put public pressure on him for any issue? For instance if an environmental group wants to put public pressure on him for a vote he might take on Keystone, or oil subsidies, has he just completely declawed them?
    Quite possibly. And this would be pure genius on his part to make it that much harder for any group to raise awareness on critical issues.

    How is the pledge defined? What happens the first time some group does a mailing? Will this be termed outside the “intent” of the pledge?

    Actually, this is the one that scares me the most. The first time Whiner Brown calls something a “loophole” or uses the phrase “intent”, it’s really impossible to know if the press will take him seriously, especially because they love controversy.

    The Pledge feeds into the Warren advantage provided by the Mass Democratic Party.
    Unless this also gets termed an “intent” issue, the MA Democratic Party has shown it has a strong organization, and has the ability to get the vote out when activated. The party was not seriously activated in the 2010 Special. It was a powerful force in the 2010 General, most vividly seen in winning every Constitutional seat, all 10 Congressional seats, and adding seats in the Senate. The Pledge allows the party to focus on its strength.

    David’s good argument: The Pledge doesn’t allow Brown to define Warren.
    This is a strong pro-Warren argument. Without third parties trying to define Warren, Warren has been able to stockpile cash instead of spending it with ads countering the negative attacks. This has allowed Warren to close the money gap substantially. Brown and his people are doing nothing to reach the undecideds. Polls show between 10% and 20% undecided. I would bet that nearly all of those undecideds are not fully plugged into this race yet, and nobody is making a concerted effort to get to them. I’d like to see Warren do more to reach those voters, but at least we know Brown isn’t successfully defining Warren to that group.

    Where I think Brown has truly miscalculated is that Warren doesn’t need to go negative on Brown. She only has to compare herself to Brown on the issues. I believe that on most of the biggest issues for this campaign, voters will find themselves agreeing with her more than him. On taxing the wealthy, on investing in infrastructure, on ending oil subsidies, on holding Wall Street accountable, on women’s issues, on health care, I think she can run on all of those. Brown has been smart to try to take away the wedges, but that only goes so far before he starts to really anger his own base. Warren also needs to tell her story, and be a warmer public persona, but in terms of what she needs to say about Brown, it’s all comparative. She should happily put her name to that.

    The Brown campaign, on the other hand, really seems to want to keep calling her names. Elitist. Professor (ooh! Hurt me with that again). Rock-thrower. Liberal. The only comparative they seem to like is how Brown is a uniter, not a divider. That, and he’ll probably spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about immigration issues.

    Overall, this seems to be the biggest strategic advantage for the Warren campaign on the pledge.

    The Real Winner is the People of Massachusetts
    Absolutely. Let’s face it: The only thing more painful than the negative ads attacking Coakley in 2010 were the ones attacking Brown. That was a horrific campaign on all sides. We may get upwards of $15 million in campaign ads aired by the candidates themselves this summer and fall, but there will be serious limitations to what they are willing to put their names to.

    That’s a good thing for all of us.

    • You seem to have missed my concern

      My concern is that, given his money advantage, he can simply allow negative spots to run (getting whatever advantage he gets) and then get more positive publicity by paying up on his pledge (no doubt wringing his hands about how hard he tried to reign those “independent groups”).

      If our media had more integrity, this would be a non-issue. If the media made it difficult or impossible to sell outright lies, then the advantage would go to Elizabeth Warren. The truth about Scott Brown is so much more damaging than whatever innuendo they could direct towards Elizabeth Warren that their efforts would backfire. Sadly, we know that the media does NOT have any integrity (see “Swift Boat” and “Climate Change”), and so we need artifices like this.

      I am very wary of this pledge. We know that Eric Fehrnstrom prides himself on his dishonesty (see his mis-quote of Barack Obama and his etch-a-sketch remarks). There are booby-traps in this pledge, and I’m not sure we know where they are hidden.

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