It’s remarkable, really. A little less than three years ago, Scott Brown managed to win an election he was supposed to lose. He did it by running a savvy, positive, upbeat, energetic campaign, and by taking advantage of the sloth and the panicky mistakes of his opponent.
And now, we’re watching with amazement as Brown runs the movie in reverse. He was OK back when he was ahead in the polls, and not so bad even when it was getting close. But once the polling starting shifting Warren’s way in earnest, he freaked. He threw over his “Mr. Likable” image, and instead started running grainy, dishonest attack ads – just like Coakley did. It didn’t work for her. And he let his anxiety about losing goad him into saying stupid things late in the game – just like Coakley did. That didn’t help either.
Even more startling was the news that Brown has bailed out of the final debate because … well, because he felt like it, as there is no good reason why the candidates couldn’t debate tomorrow evening. Coakley never did anything quite like that – but she was loudly, and accurately, accused of not working hard enough to close the deal once it became apparent that she was in a really tough race. Remember the infamous “standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?” quote, which showed up in a Globe story only six days before election day? That was widely seen as an indication that Coakley was “not sweating it,” that she was “complacent,” even that she was “trying to lose.”
It’s difficult not to see Brown’s last-second refusal to debate (even as he had assured everyone that he would do so despite the storm, as Glen Johnson documents in detail) in the same light. In the few hours before Brown announced that he wasn’t interested in debating any more, the Globe published a poll showing that he was up 2 points. We don’t know what Brown’s internal polling says, but one has to imagine that it shows him at least tied. And so, Brown seems to have concluded that the best strategy is to stay below radar; to do a couple of events (he has only one listed today on his public schedule); and to let his new TV ad do most of the work while he tries to run out the clock. It would seem that he didn’t anticipate that a Suffolk poll showing Warren up 7 would emerge the same day, but them’s the breaks.
Meanwhile, the Warren campaign has set about winning this election the old-fashioned way: they are earning it. Here’s a key quote from that article, which focuses on Warren’s statewide GOTV plan:
Brown’s campaign has its own get-out-the-vote effort, coordinated through the state Republican Party. But by all appearances, it does not have the sophistication or the manpower that the Democrats have amassed, despite the millions that Brown has raised.
Who wants this thing more? And who’s willing to work for it? The answer is clearly Elizabeth Warren. What a difference a couple of years make.