It’s painfully easy to poke fun at Scott Brown these days. First, he runs a truly awful campaign for reelection and gets crushed by Elizabeth Warren. Then he puts out a bizarre sequence of late-night tweets that led many to wonder whether he might have had a few too many that evening (and don’t forget that he almost certainly fibbed about how it happened). Then, after pushing to have his hand-picked choice installed as Mass. GOP party chair, he cuts his own party off at the knees by dangling the prospect of running for John Kerry’s Senate seat for so long that, once he bailed, the party had to scramble and ended up with a seriously not-ready-for-prime-time candidate. Then he floats the notion of running for Senate in New Hampshire. Or maybe for Governor of Massachusetts. Or, heck, maybe for President.
Yesterday, of course, Brown took himself out of the Governor’s race, sadly eliminating the truly hilarious prospect of Charlie Baker vs. Scott Brown debates. But in the process, he threw Baker, the GOP’s almost-certain gubernatorial nominee, under the bus.
Brown told WBZ he would support Baker if the Swampscott Republican wages a second campaign for governor but raised doubts about Baker’s ability to appeal to voters. “Is he Mr. Personality? No,” Brown said. “Everyone knows that, he’s not.”
Holy crap. I’d pay good money for audio of the tirade that undoubtedly escaped Charlie Baker’s lips when he read that quote. That sort of thing is, in part, what led to the truly awesome string of quotes about Brown from various Republicans in today’s Globe story.
Republicans in Massachusetts and elsewhere have increasingly chafed at what they called Brown’s office-shopping…. While Brown had publicly left open the option to run for governor, GOP insiders had long questioned his sincerity.
“Is anyone really surprised?” GOP strategist Jason Kauppi said after Brown’s announcement Wednesday night. “I think Senator Brown was probably having some fun with all of it, keeping people guessing.” … A veteran Republican strategist said prior to Brown’s announcement, “He’s not running for president. He’s not running for governor. So he’s doing all this, or his team is doing all this, to the aggravation of everyone else. Just to keep him relevant.” …
Jim Merrill, a New Hampshire GOP strategist who was a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, called Brown’s “office-shopping” a drawback if he is considering that race. “I like and respect Scott Brown a great deal, but it’s time for him to get serious about what office he wants to run for,” Merrill said. “I think people are getting a little tired of him saying, each week, what different office he wants to run for.” Merrill said Brown could be viable in New Hampshire but had hurt himself by floating the idea of running there without following up concretely. “I think it’s jarring to voters, and I think it’s a disservice to potential candidates in New Hampshire,’’ Merrill said….
“I don’t know how serious he is,” state Senator Robert Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican who served with Brown in the state Legislature said prior to Brown’s announcement.
“Madness,” Mike Murphy, a longtime GOP consultant, tweeted on Sunday, linking to a Des Moines Register story on the visit. The Iowa Republican caucus, Murphy said, “would eat him alive.”
Yup, Brown sure has built up a lot of good will within the party over the last several months.
Anyway, I bring all of this up in order to say that Brown actually did one very good thing for Massachusetts politics (besides lose): he agreed to the People’s Pledge with Elizabeth Warren. That agreement, of course, succeeded in keeping what would otherwise have been an unbearable barrage of third-party ads off the airwaves in Massachusetts, despite the race’s being the country’s highest-profile Senate contest. That was a remarkable feat, and it is continuing to bear fruit.
How so? Look at what just happened in the race for Mayor of Boston. An outside special-interest group decided, after considering several candidates who had actively sought the group’s endorsement, that they liked John Connolly best. So they decided to go all-in for him, committing to spend $500,000 on the race. Pre-People’s Pledge, nobody would have batted an eyelash. The candidates who lost out might have complained, but nobody would have listened, and the campaign would have moved ahead.
Instead, following a remarkable 24 hours of public shaming, Connolly told the group (“Stand for Children”) to get lost.
“The first I learned about the $500,000 independent expenditure is when I read about it in the newspaper,” Connolly said during a Wednesday morning press conference at City Hall. “I did not request any contribution and I do not want any contribution.”
Now, we can all chuckle at the notion that Connolly – and the others who actively sought the group’s endorsement, notably including Dan Conley – are shocked! shocked! that this group actually planned to spend money on the race! To the contrary, we are told, for example, that Conley, in his meeting seeking the group’s endorsement, “urged them to stick to issue advocacy, and not to spend any money on behalf of any candidate, himself or otherwise.” Please.
But the point is that, were it not for the People’s Pledge having worked as well as it did, this would not be an issue. Third-party spending would be treated here, as it is still treated everywhere else, as par for the course; a perhaps regrettable but unavoidable fact of modern campaigns about which nothing can be done. But something can be done: the People’s Pledge largely kept third-party money out of the Warren/Brown Senate race, and it worked so well that now, even though there is no comparable agreement in place for the race for Mayor, third-party money has become politically toxic. It’s fair to observe that candidates do continue to gratefully accept the assistance, financial and otherwise, of certain other third-party groups, but nonetheless, at least in Massachusetts, the paradigm has begun to shift.
That’s a very good thing, and we have Scott Brown (as well as Elizabeth Warren) to thank for it, since his agreeing to the Pledge probably hurt his reelection chances. So, thanks Scott. Seriously.