Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Scott Brown, Senator

Because there's so little ground in the middle in the Senate, it matters quite a bit whether Scott Brown will be joining the Mainers on the left of the Republican party, or if he'll wind up voting with the mainstream conservatives.  If it's the former, then the current Senate will look a lot like the Senate from early in 2009.  59 Democrats (two of whom, the Benator and Holy Joe, present real problems with party loyalty), and then a pool of three moderates that Dems can try to pick off.  If, on the other hand, Brown votes like Judd Gregg (or to the right of that), then the Democrats must keep all 59 and at least one of the Senators from Maine.  In other words, two targets instead of three. 

Tom Schaller lays out the possibilities here for Brown's future career.  I think his categories are right: Brown could serve out his two-plus years and then lose; he could win reelection and have a longer Senate career (Schaller suggests Dorgan as a model, but I think a better comp for that would be Al D'Amato); or he could emerge as a national contender.  In addition, this very useful post by Boris Shor places Brown just to the left of Olympia Snowe, based mainly on his votes in the Massachusetts legislature. 

So, how will he vote? 

If it's possibility #3 (try to get on a national ticket in 2012), then he needs to quickly establish a hard right voting record.  In particular, as Shor points out, Brown is and has been pro-choice on abortion.  If he wants to be on a national ticket, he needs to have a very quick conversion experience and immediately establish a strong pro-life record.  Beyond that, it calls for a mainstream conservative voting record, far to the right of what his legislative record would predict.

If it's possibility #2 (try to have a Senate career), then Brown has the almost impossible task of keeping his voting record moderate enough to appear acceptable to the people who just voted for him yesterday, but conservative enough that his core supporters stick with him.  Conservatives, eager to give Obama a black eye and get a 41st Republican in the Senate, were willing to overlook any signs of moderation, and Brown was able to oblige them by offering vague conservative rhetoric (it helped that he didn't have an opponent able to pin him down on anything).  Now, he'll have a voting record.  For a while, his giant-killer status will shield him from normal conservative wrath, but it's anyone' s guess if it's possible to walk that tightrope for long. 

That leaves possibility #1, one-and-out.  My guess is that this is where he ends up.  He winds up around where Judd Gregg is: on the left edge of the mainstream conservatives.  He won't be caucusing with Nelson, Lieberman, Snowe and Collins to form a five-Senator bloc to negotiate for "moderate" things; instead, he'll vote with the Republicans against 60 or 61 vote coalitions, but he'll sometimes join Democrats as the 63rd, 64th, or 65th vote.  And then barring another fluke he'll go down to defeat in 2012, and if he's lucky and the Republicans win the White House, he'll get to be Secretary of One of the Many Departments Republicans Don't Care About.  Or maybe he gets a show on MSNBC (he'd be too unreliable for Fox).  In my reading of his campaign platform plus his voting record, that (Judd Gregg's voting record, not MSNBC) is probably where he's most comfortable. 

As I said, though, it's really just a guess.  What I can say for sure is that if he really wants to run for president (or VP) and actually have a chance, we'll see a flip on abortion very soon, most likely by April..


  1. You're neglecting the obvious: lobbyist.

  2. What about the other obvious? He could just vote his conscience every time.

  3. Or he could serve out a year, asnd then do a Spector and switch to a grateful democratic party, who after 2010 will still control the senate, but with a reduced majority.

  4. He's Repubican presidential material if ever I saw it. Handsome, fairly well-spoken (compared to Sarah Palin, he's Obama), Mr. Family Values. He'll be running for president about three minutes from now. And yes, he'll take a hard turn to the right to bag the Tea Partiers -- establishment Republicans are already kneeling at his feet.

  5. I agree that he would have to switch his stance on abortion to be palatable on a Republican national ticket, but since he has no guarantee that he is going to be on that ticket it would seem like an odd choice to switch his abortion stance in the near future. That would almost certainly doom his clearest electoral path which is reelection to the his Senate seat. Also, if he switches his position it also diminishes one of the major pluses of having him on a national Republican ticket - the possibility of making inroads in the northeast.

    If he decides to run for the presidency (and I doubt it) he would most likely try to do it as the non-scary Republican alternative to Palin. I doubt that would work, but it would be his strongest hand and consistent with his background.

    I suspect he will try for option #2 and wind up closer to option #1.

  6. A nude centerfold is Mr. Family Values nowadays?

    I suppose it's better than wearing diapers.

  7. Embarrassing your daughters to the point of your wife begging you to stop is family values?

  8. Anon #1 (1:00 PM):

    Sure, he can vote his conscience. If that's what he's always done, and what he did in the campaign, then odds are good that he'll be one and out -- too conservative for MA voters, and probably too liberal for MA Republican primary voters as well.

    Anon #3 (1:16)

    We don't know if he's willing to change his issue positions (abortion, and other things) to be an acceptable candidate for the Republican nomination. Even if he is, however, Republicans have never done anything like it -- they've never nominated anyone for the top job who came out of nowhere, at least not since 1940. Doesn't prove they won't, but I doubt it.

  9. National ticket? Huh?
    On the day of the Massachusetts primaries - December 8; i.e., 44 days ago - I saw Jack E. Robinson (Scott Brown's GOP opponent) shaking hands on a street corner in Boston, handing out campaign stuff. And I thought, "Jeez, not him again (he runs all the time). Martha is going to win this in her sleep." I didn't even know who Scott Brown was, let alone that he was actually running for something! On the 11:00 news that evening, I saw Scott Brown for the first time in my life, accepting congratulations for having beaten Robinson with a vote total that was less than one-quarter of the total combined votes cast in the Democratic primary. To say he was an "unknown" is to understate the case. He was completely invisible to almost everyone outside of his home town of Wrentham and the junkiest of political junkies.
    And now we are already talking about whether he is national ticket material? Completely insane.

  10. Or he could put a chicken on his head and cluck like a clown. You pundits are so wrong so often, you are rarely worth listening to.

  11. @anon 3:19 PM LoL That's right 90% of life is showing up.

  12. Knowing someone who opposed Scott Brown politically in his home town, I'm told that Brown is a crazy-ass who shoots from the hip and is prone to all sorts of hellacious gaffs, so it's only a matter of time before he disqualifies himself from any consideration for a national ticket. Just wait and see!

  13. I don't think he would play well in the south and the GOP can't win without the south.


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