Why A Scott Brown 2013 Senate Comeback Bid Would Probably Fail

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 16 2012 12:53 PM

Why A Scott Brown 2013 Senate Comeback Bid Would Probably Fail

David Catanese finally resets the conventional wisdom about John Kerry's soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat. Hey, maybe a state that has only elected one Republican to the Senate in 40 years will decide against putting Scott Brown in again! Certainly, the story that Brown's friends are telling themselves is awfully simplistic.

Brown’s team also believes their candidate was hurt significantly by Warren’s charge that his reelection would hand the GOP control of the U.S. Senate. That argument would be moot in a special election.
“It wouldn’t be a case they could make this time,” offered a Brown ally.

This assumes that voter opinions are pretty static. Consider the circumstances that helped Brown in January 2010. Democrats slowly, slowly pushing through a health care overhaul that was unpopular basically everywhere. Republicans didn't run anything in Washington, so a vote for Brown was a vote to slow down what Democrats were up to. It made sense.

Now think on the circumstances of spring and summer 2013. Republicans run the House of Representatives, and their work in that body is so unpopular in Massachusetts that a scandal-plagued Democrat, Rep. John Tierney, managed to beat a Republican candidate endorsed by the Boston Globe. Republicans are currently battling Barack Obama over a fiscal package, with the GOP defending a position -- keeping all the Bush tax rates, cutting entitlements -- that's unpopular everywhere. If a deal isn't done this month, Republicans will be debating this into the new year. If a debt limit isn't included in the deal, there'll be another messy fight over that in February or March. And then in April, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will introduce another budget. Unless he gets conked on the head or hypnotised, he's probably going to propose another package of spending and entitlement cuts.

The special election voter will have constant reminders of why he votes against most Republicans at the federal level. Maybe Brown could run as the bipartisan fixer who, golly, doesn't agree with anything John Boehner does. But whatever he'd try, it'd be in a less ideal atmosphere for a Republican than the January 2010 Democrat fail-o-rama.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.