The candidates are doing so well, in fact, that the future is nearly as bright even for the loser. In fact, it's not impossible that the two will be serving in the Senate together in a year or so.
If you've kicked around the idea of a Sen. Elizabeth Warren making a presidential bid in 2016, you wouldn't be the first: the Grey Lady herself floated the idea as early as February, and progressive activists have dreamed about it for far longer.
She could conceivably win the Democratic nomination, too. The base loves her, her fundraising is eye-popping, and her messaging is very good—she catapulted into a tie with a popular incumbent almost instantly after entering the Senate race, after Scott Brown had been crushing all comers for months. She will be 67 years old in 2016, which is not young, but older folks have won the nomination before (Reagan 1980, Dole 1996, McCain 2008).
What happens to Scott Brown if he wins? Well, the Republican is at least nominally pro-choice. So if he has any designs on national office, he'll have to take a page from the book of his longtime Massachusetts political ally and mentor, Mitt Romney (he's got a leg up on rolling back women's health already, with his cosponsorship of the Blunt Amendment). Still, he's likely to be insufficiently pure for the tea-flavored set in 2016.
Second, he lacks substance. It's going to be impossible for him to win a presidential nomination just going on friendly conservative talk radio and praising the Celtics. At some point, he has to start talking about real issues, and Jared Sullinger's back doesn't count. It works well in Massachusetts and may win him reelection, but the nation expects a little more out of the president.
Whoever does win the nomination in 2016, however, will do so by out-crazying the rest of a rabidly right-wing field, and will have to Etch A Sketch their way back to somewhere resembling the political center. Enter Scott Brown as a possible vice-presidential nominee on the Santorum '16 ticket.
What about the person who loses the 2012 race? He or she will be out of the running for the presidency ... but will still have a large base of support in Massachusetts and a donor list as long as both arms.
What do you do with those things? Well, one of the options for Brown or Warren would be to seek the governorship of Massachusetts in 2014.
Brown, a former state legislator, might be the more likely to seek this office. As a Republican governor in a Democratic-dominated state that likes its Republican governors, he wouldn't have to do very much; he could let the Legislature run the state while he arranges secret meetings with kings and queens. He seems to like being the center of attention more than governing, and the great thing about being governor is that you're always the center of attention.
If he ran, with his name recognition, positive favorability, and profound fundraising potential, he would be the prohibitive favorite to win at least one term as governor. As far as 2014 is concerned, it's difficult to think of anyone in Massachusetts who might even throw a scare into Brown; the presumptive frontrunner for the governor's office right now is the woman Brown beat in 2010, Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Would Warren, if she loses, have any interest in being governor? She has based her campaign more on national issues than state issues (Wall Street accountability, for example). She'd have a tremendous fundraising advantage over all other candidates, an advantage so profound that it might scare off most other Democrats. Of course, if she loses the high-profile 2010 race, she will break a lot of hearts and crush a lot of dreams in Massachusetts, and some might not forgive so easily.
Return to the Senate?
It's not impossible that Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren will be serving alongside each other in the Senate in 2013.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has indicated in the past that she's unlikely to stay through a second Obama administration. Massachusetts' senior senator, John Kerry, is rumored to covet the job.
If John Kerry is the next Secretary of State in 2013, Massachusetts will have a special election in 2012, as we did when Ted Kennedy died. Whoever loses the 2012 race, Warren or Brown, would presumably be in the ideal position to put a statewide campaign together in a few months and win the seat. No Democrat in the state has shown the ability to compete with either Warren's money or Brown's ...
The Dark Horse
... save for one youthful red-headed congressional candidate, former prosecutor, Peace Corps volunteer, Harvard Law graduate and scion of the Kennedy family.
The Kennedys still poll well in Massachusetts, and the newest star on the horizon, Joe Kennedy III, has proven to be quite the political dynamo so far, having raised a staggering $1.3 million in his first quarter as a House candidate.
Born in 1980, Kennedy might be considered too young and too green to mount a serious bid for the Senate in 2013 or 2014. But then, Ted Kennedy was 30 when he first ran for the Senate, and Joe III has already established a pretty notable record of public service.
If Scott Brown returns to the Senate either in 2012 or shortly after, or if he's elected governor, Kennedy will be one of the few people left in Massachusetts who could beat him. And if Elizabeth Warren loses in 2012, her former student at Harvard Law School might be the only person in the state who could threaten to beat her in a primary for another office. It's hard to imagine anyone in the state beating her if she wins ... but if she loses this time, a well-funded challenger might credibly make the case that Warren had her shot and missed it.