As E. J. Dionne notes, this past week, things have gotten tougher for Scott Brown:
Brown was running well as an insurgent who was somewhat disconnected from the national Republican Party. Conservatives, Republicans and tea-party types were already mobilized to vote next Tuesday. Democrats were asleep. All the national attention to the race now gives Democrats a reason to vote. Brown does better as an independent-minded outsider than as someone who is now recast as part of Washington's partisan battles. He is trying gamely to preserve his independent image, but that has become harder, and the Democrats' advertising is aimed at tying him into the Washington Republican Establishment.
Brown has been caught in a vice. His support from teabaggers was critical to becoming competitive -- his moneybomb on Monday was the first real moneybomb conservative activists have ever pulled off (the Paulites are libertarians). This has definite parallels to OH-02 in 2006, when we raised big money for Paul Hackett. While we narrowly lost that race (like Brown hopefully does), it was a big step ahead for us as a movement, teaching us how to effectively rally around a movement candidate. Well, Brown is the conservative movement's Hackett.
On the other hand, that conservative support has come at a cost. Among other things, Brown has had to promise to be the 41st vote against health care reform. The teabaggers demand ideological purity, and he's had to deliver. Not that it's been tough, given that he's voted with his party's leadership in the state legislature 96 percent of the time. That was okay when Democrats didn't know he existed and he could try to slip in under the radar. Now that this race is a national sensation, the spotlight is trained squarely on his record.
The teabaggers are still engaged, of course. Heck, they're whipped up into an even frothier frost. They smell blood and the opportunity to deliver a major and genuine rebuke to the Democratic Party and Obama. The liberal bent that makes Massachusetts such a difficult victory for them is also the reason a victory there would be so momentous. They want this victory bad, enough so that they've momentarily forgotten how much they actually hate Massachusetts.
Democrats, on the other hand, were saddled with a candidate who thought she could nap her way to the Senate. Not even Teddy disrespected his state's voters so brazenly. He worked his ass off for votes, no matter how secure he seemed. It was the reason he was able to overcome scandal and become politically invincible. Coakley's sloth will cost the party and allies money better spent for this fall (if not the seat).
But at least she, the party machine, organized labor, and other allies are now engaged. The math is in their favor -- educate voters about Brown's politics and turn out a decent portion of the progressive base, and all the teabaggers in Massachusetts won't be enough to overcome their minority status. The only reason they are in this game is because of the quirks and unpredictability of the special election electorate.
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