Home/Daniel Larison/Massachusetts Senate Race

Massachusetts Senate Race

I don’t have much of a sense of how competitive Elizabeth Warren would be in a race against Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, but Robert Kuttner’s analysis of Brown’s weakenesses doesn’t make much sense (via Weigel):

It is universally agreed by Massachusetts political observers that she is the only Democratic candidate with a decent shot at beating Scott Brown, a man who won in a fluke. Don’t forget, he based his entire candidacy on a pledge to destroy Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a law with an uncanny similarity to Massachusetts’ own, highly popular universal health law. Think that will play well in the commonwealth? Or his social conservatism in one of the most socially liberal of states?

In fact, Brown campaigned against the ACA by arguing that it would undermine Massachusetts’ system. He opposed federal health care legislation on the basis of that profound principle, “I’ve got mine,” and rallied around the state-level status quo. Brown knew that the Massachusetts law was overwhelmingly popular in his state, so he positioned himself as the one who would defend it by voting against the ACA. As for Brown’s “social conservatism,” I have to ask: what social conservatism? Brown is about as pro-choice a Republican as one is likely to find in elected office nowadays, and his support for civil unions is as far as most national Republicans are likely to go. Unless we’re defining social conservatism so broadly that it ceases to mean very much, it’s simply wrong to say that Brown is a social conservative.

It seems that Brown is quite popular in his state. According to a poll commissioned by the DSCC in March, his approval rating was 73%. More recent polls have Brown at lower, less ridiculous levels of approval. Steve Kornacki commented at the time of the March poll:

True, 2012 will be a presidential election year, which will theoretically boost Brown’s challenger in blue state Massachusetts. But it’s easy to overstate the coattail effect, as Susan Collins demonstrated in 2008, when she easily beat a strong Democratic challenger even as Barack Obama comfortably won Maine. In other words, unless Brown’s numbers dip markedly, it’s likely that Democrats will be stuck with a second-tier (at best) challenger in ’12.

Is Warren going to be more competitive than that? A poll commissioned by Brown’s campaign found him winning 53% of the vote in a match-up against Warren, who received 28%. One of Warren’s obstacles is that she isn’t very well-known. Somehow, I don’t think it is going to be Warren’s coattails that will be bringing Obama victory in Massachusetts.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles