All eyes remain on …..Massachusetts’ newest Republican Senator Scott Brown. Yesterday was “hope springs eternal” day for Democrats, and “your worst nightmare” for Republicans: Brown crossed over increasingly cement-like party lines to vote with Democrats to break a GOP filibuster on the new scaled down jobs bill.
The result: some GOP conservatives are livid and blasted him on Twitter, suggesting he’s a sleazy turncoat and that their money and efforts were wasted on having helped install yet another RINO (to the initiated, the pharse is used for independent minded Republicans who may not always vote party line, who may veer more towards the center and who are perceived by some conservatives as perhaps just a notch less untrustworthy than thost Socialists who call themsevles Democrats. In reality, most RINOs have been chased off the GOP reservation and started voting as independents or for some Democrats as they broke with their new, smaller tent party). Some liberals and center to center left analysts suggested his vote could mean a new era, of sorts: there is a potential winning coalition for the Democrats after all.
And, of course, the traditional media had an (understandable) field day: here was the candidate who came out of nowhere in Massachusetts and got Teddy Kennedy’s old seat (“the people’s seat” is the political buzzphrase but in reality it was referred to as “Teddy Kennedy’s seat” for decades), celebrated by the Tea Party Movement, praised and idolized by lockstep partisan radio hosts actually crossing the lines to vote with the Democrats.
But the vote isn’t surprising: it would have been predicted.
The fact is: despite his election, the bulk of voters in Massachusetts haven’t changed overnight to people who arrange their daily schedules so they are sure not to miss a single SECOND of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. In fact, his win was fueled by independent voters in Massachsetts. These voters soured on Barack Obama for a variety of reasons, but one constant is: independent voters do not like the way things are
working not working in Washington.
In reality, Brown was elected not because Massachusetts voters suddenly are scrambling to find out when the next Tea Party demonstration will be held so they go and take their whole families, but for a variety of factors. And Brown is still a Republican in a moderate (or more to the left) state.
It could have been predicted that Brown would want to set the stage so that he is perceived as a more independent kind of Republican who won’t simply vote the way CPAC, Tea Party movement members, or Mark Levin would like him to vote. So on that Democrats should be happy: he will be (on some issues) be open to compromise.
But the Democrats are deluding themselves if they feel that he will be the new Olympia Snowe. Even Olympia Snowe in recent months has had trouble being Olympia Snowe.
Brown went with them on this one — voting for a scaled down, diluted jobs bill rather than vote against it and handi his opponent when he runs for re-election a potent issue (“He didn’t care about the jobless in Massachusetts!”) and giving himself a talking point (a Republican willing to consider compromise if it balances out to help his state and buck his party line — voting only for the good of his state). But if Democrats are holding their breath expecting him to support any bill they come up with on health care they will most assuredly turn blue: he promised to oppose that one . In the long term, the best prediction is that he will juggle his duty to his party and his duty to political self-preservation and display his trait as an independent thinking partisan.
Some (including here on TMV) predicted that conservatives would be disappointed with Brown since it was clear after his election that they perceived him as someone who would vote however they and the talk radio political culture wanted on every single issue — ignoring the traditional characteristics of Northeast Republicans. The tendency in 21st century America among partisans is if someone dares differs from you on one issue you go after them and try to take them out. He’s still in his “honeymoon” period with conservative, so despite initial anger he’s getting a pass on this one. But can he become to conservatives what Joe Lieberman is (except on the news that the Connecticut Senator will be the point man on repealing don’t ask/don’t tell) to liberals?
Unlikely. The reason: Brown looks like someone who could have ambitions to a)keep his Senate seat a while b)perhaps go behind his Senate seat.
And if that is the case, then he could be a political figure who will undergo various incarnations….just like a former Massachusetts Governor…named Mitt Romney.
MSNBC’s First Read team of Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg nail it:
Who is Scott Brown? Less than a week after he attended the CPAC confab and stressed that he was a Massachusetts REPUBLICAN, newly minted Sen. Scott Brown yesterday joined Democrats and four other Republicans (Bond, Collins, Snowe, and Voinovich) to stop a GOP filibuster on a $15 billion job bill. A few weeks on the job, and we still don’t really know where Scott Brown is ideologically. On the one hand, he voted for cloture on the jobs bill. On the other hand, he spoke at CPAC, and his second vote in the Senate was to filibuster Obama’s National Labor Relations Board nominee. Remember, of course, that Brown will be up for re-election in the presidential year of 2012. If he wants to be re-elected in blue Massachusetts, you’re going to see him vote like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. If he has other ambitions, however, you’ll see him vote the other way. We’ve actually seen a version of this movie in Massachusetts: Mitt Romney’s term as governor. After moving to the center to get elected in 2002, he got the presidential bug and decided NOT to run for re-election and moved to the right.
So Brown is faced with a great opportunity — and risk.
GOPers will be watching him as they pursue their ongoing strategy to check mate Barack Obama and the Democrats to the point where voters feel Obama and the Demmies are ineffective in getting things throught Congress (the gridlock feeding Supermajority filibuster which could come back to bite a future Republican administration in its you-know-what will surely help there); Demmies will be trying to strike deals with him and if he wants to get re-elected in Massachusetts he can’t appear to be a clone of Sean Hannity. Each decision he makes will bring him heat from the other side.
And the press will be following each vote of his, each pro and negative reaction, and keep pursuing him for print and broadcast interviews. He will be in demand and get ratings (Jay Leno may try to make him a regular).
A good position to be in….or a bad one…depending on how he handles it.
But if his jobs bill vote is any indication, you can predict now he’ll handle it quite well.
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