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THE SCOTT HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD
ONE LESS DYNASTY
The navy blue shirts worn by his campaign workers said it all: SCOTT BROWN FOR SENATE.... JANUARY 19. Like the man himself, the message was clear, and like the man himself it worked.The burning question seems to be: how did he do it? How did he defeat a Democrat for the so-called Kennedy Seat? What follows are my thoughts and observations.
To avoid any appearance of impropriety, I am a registered Republican, vice-chair of the Republican Town Committee in Yarmouth on Cape Cod, and I worked for the Scott Brown senate campaign. Unlike too many of the so-called mainstream media voices who pander to us as they pontificate about politics and society without admitting their bias, I hold very definite political views. In Scott Brown's case, I saw the campaign and the candidate close up and I feel qualified to comment on how this man, previously more or less a political unknown outside his Massachusetts Senate district in suburban Boston pulled off what the so-called experts are still calling an upset. And Democrats are upset...by the election that placed a Republican in a Senate seat held by a Kennedy since 1953. The losing may be just beginning.
My first personal interaction with Brown happened in Hyannis, here on Cape Cod on a November Sunday afternoon when he attended a fund raising event. I met him and spoke with him a few more times leading up to the election, each time becoming more impressed than I already was. He is a commanding presence in a quiet way. Tall with graying hair and the trim physique of the triathalete he is, he is intense as he listens, yes listens while people speak to him or ask questions. He has an easy smile and a ready handshake. So far he fits the image of a politician running for office.
However, there is much more to Scott Brown than what we have been fed by the media. He is an attorney, that much we have been told, as well as the fact that he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard, with thirty years of service. He is, in fact, a trial lawyer in the Judge Advocate General's Office. Brown has been for some time the only member of the Massachusetts legislature with any military experience. So, when he speaks about matters such as how this country should deal with terrorist captives he speaks from the informed perspective of an active military lawyer who knows the rules. Brown also has been very involved in the raising of his two daughters. His wife works as a reporter for one of Boston's major television stations, so it was often he who daily got the family up and running. He changed diapers, made breakfast, packed lunches and filled the gaps when his wife's work got her out of the house early in the morning. The obvious closeness of the Brown family is impressive.
Personal observation has shown me that Scott Brown has a capacity for work that borders on self abuse. There seemed to be two or three of him when one looks back at his daily campaign schedule and the number of appearances he made in every part of Massachusetts. As pleasant and easy to be with as he is, make no mistake, Scott Brown is durable, not one to quit until he has done everything he has set out to do. His work ethic and determination are Olympic. On the Saturday afternoon before the election he swung through Cape Cod towns again and as we walked along the Main Street in Hyannis I asked how he felt about the campaign. He lowered his head and thought for a short time, then said, "Concerned, I'm concerned, you know, but I feel good. It's all good." The few members of the press who covered that afternoon certainly did not make a big splash about his reception in Hyannis where at least 1500 people turned out in the cold, waiting for more than an hour for the campaign bus to arrive and then parading with their candidate down Main Street.
Cape Cod figured prominently in the Brown campaign. It was a center of fund raising even before the now famous money bombs started bringing in as much as a million dollars a day in the final days of the race. (Brown finished the campaign with over $4 million left in his campaign account.) The Cape was also a pivotal center of hands-on campaign activity. From a small campaign headquarters in Hyannis several thousand telephone calls were made daily for several weeks without let up. Twenty people and more worked in three hour shifts seven days a week calling for the candidate. One student volunteer was notable because he always had a telephone to each ear. Brown's opponent, incumbent state Attorney General Martha Coakley, however, felt that as the winner of the hotly contested four-way Democrat primary she was the odds-on favorite to fill the Kennedy Seat. So, she retired from the field. Brown and more than one million Massachusetts voters already knew better.
Coakley did not campaign at all for at least two weeks after her victory in the December primary. She was dismissive of Brown the man and Brown the candidate, but so were the Democrat party and most of the press. Brown's own party, at least at the national level, provided no financial support for his campaign. How the Republican National Committee can justify this is a puzzle. Finally Coakley agreed to a series of televised debates with Brown and a third candidate, Independent Joe Kennedy (no relation to the Kennedy Seat). The election results pretty well tell how the debates went. Coakley came across as evasive, uncertain, haughty and brittle. Kennedy was a convivial non-entity while Brown was enthusiastic, clear and unrelenting in holding to his views. Coakley demonstrated an arrogance and imperious nature suitable for one who would hold the Kennedy Seat.
Then in the final stretch of the campaign Coakley's campaign imported some of the Democrat party's more unpleasant campaign 'experts'. Immediately with the infusion of outside talent and national cash the Coakley campaign went negative, running vicious and tasteless television ads which, in addition to being grotesque, usually misstated Brown's positions on everything from health care reform to the budget to abortion and women's rights. The public reaction and even the press reactions were swift and devastating and the attack ads disappeared over night. Had Coakley shown her true colors? Was she simply incompetent as a candidate or personally a shrew? Remember, every campaign ad carried on television and radio must end with the following, "This message was paid for by the Committee To Elect Martha Coakley. My name is Martha Coakley and I approved this ad." (Or similar words.) No one cared that the toxic ads were the creations of outsiders; Coakley was responsible for them and she should have known better. But, in her own words, she approved. Even staunch Democrats winced.
Meanwhile Scott Brown just shook his head slowly, quietly and wondered, why? He continued his daily campaign routine and listened to some very savvy advisers. He also continued listening to the crowds of people he met every week and continued delivering his constant message of fiscal responsibility, government responsiveness and civic pride and duty. With a naturally quick mind sharpened by an undergraduate degree from Tufts, a law degree from Boston College and thirty years of varied experience in law, the military and public office he confidently pushed ahead. He saw early on what we all saw; we all knew he could win.
The first time I heard Scott Brown speak, at that fundraiser in Hyannis, he laid out his battle plans and beliefs in short sentences, clear, calm language. First he addressed the message then being touted widely by the press, who usually spoke of the Kennedy Seat. His response, "My name is Scott Brown and I am not running for the Kennedy Seat. It is not the Kennedy Seat, it is the people's seat." Completing his statement on the shadow cast by the Kennedy dynasty over Massachusetts politics for more than five decades he said, "Today's Democrat party is not the party of JFK." When asked how he would deal with the health care bill then before Congress he said, "Well, first I would read the bill, the whole bill." He was in a room full of friends and everyone knew it, but he left behind a firmly committed, almost fanatic company of people determined to get him elected. That day in Hyannis well more than a hundred people gathered to hear someone about whom they knew little. Many were Republicans, some were Democrats but probably one third or more were independent voters. When Brown was done they were all his allies.
I heard many people say, from the earliest days of the campaign and once they had met and heard Brown, "This guy can win!" Somehow this remarkable political sea change managed to remain hidden from the polls until a mere few days before Brown's victory.
One of the best illustrations of the new senator from Massachusetts comes from a television appearance, one would think among friends, when Sean Hannity declared that he was a Reagan Republican and asked Brown to describe himself politically. Brown's answer was immediate and perfect, "I'm a Scott Brown Republican." Nice going, Sean.
Massachusetts politics have always been complex, from the Salem Witch trials to three consecutive Speakers of the House being indicted for criminal acts. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Daniel Webster, John F. Kennedy, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, and on and on...the Commonwealth has produced legions of remarkable public servants as well as James Michael Curly, legendary mayor of Boston who was elected to office while he was in jail for a mail fraud conviction. Staunchly Republican until the early twentieth century and then gradually more and more Democrat until that party dominated state politics, Massachusetts has endured Democrat control of its legislature for decades. It is usually a reliably Democrat state at election time. Still, the combined numbers of registered Democrats and Republicans total less than fifty percent of all registered voters. Massachusetts seems to be a hot bed of independence. Even with a Democrat holding every constitutional office in the state, with Democrats in all ten of its congressional seats and until Kennedy's death Democrats holding both senate seats, Massachusetts is more independent than partisan.
Scott Brown knew this and worked this aspect of Massachusetts politics perfectly. We in the campaign knew in early December that some polls were showing him clearly ahead of Coakley but the decision was made to hold those numbers out of public view. One reason for this was the belief that voters should follow a campaign, think about the issues and listen to the candidates rather than being massaged into supporting one candidate or the other by the perceived authority of polls. As it turns out this tactic also kept the pro-Coakley polls from catching on to the fact that Brown was marching to victory.
The next HUBPAGE about the Brown/Coakley campaign will tell the story of a night on the town with the boys from Boston and Scott brown, in the snow and in the pubs.
Copyright By Peter A. Kenney