Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It was the Best of Times...

Democrats (and the chattering class) have been, to quote the President, in a "tizzy" since last Tuesday, when Martha Coakley's faltering campaign was put out of its misery by Scott Brown. But while the White House re-calibrates in advance of tomorrow's State of the Union, it is not clear that the Scott Brown victory is uniformly good news for the GOP.

According to a poll conducted shortly after the special election(*), seventy percent of Brown voters were voting "for" Brown, rather than "against" Coakley (25%); in contrast, Coakley's voters were 57% for her/40% against Brown. In the aftermath of the election, Brown voters overwhelmingly (75%) want Brown to get some Republican ideas into Democratic legislation, rather than merely work to stop the Democratic agenda (19%), although when talking about health care reform in particular Brown voters were more willing to have Brown work to 'stop' the Dems (48-50).

(*-There were no exit polls conducted for the Special Election)

Brown famously ran without party identity, and instead linked himself directly to JFK in his first TV ad. Although he campaigned as the "41st vote", he did not have the word "Republican" on his ads (including the JFK ad) or signs. In short, he branded himself as a "Scott Brown Republican," with the implication that he would be independent and moderate.

So Brown's victory should be a road map for other Republicans in this election year?

Well, maybe.

While Brown campaigned (and frankly, legislated) as a moderate, the GOP seems to still be in the throes of a ritual purification: only the most conservative candidates will be acceptable in GOP primaries and caucuses.

To wit:

* Arlen Specter, facing a conservative challenge from Pat Toomey, left the GOP last year to give the Dems their short-lived 60th vote in the Senate.

* In upstate New York's 23rd Congressional District, conservative disaffection with moderate Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava, resulted in Scozzafava's withdrawal from the race shortly before the November special election, and a win for Democrat Bill Owens in a seat that had been Republican-controlled for close to a century.

* Finally, in Florida, Governor Charlie Crist's lead in the polls over conservative Marco Rubio has evaporated, with Rubio now up by 3 points.

If the true Scott Brown lesson is for Republicans to move to the center, it's not clear that the national GOP wants to hear it.

No comments: