I want to underscore the point that was made a few days ago by my good friend VTPN when he cautioned Mitt Romney about what to expect from President Barack Obama in the next two presidential debates that remain before Election Day:
The remaining debates will be different. Obama will be back in his comfort zone as he will get to talk more about abortion and healthcare, and women’s rights. He will play a stronger second debate as a ‘comeback’ kid moment and he will be the underdog. It is a risky strategy, but if executed properly an effective strategy. People like to root for comeback kids and Obama will play up that image for the next two weeks. He will get to talk about ‘how he got beat, but he is not giving up and neither should the voters’. People’s perception of Obama will be sympathetic from now until the next debate.
Here in Massachusetts the same situation holds true but with a caveat. Scott Brown is perceived to be more “likable” & “approachable” than his rival Elizabeth Warren. But unlike Obama or Romney on the presidential level, Brown hasn’t articulated a vision to Massachusetts voters beyond the rote talking point that his bipartisan approach in solving problems on Capitol Hill merits his re-election. Warren’s vision is typically that of the New Left variety & while it excites her base it also forces certain segments of the Old Left to embrace Brown. Brown may feel the results of these endorsements justify his current campaign strategy. I argue that they do not. Massachusetts voters pride themselves on having elected officials who can not only bring home buckets of cash from Washington but who can also be viewed as significant players in politics on the state, national, & international level. Brown decided not to participate in this year’s GOP convention; Warren was introduced as a key speaker in her party’s convention because her party is pushing her as a rising star. Unenrolled voters will pick up on this perception too. I think that’s one reason (out of many) why the Bay State’s US Senate race is so close.
Brown needs to articulate a vision that is neither Democrat Lite nor Libertarian Lite; it needs to be a vision of a Republican Party that can not only flourish in the Bluest of Blue States but one that can thrive (& even create the foundation for transforming the pigmentation of Massachusetts from blue to red). If he loses, he’ll have no one to blame but himself.
The same tactic should also be embraced by the GOP’s congressional candidates who have the best chance of winning their respective races – notably Sean Bielat, Jon Golnik, & Richard Tisei. While Tisei in particular seems to have the best shot at unseating a Democrat incumbent, he seems to be mindful that said incumbent – John Tierney – will resort to every single dirty trick in the book to cling onto power. He’s contrasted his past achievements against Tierney’s lack of same & Tisei has argued he represents a different kind of Republicanism that is more in tune with the sentiments of Massachusetts voters.
NOTE: Longtime RMG readers know I have no love for Tisei given his failure as a GOP leader to build up the Republican Party in Massachusetts. But I’ve never been given any reason to doubt his integrity as a person & I do hope he triumphs over Tierney, a sleazy hack who embodies the worst perceptions of the Democrat Party as a corrupt & criminal enterprise.
With a month left to campaign, Romney, Brown, Bielat, Golnik, & Tisei need to steel themselves from the expected Democrat push-back against their respective campaigns. If they articulate a vision of how they see the world & what they’ll do to make it better, they’ll win. If they fail to offer a compelling vision that attracts support/votes from Republicans, Democrats, & unenrolleds, then they’ll fail. These Republican candidates are on a rendezvous with political reality. Let’s all hope most if not all of them survive the encounter.