In today’s Lowell Sun, there’s an article about Rep. Dave Nangle (D-Lowell) endorsing Scott Brown’s reelection campaign. The link to the article is here:
Nangle is representative of the conservative Democrats, particularly in regions like the Merrimack Valley, whose support Scott Brown needs to win this election. In that sense, I’m quite pleased that Brown won his support. But there’s something further down in the article that gave me pause. The line that drew my attention was this:
“Brown returned the favor, endorsing Nangle, who faces a challenge from Lowell Republican Martin Burke.”
Now, let’s be realistic about this. Burke isn’t going to defeat Dave Nangle regardless of what Scott Brown says. He’s underfunded, has no prior political experience, and is running against an entrenched incumbent in a district that’s not particularly friendly to Republicans anyhow. If Brown’s endorsement of Nangle was a quid pro quo (I’ll endorse you if you endorse me), I don’t doubt that Republicans got the better end of the bargain.
Even so, this raises once again the philosophical question of whether it’s ever acceptable for Republican officials to endorse Democrats. In some ways, Brown’s statement is worse than what Bruce Tarr did by declining to say he endorsed Karin Rhoton because David Torrisi was a colleague. Then again, the 14th Essex is a far more competitive race than the 17th Middlesex and Tarr (running unopposed) wasn’t getting anything in exchange (assuming, again, that Nangle’s endorsement of Brown was contingent on Brown endorsing Nangle).
I can envision circumstances in which it’s reasonable to withhold endorsements from a Republican nominee – if they have personal ethical problems, for example, or if they hold policy positions radically out of the mainstream of American political thought. But I don’t think either of those things is true of Martin Burke (I don’t know the man personally and have seen only a minimal “campaign” on his behalf). Moreover, by backing Dave Nangle this cycle, Scott Brown has made it less likely that Republicans will be able to recruit stronger candidates against Nangle in the future.
Pragmatically, it’s definitely the right call for Scott Brown to maximize his chances of victory by doing whatever he can to secure the support of a conservative Democrat. Philosophically, though, I’m unhappy that, in so doing, he’s abandoned a Republican candidate. That’s certainly not something any Republican official should do lightly, especially not the most popular Republican in the state.