Now comes the hard part: winning re-election. The seat, formerly held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, comes up for re-election in 2012. That will be a Presidential year, and the Democrats will come out full-throttle to re-elect President Barack Obama. Republicans will likely pick up Congressional seats and might even win control of the U.S. Congress in 2010. This will fire up the Democratic base that will view the Republicans as obstacles to effectuating the Obama agenda.
In 1991, after the death of the popular Republican Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz, his appointed successor, Democrat Harris Wofford, pulled off a similar upset, erasing a double-digit lead and defeating Republican Richard Thornburg in a Special election to fill the remainder of the term. The election sent shockwaves throughout the nation. However, Wofford’s hold on the seat was tenuous, and he could not overcome a Republican tide in 1994, and lost re-election to Republican Rick Santorum. Santorum successfully tied Wofford to the unpopular national Democratic Party and rode a Republican headwind to victory.
For Brown to avoid becoming a “one-election wonder,” he must prove that he is indeed an independent voice. While staying true to the issues which got him elected, including opposition to the Democrats Health Insurance Reform Plan, and working to cut taxes, Brown must be careful not to be portrayed as the champion of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. He should shun invitations to speak to national Republican groups, avoid endorsing a candidate for President in 2012, or attend the Republican National convention.
While Massachusetts-style independent-minded Republicans like Governors Christian Herter, John Volpe, and William Weld are able to get elected and re-elected in Massachusetts, the state has an allergic reaction to national Republican leaders. In fact, at the Presidential level, in the last 11 Presidential elections, Massachusetts has given Democratic Presidential nominees the highest share of the vote of any other state. No “Conservative” Republican has been re-elected to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts since Henry Cabot Lodge Sr. in 1918.
For Brown to survive what could be a political tailwind against Congressional Republicans in 2012, he must exhibit independence from the GOP leadership. He must actuate his campaign pledge and be “An Independent Voice.” He should take a lesson from former Massachusetts U.S. Senators Leverett A. Saltonstall and Ed Brooke, both who won re-election by working across party lines and keeping their distance from the ideological wing of their party. Additionally, Brown must find an issue on which to challenge his party’s leadership and highlight it as an example of his independence to voters in 2012.
To win re-election, Brown must have a lazar-like focus on non-ideological constituent-centered local issues. He must work feverishly to make sure every constituent who needs help maneuvering through the federal bureaucracy is helped. He must make certain every phone call is returned, and every letter responded to. No matter what one’s political affiliation, if a U.S. Senator puts on a full-court-press to help their constituents, the constituents are likely to be grateful to their elected official for the help and may reward them at the ballot box come election day. In addition, Brown should hold as many town-hall meetings as possible, and make an extra effort to visit parts of the state which feel forgotten by Commonwealth politicians, like the South Coast and Western part of the state.
Furthermore, to show that he is not a rogue partisan, Brown must find local issues where he can work with other members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation. He should work with Congressman John Tierney on preserving jobs at the General Electrics River works Facility in Lynn, with Congressman John Oliver to boost tourism in the Berkshires, and with Congressman Barney Frank on saving the endangered fishing industry in New Bedford.
Brown has earned a place in the history books by winning an election few thought was possible. He did it by running as an “independent voice.” Going forward, Democrats will try to depict Brown as a right-wing ideologue beholden to the leadership of the national Republican Party. To prove that his election was not an aberration, Brown must work to dispel this narrative. Now we shall see if his vaunted political skills have political staying power.
Please visit and join www.politicsdmz.ning.com