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Scott Brown Says Dumb Things

June 22, 2012

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown says dumb things.  He hasn’t met with “kings and queens”.  He never saw classified photographs that proved Osama bin Laden was “definitely dead”.  The failed Blunt Amendment did allow employers to deny health care coverage based on their own “moral convictions” (whatever they may be).

He says them often enough that it could become a major issue in his re-election campaign, as witness today’s column by the even-handed Brian McGrory:

“Be worried about Senator Brown. Be very worried. It looks like he’s becoming delusional, starting to believe — and worse, trying to convince others — that he’s far more important than any junior senator has ever been…[snip]…

But time and again, there are hints of inauthenticity about Brown. He plays the Everyman card while raising buckets of money in New York. He describes his role in the body politic that doesn’t gel with reality. He campaigns as a sitting senator on issues and attributes irrelevant to the job.

Voters know what’s real. The question will come into sharper focus in the coming months: Does Scott Brown?”

This is dangerous territory for whip-smart Democratic challenger (and Harvard professor) Elizabeth Warren for several reasons:

  1. Brown’s no dummy.  He graduated with honors from Tufts, and got his law degree at Boston College.  His immediate and devastating takedown of moderator David Gergen (” “With all due respect, it’s not the Kennedy’s seat, it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat.”) during a debate two years ago was the defining moment of that Senate campaign and as savvy a debate point as any candidate could hope to make.
  2. Brown has a powerful and appealing personal story.  Survivor of sexual abuse (by a camp counselor) and physical abuse (by stepfathers), on the verge of going to jail as an adolescent, he turned his life around (with the help of an understanding judge) and is the embodiment of the American Dream (or at least one particular hunky-guy-married-to-a-gorgeous-and-intelligent-woman-with-two-beautiful-daughters-living-in-the-suburbs version of it).
  3. Voters don’t like candidates who use their intelligence as a weapon to prove they’re smarter and/or better than the average person…or even their opponent.  Bill Clinton was masterful at this.  He was a Rhodes scholar, but never let voters get the sense that he thought his intelligence made him somehow better than them…or George H. W. Bush, or Bob Dole, or Newt Gingrich.
  4. Warren’s a woman.  It may be that “a man of quality is not threatened by a woman of equality”, but there are plenty of men who feel threatened by or angered at a woman who’s smarter than they are…and who uses her intelligence against them.

The challenge for Warren and her campaign will be to take advantage of Brown’s verbal and mental mistakes (and there will be more) without giving the impression that she’s more interested in scoring points against him in a classroom debate than she is in representing the interests of middle-class families.

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