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Scott Brown: The Walter Mitty Of The Senate?

July 14, 2012

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown lives an exciting life in which he’s a Very Important Person.  The latest example comes from a CNN interview earlier this week when, more or less unprompted, he said things like “Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton calls asking for my vote all the time.”

But, as Glen Johnson reported in the Boston Globe, “In reality, Brown’s staff says he has spoken by phone with Clinton just twice during his Senate career—most recently over a year ago on July 5, 2011.”

Last month Brown told local radio talk show hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan that he meets with “kings and queens”, which turned out to mean something like “people who work for kings and queens”.

The danger for Elizabeth Warren and her campaign is the temptation to overreact and to mock Brown.  The reason that’s a danger is that Brown is not an unlikable person for most voters.  And most voters aren’t going to punish a politician for what are, in the end, relatively minor exaggerations.  There are, however, many voters who will punish a candidate who appears to think s/he is smarter and better than the average person—and that’s a box Brown’s campaign would loved to put Warren in.

It’s not as extreme an example (because Brown isn’t as maladroit as Sarah Palin), but Warren would do well to remember Joe Biden’s performance in his debate against Palin four years ago.  Biden resisted the impulse to point out (repeatedly!) what an incompetent fool his debate opponent was.  Instead, he was largely successful in allowing Palin to expose her weaknesses herself, and then remind voters why he himself (and by extension Barack Obama) was a safer and better candidate to elect.

*Walter Mitty: a fictional character created by James Thurber; a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life

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