January 20, 2010

Brown wins Blue State. How?

Republican Scott Brown woke up this morning as the yet-to-be-certified, Senator-elect for the very liberal state of Massachusetts (or MassachusettEs if you are in the Coakley campaign). How did this happen?

It's not really rocket science trying to figure this one out. There were a number of important factors:
  • Likability
  • A stale fish opponent
  • A gaffe-prone opponent
  • An opponent with an air of entitlement
  • Anti-Obama sentiment
  • Anti-Washington sentiment 
  • Anti-one-party-rule sentiment 
  • Unrelenting hard work by Brown
  • High unemployment
  • High government debt
  • Brown's promise to be the 41st vote against yet more government spending and intrusion
The list could go on.  But even all that combined did not represent a perfect storm.  It was not enough to accomplish a Republican victory in very liberal Massachusetts. This is a Madonna state - True Blue. (Sorry). There had to be something else.  What were the other factors that drove this?  It's actually not rocket science either.  There are two factors that always, ALWAYS play an important part in politics - money and enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm can be attributed to the factors above.  It's pretty easy to see why the Republican base, a paltry 13% of the electorate in the state, were fired up.  But given the 3 to 1 margin of Democrat registered voters over Republicans, that's not enough.  Independents voted for Brown by a 3 to 1 margin.  They were clearly fired up too.  Even 20% of Democrats broke for Brown.  That's astonishing.  I haven't yet seen the final turnout numbers but for a special election I'm sure the turnout percentage is going to be quite high.  The enthusiasm clearly grew as Brown's late surge kicked in.  Momentum clearly played a key role in the current political and economic environment.

Enthusiam also existed outside of the state.  Conservatives across the nation and even outside of the country volunteered to help.  I personally made GOTV (get out the vote) calls for Scott Brown.  And that enthusiasm helped in the microcosm of Massachusetts.  It doesn't take just money or just hard work it takes both.  This campaign proved that a concentrated effort by grassroots volunteers can perform miracles.  It's something the left has always known and conservatives are just beginning to learn.

The other factor tied into enthusiasm is money.  The moneybomb for Scott Brown leading up to the election raised over one million dollars in one day. That doesn't come without enthusiasm.  But more importantly, when Coakley started going negative, Brown didn't panic, he didn't go negative back.  he stuck to his game plan and he had funds to do things like continue with GOTV and I'm sure other phone bank messages.  not only that, having a financial stockpile helped his advertising and his ground game in the final days fend off the negative push by Coakley.  You can't win without money.

The money came from everywhere across the nation.  I personally couldn't contribute as I'm Canadian - I could only volunteer my time. (Any liberals reading that, I assume you also want the U.S. relief effort in Haiti to stop, on principle).  There's two important lessons to be taken from that that hopefully Republicans notice and Democrats miss (which I suspect they will).

(1)  Republicans have taken their value of rugged individualism communal.  That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but it really isn't.  It simply means that they now better understand that to protect individual liberty, the fight has to be fought as a group.  co-ordination is not the enemy of conservatism.  Political activism is not the enemy of conservatism.  Both are tools - both a means to an end.  The good news is that Republicans seem to get that.

(2)  Whether it's money or effort, it's clear that Republicans are not in the midst of a purge of moderates as the mainstream media would have you believe.  I'm sure if Brown were running in Texas, he could very well be on the Democratic side of the aisle.  Conservatives of all stripes have understood the common conservative good and reacted accordingly.  Conservatives do exist across a spectrum just like liberal Democrats and conservative Democrats exist across a spectrum.  To think otherwise, liberals are deluding themselves.  Yet while conservatives can be flexible as needed, they are not so flexible as to be forgiving of the likes of an Olympia Snowe who cannot bring themselves to a position of party solidarity because of their own electorate.  Conservatives needn't fall on their swords for a greater party good, but that communal effort is not a one way street.  Liberal Republicans need to toe the party line at certain times just as often as conservative Republicans have bent in the past.  It's especially true now, given Brown's win in a blue state.

Repblicans appear to have learned at least one lesson (if they even ever didn't understand it in the first place).  Democrats on the other hand may be deluding themselves into a rose-colored glasses view of 2010.  That suits conservatives just fine.  The interesting thing will be how the Democrats are going to react to this turn of events.  I'll save that for a subsequent post.

PARTING SHOT: I didn't see much of Mitt Romney during the campaign - I assumed it was to take the focus off of Romneycare and Brown's support of it, given his distinct position of opposing Obamacare.  I found it surprising that Romney was prominent on the eve of Brown's victory, and specifically thanked in Brown's gracious acceptance speech.  Is it possible that Romney was deeply involved in Brown's campaign in an advisory role?  That would prove to be a big positive for him in a 2012 Presidential run - the ability to help design a win against seemingly impossible odds.  Regardless of the economic and political climate in 2012, a miracle win season under his belt in 2010 is a card in Romney's hand during the GOP primaries.  If on the other hand it turns out that Romney was doing a bit of bandwagon jumping, it could easily be turned against him.  That part of the Brown victory, like the future Obamacare, has yet to play out.

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