Home | Opinion | Columnists | Markos Moulitas

Scott Brown’s blunder

Sen. Scott Brown (R) sealed his reelection loss in Massachusetts during his second debate against Democrat Elizabeth Warren. In fact, we can pinpoint the exact moment:
Asked by moderator David Gregory to name his “model” Supreme Court justice, Brown visibly flailed for an answer. He was silent for six seconds, then bought himself another four by mumbling out a “Let me see, here. That’s a great question ... ” before finally settling with, “I think Justice Scalia is a very good judge.”

It was exactly the wrong answer for a Massachusetts debate, akin to a Democrat singing the praises of Earl Warren in Alabama. The crowd immediately burst into boos while (Elizabeth) Warren immediately covered her face to mask her amusement.

ADVERTISEMENT
Already lagging in the polls, Brown has seen his Democratic opponent increase her lead to 49.1 percent to his 44.6, according to the Talking Points Memo aggregate of polls.

Brown’s “Scalia” moment isn’t the first time Republicans have forgotten what state they’re running in. From day one, they’ve insisted on referring to Warren as “Professor Warren,” as if voters would recoil from her academic background. Granted, conservatives are naturally hostile to education and knowledge, and attacking academia likely pays dividends in their Southern strongholds. But Massachusetts is the proud home of 121 institutions of higher education, including some of the world’s most prestigious, like Harvard and MIT.

A poll last week by Public Policy Polling found that 57 percent of Bay State voters have a favorable opinion of college professors, compared to just 19 percent who don’t. Sure, very conservative Massachusetts voters give them a 22/56 favorability rating, but in Massachusetts that gets Brown and his Republican friends about 7 percent of the vote.

Thus, every time a Republican press release or commercial mentioned “Professor Warren,” and every one of the dozens of times Brown used that phrase in the debates, it reinforced a positive Warren attribute. Meanwhile, incessant and nonsensical GOP attacks on Warren’s Native American heritage have done little to stanch Brown’s bleeding. If anything, they have fueled it.

In the final stretch, Brown can no longer rely on the monetary advantage he once boasted. Warren raised a whopping $12.1 million in the third quarter, 82 percent in donations of $50 or less — further evidence of a high-volume grassroots spigot that can remain turned on through Election Day. Brown lagged with just $7 million raised, and as of mid-August, only 15 percent of Brown’s money came from donors giving less than $200.

There’s little to suggest that any other candidate would’ve presented Brown with as strong a challenge as Warren. Indeed, most of the state’s Democratic heavy hitters swore off the race, afraid of Brown’s personal popularity and his war chest. Thus, the irony on election night won’t be just how many tens of millions of dollars GOP donors and organizations wasted in Massachusetts, rather than devoting it to more favorable terrain, but how Republicans could’ve kept Warren out of the race by simply confirming her as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Heading the bureau she created was always her first choice. By blocking her, they forced her into a Plan B that will haunt them for far longer — by costing them a chance at the Senate majority, while installing a fierce consumer advocate populist in a seat she’ll likely hold for a long, long time.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)