President Obama came to Massachusetts today in a last-minute effort to preserve his party’s filibuster proof majority in the Senate. He did so at a rally on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston that featured the Massachusettls political establishment. Scott Brown countered with a rally in Worcester that featured Massachusetts sports legends Curt Schillling and Doug Flutie.
I didn’t watch the dueling rallies, but this report by Politico leaves the impression that Brown may well have won the duel and that if Martha Coakley needed a big day, she probably came up short.
Politico’s account has Scott Brown driving home a straightforward message, the same one that’s been behind his remarkable surge:
Brown took the stage at his own capacity rally in Worcester and surrounded himself with a group of New England underdogs to underline his theme as a political insurgent taking on a Democratic “machine.”
“This Senate seat does not belong to no one person and no one political party – it belongs to the people of Massachusetts,” Brown said, repeating what has become the message of his campaign since a debate last Monday when he was asked about “the Kennedy seat.”
Promising independence at a time when voters are increasingly disgusted at the political establishment, Brown said: “I will be nobody’s senator but yours.”
By contrast, Obama and the Massachusetts establishment appeared before “a college heavy crowd” to engage in what sounds like hand-wringing over the fact that, now that they are in power, they can no longer pose as outsiders.
Obama and a parade of Democrats who appeared on stage before a crowd a local fire official put at 1,100 at Northeastern’s modest gymnasium spent much of their time trying to explain to the audience, and to themselves, how they had lost their grip on the public “anger” – a word that has replaced “hope” as the emotion Democrats are trying to channel.
“The people of Massachusetts are angry, like they should be,” said Rep. Michael Capuano, a fiery Boston-area liberal who lost in the Democratic primary while running a different, more combative campaign that many local party officials now wish Coakley had run.
“They need to focus that anger in the right direction” – at “the people who put us in this position,” Capuano said.
Obama offered his own analysis of the voters’ anger.
“There were going to be some who stood on the sidelines, who were protectors of the big banks, protectors of the big insurance companies, protectors of the big drug companies who were going to say, ‘You know what, we can take advantage of this crisis,'” he told the crowd.
When the Dems find themselves explaining to a friendly “college heavy crowd” that folks shouldn’t be angy at them, they could be in trouble. A campaign rally for an embattled Senatorial candidate seems like the wrong venue for Obama and company to be asking “why do they hate us.” Nor will many undecided voters be impressed by an answer that does not include the Dems’ efforts to ram through Congress an unpopular health care plan.
Obama did attack Brown, but not very powerfully:
Obama also aimed to sow doubts about the likeable Brown, who has flummoxed Democrats with a regular-guy image underscored by a commercial that features him driving his GMC pickup truck.
“He’s driving his truck around the Commonwealth, and he says that, you know he gets you, he fights for you, that he’ll be an independent voice,” said Obama.
“Well, you’ve got to look under the hood, because what you learn makes you wonder,” Obama said. “When you listen closely to what he’s been saying, it’s very clear that he’s going to do exactly the same thing in Washington. So look, forget the ads, everybody can run slick ads. Forget the truck. Everybody can buy a truck.”
It’s not clear what Obama gains by reminding voters of Brown’s message — that he’s a man of the people who promises independence.
Obama hit Brown on one issue:
Obama also attacked Brown for opposing his proposed fee on big banks, a populist strand that the White House and its allies began driving in earnest late last week.
“Martha’s opponent is already walking in lockstep with Washington Republicans opposing that fee and defending the same fat cats who are being rewarded for their failure,” Obama said.
Not a bad shot, but probably not worth a trip to Boston to deliver.
The bottom line, I think, is that today’s events did nothing to stem the tide in favor of Brown among independents, who make up more than half of the Massachusetts electorate. If anything, the gathering of Massachusetts pols would have reinforced the view that Brown is the best choice for independent voters.
Any headway Obama may have made on Coakley’s behalf would consist of increasing turnout among the faithful, especially those who might otherwise be unlikely to show up on election day. But can one appearance in a college gym accomplish this to any appreciable extent?