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What If Scott Brown Loses?

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown speaks during a campaign event in Milford on Thursday. (Steven Senne/AP)

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown speaks during a campaign event in Milford on Thursday. (Steven Senne/AP)

The polls are a bit discouraging for Sen. Scott Brown. An average of recent polls has him running behind Elizabeth Warren by 4-5 points.

That’s not a big margin, but a poll of the presidential contest in Massachusetts reveals the larger problem for Brown: The Suffolk poll has President Obama beating Mitt Romney 63-31. It’s no wonder that Warren has stapled herself to the president’s coattails.

Ordinarily, in a presidential race you’d assume that undecided voters would opt for the challenger since they already know the incumbent and apparently don’t support him. But in this state, voters are familiar with the challenger. The former governor can’t be called a “favorite son” if only 31 percent favor him. He is more like an un-favorite son-in-law. There will be many ticket-splitters, but if Obama wins 66 percent, Brown would need 1 of 4 Obama voters to prevail. That could happen in a parallel universe, but it’s unlikely here.

This is not a pre-mortem. Brown could still win. It’s not as if either candidate has obvious momentum for the final weekend.

But what if Brown loses? How will that be explained and what will be the consequences?

Both candidates spent a lot of money on ads, but it was news coverage and debates that seemed to have more impact. When there is such polarization in the electorate — with both camps resenting and demonizing the other — money can’t buy you love.

Brown lost some of his likability by being aggressive in debates and ads. He took a risk that he could force Warren to make mistakes that he’d then exploit in new TV spots. Instead, Warren increasingly put him on the defensive on issues like which party should control the Senate, certain social issues and his support of Romney.

Ironically, Brown made the same mistake that Obama made: They caricatured their opponents as con artists… but when the challengers showed up for debate and instead seemed mild-mannered and well-intentioned, the challengers won new support and bounced up in the polls.

It’s very difficult for a Republican to win statewide in Massachusetts. And in 40 years, only three Republicans have won reelection statewide — Gov. Bill Weld, Gov. Paul Cellucci and Treasurer Joe Malone.

To win statewide, it’s not enough for Republicans to be good leaders and run effective campaigns. They also need weak Democratic opponents to run bad campaigns.

Brown won his special U.S. Senate race because it was a “perfect storm” — a confluence of opponent gaffes and boiling issues in an anti-politics climate. But now, again ironically, it might have been a storm that cost him reelection. Hurricane Sandy, and the president’s response to it, stopped Romney’s momentum and made Obama’s coattails a bit longer.

If Romney loses the presidential race, there will be much finger-pointing in the GOP. Mittites will blame N.J. Gov. Chris Christie for making Obama seem more bipartisan and presidential. Christie supporters will blame Romney for being too conservative during the primaries. Conservatives will blame Romney for being too moderate and timid in the general. And Ann Romney will blame all of them for being insufficiently appreciative of her husband.

That probably would be the end of Romney’s political career. But what if Brown loses?

When Romney had momentum a week ago, one might have guessed that if Brown lost this Senate race he would be appointed to a high position in a Romney administration. Weld wanted to be ambassador to Mexico, and Cellucci served as ambassador to Canada. Perhaps Brown would like to be the ambassador to Bermuda.

Earlier, I speculated about the possibility that Sen. John Kerry might succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of State, and then there would be a special election for his Senate seat. If Brown loses this bid, he would be the most formidable Republican candidate. And he’d probably have enough money left over from this campaign to be the presumed favorite.

But here’s another possibility: If Scott Brown loses, he might run for governor in 2014.

Who would the Democrats nominate for governor? It’s so obvious, isn’t it? The popular state attorney general, Martha Coakley.

I hope that didn’t give you déjà vu. In Massachusetts politics, that happens a lot.

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