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To anyone who asks him how his campaign is going, Sen. Scott Brown says he hasn’t started it yet and won’t until the spring.
"Listen, I'm out doing my job," Brown told WBUR recently at a silicon technology plant in New Bedford. "People may be in campaign mode, they think the election is tomorrow — it isn't until a year from now. And I'm going to continue to do the one thing that people sent me to do — my job."
But Todd Domke, a Republican analyst, counters that "Brown is not campaigning the same way Barack Obama is not campaigning. They are campaigning by saying they are not campaigning."
Domke notes that Brown has a $10 million campaign war chest, and it wouldn't be wise to wait to start spending it, especially as momentum grows for his strongest Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren. And Brown's record is already under attack in a widely seen television ad, paid for by the League of Conservation Voters.
In a counter Web video, Brown says the ad distorts his environmental record and that he supports eliminating tax breaks for Big Oil if it results in lower rates for everyone else.
Brown's campaign office* has also released two videos this fall that look and sound like campaign ads. In one, he’s in Gloucester talking about fishing regulations that are strangling the industry while patriotic music plays in the background.
"The job losses are accelerating, the Washington bureaucrats are not listening, they are out of touch," Brown says in the video.
His focus, campaign aides say, is jobs. And that's how he's been spending his time in Massachusetts, speaking at chamber of commerce breakfasts and visiting companies that create jobs.
On a recent visit to a silicon wafer refurbishing plant in New Bedford, Brown wears his barn jacket — which is a little more worn that it was two years ago — over his Washington black suit and tie. Although this is billed as a Senate visit, his wife, Gail Huff, comes along and they both don hair nets and plastic booties to enter the factory. When Brown helps his wife fit the blue plastic over her black stilettos, he asks, "When does she turn into the princess?" The bankers and businessmen laugh. She replies, "I already am."
This factory is able to expand and add jobs because of the New Market Tax Credit, a program that attracts investments to low-income communities. Brown recently co-sponsored an extension of the program. "It's a no-brainer," he said, "these types of programs you can get low-interest money into the hands of young entrepreneurs to create jobs in a region that needs jobs. It just makes total sense."
He still has his regular guy persona, telling workers to bang it out, and teasing his wife about eating cream puffs at the event. It's this Average Joe image that helped him win the special election to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. The big difference between this race and the last time he ran and won, says Democratic analyst Michael Goldman, is that he's no longer a blank slate.
"They built an image and when he comes back he tries to reinforce that image," Goldman said. "'I'm just the same guy I was before.' The truth is he's not. [Now] it's not, 'Gee jolly gee, I'm Scott Brown.' It's Scott Brown with a record on the environment and on health care and on jobs."
According to Open Congress, a nonpartisan vote tracking group, Brown has voted with the Republican Party 77 percent of the time. Brown went to Washington saying he would be an independent voice — "a Scott Brown Republican." His re-election may hinge on whether voters in Massachusetts have liked how that promise has played out on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday morning, we'll have a look at Warren's early days on the campaign trail.
Correction: An earlier version of this report stated that Brown's Senate office released the two videos. It was his campaign office that released the videos.
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