Brown's Rare Chance At A Senate 'Do-Over'

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On Capitol Hill on Thursday, Elizabeth Warren will be sworn in as a U.S. senator. Within days, though, the Cambridge Democrat could become the state’s senior senator. That’s because 28-year incumbent Sen. John Kerry is expected to be confirmed soon as U.S. secretary of state.

And soon replacing him could be the very U.S. senator that Warren unseated: Scott Brown. The Wrentham Republican now has a rare chance to get right back on the horse that bucked him off.

"Do-overs in the space of a couple of months are rare," said Tufts University political scientist Jeffrey Berry. Berry says it’s clear that Brown is well aware of his unique opportunity.

Sen. Scott Brown, during his Election Night concession speech (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)
Sen. Scott Brown, during his Election Night concession speech (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

To wit: Brown’s concession speech from Election Night. He had just lost a contentious Senate race against Warren, the most expensive in American history. But Brown was extremely gracious and almost shrugged off the loss as a bump in the road.

"There are no obstacles you can’t overcome, and defeat is only temporary," Brown said to a crescendo of applause.

He repeated that refrain in his farewell speech from the Senate floor last month. "Fare-thee-well?" Not really. The speech sounded more like he was saying: "Goodbye for now."

"Defeat is temporary," Brown told his audience in the chamber. "You know, depending on what happens and where we go — all of us — we may obviously meet again."

And those senators do have some say over whether they may meet Brown again. If they confirm Kerry to become secretary of state, as expected, Kerry’s vacant Senate seat would be filled in a special election, probably in June.

Berry says Brown just finished a campaign and still has an organization in place and some campaign money left over. Berry says Brown is the automatic front-runner. A recent WBUR poll found Brown leading strongly in hypothetical match-ups against several Massachusetts Democrats.

"The Republican Party in Massachusetts has no one else," Berry said, "literally no one else that can run a competitive race against whoever the Democrats nominate. So it’s Scott Brown or bust."

And Massachusetts Democrats want to make it a bust. They were caught by surprise three years ago when Brown came from nowhere to win Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat. State party Chairman John Walsh says state Democrats won’t be embarrassed again.

"We spent about a year and a half trying to make sure Scott Brown didn’t continue in the Senate," Walsh said. "Nobody’s interested in sending him down there to negate Elizabeth Warren’s votes. We’ll be ready."

So far, the lone Democrat to say he’s running is U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, of Malden. And key state Democrats, including Kerry, are lining up behind Markey. They want to avoid a bruising primary, when the winner would have only six weeks after that to wage a general election campaign.

But U.S. Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch are also seriously considering running. So is state Sen. Ben Downing. U.S. Rep. James McGovern is not, but he says an open Senate seat is a rare opportunity for ambitious Democrats, and he expects Markey won’t be alone.

"Look, in a perfect world, it’d be nice if there was one candidate," McGovern said. "But the notion that somebody’s going to clear the field, I’m not sure that’s realistic."

While the Democratic field takes shape amid pressure to coalesce around one candidate, Republican Brown can sit back and watch how things play out. He hasn’t said whether he’s running. Even so, Tufts' Berry says Brown would have to have a compelling reason not to take another crack with this rare chance at a do-over.

"Scott Brown is going to have as much money as he needs," Berry said. "This is an opportunity for the national Republican Party to bloody the nose of Barack Obama. And they’re not going to let this opportunity pass by. And it’s all the sweeter if it comes from Massachusetts, which is a very, very blue state."

If Scott Brown does run, it would be his third U.S. Senate race within four years.

This segment aired on January 2, 2013.

Curt Nickisch Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.



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