In 2012 they were opponents in a bruising Massachusetts Senate race. Now, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown embody the direction of their parties and their prospects for 2014.
Warren never met a candidate or a position she couldn’t get to the left of. Reform entitlements? Heck, no — attack the proponents as Wall Street shills! This is the embodiment of circle-the-wagons liberalism that sees no need to apologize for Obamacare and deems any budget discipline to be “austerity.” Warren offers the left wing a dream opponent (only a dream, I think) to the stodgy Hillary Clinton in 2016. She is the Ted Cruz of the Democratic Party, all fury and no realism. She is emblematic of the growing frustration with the White House and well aware its accomplishments are sparse. To true-believers, her denials about a 2016 run only make her more desirable. This is the Democratic Party of Ted Kennedy (whose seat and ethos, minus the law-making chops, she occupies), Howard Dean and the late Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone. It is not the party of Bill Clinton, Blue Dog Democrats and, for that reason, Senate majorities that depend on centrist, pro-business policies.
Her defeated opponent, Scott Brown, symbolizes the current pushback in the GOP against the real Ted Cruz and his ilk, against the shutdown squad mentality that send the party over the polling cliff and would prevent it from reaching the voters it needs for a Senate majority (socially more liberal, competitive in blue and purple states). As I noted earlier, he’s dropping hints of a Senate run from New Hampshire. A recent op-ed for Fox News suggests that is what he has in mind:
Many other Americans are experiencing fewer medical options as insurers restrict their choice of doctors and hospitals in order to keep costs low.
Some of the country’s top medical facilities are being excluded from the new exchange system, meaning patients who have been getting treatment from doctors they like all of a sudden find themselves out of luck. For example, in New Hampshire, only 16 of the state’s 26 hospitals are available on the federal exchange, meaning patients must either pay more to keep their current doctor or seek inferior care elsewhere. Neither is a good option. New Hampshire is not alone. Across the country, some of the best hospitals are not available on plans on the exchange, leaving patients with difficult choices and unwanted sometimes, life threatening decisions.
Rather than join with Republicans and immediately repeal this catastrophe before it gets any worse, Democrats are stubbornly digging in their heels.
I don’t suppose Brown’s choice of New Hampshire is accidental. This is the guy who ran and won in Massachusetts in a special election focused largely on Obamacare. Like so many other Republicans, he looks to ride the anti-Obamacare wave washing through the electorate. Like his party, he is looking to expand the map to a seat not usually mentioned in the top possible takeovers for the GOP.
The GOP needs to play in as many races as possible so as to maximize its shot at picking up six. With New Hampshire, signs of promise in Iowa (where Democrat Tom Harkin is retiring) and the usual list of seats that are either open or held by weak Democrats (e.g. South Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina), Republicans seem willing to embrace candidates such as Brown who don’t check all the conservative boxes.
Only a few months ago, the parties’ roles were reversed. Republicans were narrowing their appeal and playing to their base at the expense of a broader electorate. Now it’s the Democrats who are doing it. If that continues, Scott Brown and his party are likely to seize the Senate majority.