Scott Brown’s light (and late) footprint in the Mass. Senate race

June 21, 2013

For weeks, he has been likened to Scott Brown. Next week, the day before a special Senate election in which he is an underdog against Rep. Ed Markey (D), Gabriel Gomez (R) will get campaign support from the former Republican senator in the flesh -- for the first time.

(Michael Dwyer/AP)
Scott Brown is set to appear with Gabriel Gomez next week. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

The fact that Brown will not make an appearance with the former Navy SEAL until literally the final day of the campaign is very notable. While Democrats like to beat up on Brown, he is still the buzziest and most popular Republican in Massachusetts.

What gives?

It's unclear whether his limited stumping for Gomez has been Brown's choice, the Gomez campaign's or both. But Brown says he's done everything he's been asked to do, which suggests that his campaign schedule has been the Gomez camp's preference.

"Listen, I have obligations, obviously. I'm with Fox [News] now," Brown said in a Wednesday interview with State House News Service. "And I'm obviously here at Nixon Peabody, so I do have obligations, and when I can do things, I'm happy to. But they have a different strategy, trying to do it and be his own person, and you know, show off what his credentials are and do it on their own."

Gomez aides say that featuring Brown on the eve of the election will help the candidate at a critical moment. "Why does Coca-Cola advertise on the front of vending machines? Put a strong pitch at the point of purchase," said Gomez campaign consultant Curt Anderson. "This is a big deal at a big time."

Gomez spokesman Will Ritter noted that Brown has helped the candidate in a variety of ways, including penning a fundraising letter for him and speaking with him over the phone.

"He has helped us raise money and been very helpful behind the scenes," Ritter said.

But fundraising notes are one thing; appearances on the stump are quite another. And when candidates pick up speed in the closing stages of a race, we typically see top surrogates and donors swoop in with a major presence well before the final day. We just haven't seen that in Massachusetts, especially with Brown.

One possible reason: The Gomez campaign simply wanted to make the race about Gomez, not Brown. Featuring Brown too prominently carries the risk of overshadowing Gomez's own story.

Another: Markey's consistent advantage over Gomez means it wasn't in the cards. No matter the relationship, both Brown and the Gomez camp would likely have seen the advantage of working together if Gomez had been seriously closing in on an upset.

And, absent a real surge, asking Brown to play a big role for Gomez was asking a lot. Brown has his own brand to look after. The Fox News contributor hasn't ruled out running for office in the future, possibly for governor or the Senate in 2014. (He has also toyed with the idea of running for Senate in neighboring New Hampshire.) Associating himself too closely with a campaign likely to lose on Tuesday isn't exactly ideal for Brown.

If Brown had not appeared at all for Gomez, the campaign and former senator would likely have faced a flurry of questions. By appearing together Monday night at a rally in Quincy, as first reported by the Boston Globe, they've covered themselves to an extent.

This much is clear: The political world will have to wait for another election to find the next Scott Brown. It simply hasn't happened in this one, for a number of reasons, some of which are not Gomez's fault. And when the two Republicans take the stage together on Monday, the differences may stand out more than the similarities.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · June 21, 2013