Democrats say Republican Sen. Scott Brown is their top 2012 target as they hope to flip his Massachusetts seat. But they have no clear favorite candidate to challenge him.
Democrats insist that Sen. Scott Brown’s seat is their top target heading into 2012. On the ground in Massachusetts, however, there has been much speculation, but no top-tier challengers have emerged to face the man who may be the nation’s most vulnerable Republican Senator.
Fear not, some Democrats say. It’s all part of the plan.
Democrats are pushing a story line suggesting that their chances of overtaking Brown will improve the longer they wait to identify a challenger. The absence of a top Democratic recruit, they say, allows labor unions and groups such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to intensify an aggressive campaign to define Brown, who has been largely popular among Bay State voters during his first 14 months in office.
“It’s not in our best interests to [have a challenger] this far out, just so that the Republicans can attack our candidate,” one Democratic strategist said.
Indeed, Democrats may be best served by focusing the Senate race on Brown, a Republican in a state where Democrats hold a 25-point voter registration advantage. And Brown, who has amassed a war chest of nearly $7.2 million, is facing the daunting task of earning his first full Senate term on a ballot that will be topped by President Barack Obama, who won Massachusetts by 26 points in 2008.
A Brown campaign spokesman didn’t want to speculate on his boss’s potential rivals but said he expects the Democrats will find a candidate at some point. “We will welcome the competition when it comes,” Eric Fehrnstrom said.
In a cycle in which Senate Democrats will largely be on the defensive across the nation, the DSCC is thrilled to have an opportunity to play offense. They feel Brown has escaped political attacks since he shocked the nation by riding tea party support to victory in the January 2010 special election to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D).
“A loyal opposition to Scott Brown is emerging, and I don’t think to this point, his operation has shown any skill in dealing with it,” said DSCC spokesman Matt Canter, noting the Senator’s recent challenge explaining why he supports maintaining taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.
Canter also highlighted DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil’s recent trip to Massachusetts, in part to focus attention on the Brown race.
“They’ve done a great job crafting Brown’s image,” Canter said. “But he got caught up in the Planned Parenthood thing. That didn’t demonstrate the same level of coolness that we’re used to seeing ... He got caught striking different poses to different people. It’s a lot harder to do when someone’s shaking the rope.”
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