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“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.”
The DSCC, of course, will not be the only one shaking the rope.
Brown earned relatively strong support from organized labor in his special election victory, and union leaders have already begun working to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
“People, including myself, didn’t pay enough attention the first time,” said Frank Callahan, president of the 75,000-member Massachusetts Building Trades Council. “All my members knew was that he seemed like a reasonable guy and drove a pickup truck and wore a barn coat. But if he keeps voting like this, he’s going to need more than a pickup truck and a barn coat to get re-elected. We’re informing our members this time.”
Callahan’s organization is already distributing regular information via email and social media about Brown’s voting record to union members across the state. And the Building Trades Council is committed to going door-to-door if necessary to ensure Brown’s positions are known.
“A lot of these procedural votes, he may think a lot is going to slide through unrecognized,” Callahan said. “They won’t.”
Labor unions will be joined by progressive organizations such as the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters in their efforts to define Brown.
The Republican Senator earned the worst possible rating in a recent national scorecard of key environmental votes, according to Lora Wondolowski, executive director of the group. She thinks the environment could be a “litmus test” for voters.
“We were active [in Brown’s first run]. But it was such a short election cycle, it was really hard for any issue to break through the fray,” she said.
Roll Call Politics rates this contest a Tossup. The dynamic of the race will shift dramatically after the Democratic field takes shape. An expensive and crowded Democratic primary is possible, according to Phil Johnson, former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
He says at least three candidates are all but certain to run: former Lt. Gov. candidate Bob Massie, Newton Mayor Setti Warren and City Year founder Alan Khazei.
“They haven’t announced publicly, but I think it’s pretty clear they’re interested in running,” said Johnson, who has spoken with each of them. Reps. Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch are also being watched closely.
Johnson is concerned about the effect of a negative primary.
“If several Democrats get into the primary and engage in a bloody fight, then we can kiss this seat goodbye for six years,” he said. “That would be a very serious mistake.”
And he challenged the suggestion by some Democrats that time is on their side.