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Massachusetts Senate Victor Likely to Claim Edge From People’s Pledge

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Harry Ricker, a GOP supporter, is surrounded Friday by supporters of Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in Melrose, Mass.

“The fact that he has had to take the negative attacks against her and own them personally: That has hurt him,” Marsh said.

Republicans cry hooey, saying it is obviously Warren’s ads that have hurt his favorability with voters, not Brown saying he “approves this message” on his negative spots.

In interviews, both candidates framed the agreement as a greater good.

“Best thing I ever did,” Brown told Roll Call. “Best thing we ever did. And I give professor Warren a lot of credit for signing it with me and sticking to it. Because you would have had 20, 30 million — pick a number — of outside ads coming in,” he said. “So it’s a good thing for Massachusetts.”

Warren said  the pledge has “been to the benefit of the people of Massachusetts.” 

She pointed out that there was a difference between the campaigns’ contrast spots.

“I’ve been out there every single day talking about how Sen. Brown votes and talking about issues that matter to people here in Massachusetts,” Warren said. “Sen. Brown runs a different campaign,  a campaign of personal attacks. He’ll be judged by his campaign. I’ll be judged by mine.”

Pressed on whether he wouldn’t have been helped by some air cover from his allies, Brown said his opponent has “more allies than I do.” 

Maybe. Democrats make the opposite case.

“It’s been an advantage to have outside groups for every Republican Senate candidate in the country this cycle,” a national Democratic strategist said. “It’s naive to think it wouldn’t have been for him.”

The ban on outside spending was certainly helpful for both campaigns in maintaining their own message on the airwaves. With no independent expenditure groups, Brown and Warren could cleanly choose their own lines of attack. And Brown’s campaign avoided the residual negatives of having Crossroads GPS, a GOP group affiliated with Karl Rove, putting up ads in his favor in a state where most voters don’t think very highly of Rove.

Beyond that, it’s impossible to know exactly how outside spending would have changed this race. 

Insiders of both parties across the Bay State don’t expect to have to wonder in future statewide contests.

“I think these agreements are born of circumstances unique to particular races,” Massachusetts Republican consultant Rob Gray said. “I doubt we’ll see it again.”

Jason Kauppi, a Bay State Republican consultant, said the agreement only worked in this cycle in this state because the candidates appeared to be about evenly matched financially.

“It’s not going to have a long-term effect,” Boston-based Democratic consultant Scott Ferson said of the pledge.

In interviews with voters around the state, no one had particularly strong feelings about the pledge. But they did personalize the ads to the candidate, often saying they didn’t know whether to believe “Scott” or “Elizabeth.”

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