MELROSE, Mass. — Top Senate surrogates descended on Massachusetts this weekend to stump for their party's candidates and gin up excitement in the competitive Senate race and rough and tumble Congressional contest here.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) this morning stood shoulder to shoulder with Sen. Scott Brown (R) on a stage surrounded by hundreds of sign-waving supporters.
After Brown gave a fiery version of his stump speech, McCain took the microphone. "I've been traveling the country for various candidates," said McCain, who received a hero's welcome of loud and sustained applause. "This man is the one I want most in the United States Senate working side by side."
Later, McCain smiled and shook hands on stage with Congressional candidate Richard Tisei, who had spoken earlier.
Brown faces Harvard Professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren (D). Tisei is challenging embattled eight-term Rep. John Tierney (D), who has been politically damaged by his wife's family's legal problems.
While Tisei's and Brown's remarks focused mostly on economic issues close to home, McCain delved into matters overseas as well. He knocked what he called President Barack Obama's "feckless foreign policy."
The crowd here was strongly supportive of McCain, Brown and Tisei.
In his upset special election victory in January 2010, Brown won this city of about 27,000 by 224 votes. Tisei, a longtime former state legislator, represented this city in the state Senate. A number of rally-goers interviewed by Roll Call mentioned positive impressions of Tisei's public service as one of the reasons why they would be voting for him.
Friday night, 50 miles away, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) stumped for Warren at an event in Worcester, the Commonwealth's second largest city. He focused on what a Republican-controlled Senate might mean. Warren's campaign has worked to hammer home the message that a vote for Brown could well be a vote for a Republican majority.
"I'm a United States Senator," Franken said. "We have a tradition of not saying bad things about our colleagues."
The former comedian did not, however, fully hew to that tradition.
He noted that Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is poised to be chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works if the GOP takes control of the chamber.
"You know, not to be critical, but his views on climate change are..." Franken said, pausing for a moment for effect. The heavily Democratic and rowdy crowd lobbed out various derogatory adjectives. "They are anti-scientific," he finally said to laughter and applause.
Franken's remarks appeared to reflect a deep respect for Warren's intellect and integrity and something other than respect for Brown's.
The Minnesota Senator made an allusion to Brown's halting answer to a debate question about who is Brown's model Supreme Court Justice. Brown named Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Franken was obviously unimpressed.
"You need someone to represent Massachusetts who knows that there is a difference between Scalia and Sotomayor," he said.
"When you hear things like, 'my model justice is Antonin Scalia or Kennedy or Roberts or Sota' — I think he called her 'Soda-Mayher'" he said. "You should know the names of the justices!" he said to laughter from the audience.
Though Franken, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty (D), and Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray (D) all spoke before Warren took the stage, it was Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) who delivered the most red — or blue — meat to the crowd before the Democratic Senate nominee gave her stump speech.
"The Republicans are up to their old tricks," he said. "And, by the way, I work with these Republicans down in Washington — and they're more frightening in real life then they are on TV!"
The audience roared.
Warren gave an impassioned version of her stump speech, interweaved with extemporaneous remarks. After the speech she began to shake hands and was mobbed as if she were a rock star. Indeed, in interviews with supporters, there appeared to be a passion and an excitement about her, usually reserved for super-celebrities, not politicians.
The parade of Senate stars continues later today, former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) is slated to campaign with Warren and Congressional candidate Joe Kennedy III, who is a lock to win the state's open 4th Congressional district seat.