GOP Eager to Let Brown’s Star Power Shine

Posted July 30, 2010 at 6:24pm

Scott Brown is preparing to spend the final three months of the midterm campaign boosting Republican prospects for a long-shot Senate takeover, and party strategists are eager to leverage the Massachusetts Senator’s star power.

Brown emphasized in an interview that legislating and constituent service remain his primary focus and said his top political priority this fall is helping to elect Republicans running for state office and the Legislature in Massachusetts. “Initially, I’m just going to do my job, [and] I’m going to help people from Massachusetts first. … Those are my first two priorities,” Brown said.

But Brown did not shy away from plans to campaign for Republican Senate candidates throughout the country over the next three months. Several fundraising and campaign appearances are either scheduled or being planned, with Brown saying he will direct most of his efforts toward Republicans who share his values.

“I’m going to focus on people that I’ve developed relationships with and I feel represent good-government-type candidates who want to get Washington working again,” Brown said.

Brown’s victory in a closely watched special election in January to succeed the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) immediately thrust the obscure state Senator into the national spotlight. Despite Massachusetts’ strong Democratic leanings, Brown campaigned as a fairly conventional conservative. His electoral success made him a hero in the GOP and served as a motivator for Republican candidates across the country.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) adopted the mantra, “If it can happen in Massachusetts, it can happen anywhere,” in his recruiting pitch to prospective Senate candidates. Brown’s win also boosted fundraising, GOP enthusiasm and recruitment for House Republicans. Brown has subsequently become one of the most sought-after Republicans on the campaign and fundraising circuits.

In an interview, Cornyn described Brown as among his most valuable political assets in the GOP’s bid to flip the 10 Democratic-held Senate seats needed to regain control of the chamber. Republican gains of some sort appear likely at this point, but the GOP’s road to the majority runs mainly through Democratic-leaning and swing states, which makes Brown particularly useful.

“I think he showed us the way to win in this election, and that is to talk about things people care most about,” Cornyn said. “He’s a very skillful campaigner, very disciplined, and I think he cracked the code.

“Scott’s been very, very helpful,” the chairman continued. “Obviously, he’s a valuable attraction to a lot of people because of his celebrity.”

One Republican source said Brown plans to campaign for GOP candidates wherever the NRSC finds him useful this fall.

Brown shrugged off concerns that aiding the national GOP could imperil his 2012 re-election bid — which is expected to be highly competitive — or his personal and political standing in a largely liberal state that had not elected a Republican Senator since the early 1970s. But the Senator’s team remains cognizant of the potential for tension and is being careful in deploying Brown nationally.

“He is a Republican and wants to help other Republicans be successful. But I think you’ll find he’ll be most active in Massachusetts, although there will be some out-of-state races where he pitches in,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, Brown’s chief political adviser.

Brown’s scheduled events last weekend included attending a fundraiser Friday for Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and delivering the keynote speech Saturday at the Nebraska state GOP convention in Fremont — an invitation extended by Sen. Mike Johanns (R).

Cornyn said Brown is set to travel to Tennessee soon to attend a fundraiser. The Senator has appeared at several NRSC fundraisers at the request of the committee.

Brown has campaigned for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), has been helping Rhode Island state Rep. John Loughlin, who is running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D), and previously aided Rep. Charles Djou by asking his list of Aloha State donors to contribute to the former Honolulu city councilman’s special election campaign.

Brown also campaigned for Tim Burns, who lost the special election race for Pennsylvania’s 12th district.

But Republicans running this year in Massachusetts have the first call on Brown’s services, including gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker and a few of his friends from the Legislature running for higher office, among them state Rep. Karyn Polito, who is a candidate for state treasurer, and state Rep. Jeff Perry, who is seeking the open 10th district House seat. Brown also is backing four candidates running for the Legislature.

Brown repeatedly made clear that his day job takes precedence over campaigning, perhaps reflecting the political sensitivity of balancing his work on behalf of national Republicans with serving a largely Democratic state.

“I’m still doing my job helping getting Washington working again,” Brown said. However, the Senator appeared relaxed in discussing his political plans for the fall campaign, as well.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, vice chairman at the NRSC, called Brown a “terrific” political asset for Republicans with unique attributes and a broad appeal.

“He is capable of helping the strongest conservative to the strongest liberal in the [GOP]. He’s just capable,” the Utah Republican said.