What Brown means to GOP

Fred Barnes:

Scott Brown’s victory spoils a popular myth. I’m not referring to the one about Teddy Kennedy as an indomitable force in Massachusetts, even from the grave. Yes, the Kennedy myth was rendered inoperative. But so was the fable about a death struggle pitting tea party populists and angry conservatives against moderates and the Republican hierarchy. That myth foresaw conservatives refusing to support candidates with even the slightest of moderate tendencies, dividing the party, and ruining its chances in the 2010 elections.

In Massachusetts, conservatives preferred victory to purity. Brown is not a social conservative. He’s pro-choice and, while supporting traditional marriage, believes “states should be free to make their own laws in this area.” Yet conservatives and tea partiers joined moderates and independents in the Brown coalition. They struggled, but it was against Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley and President Obama, not against each other.

This was actually one of the smaller manifestations of the Brown Effect. The bigger ones?

My, my, it’s a long list: an enormous psychological boost for Republicans of all stripes, a firm belief they can win anywhere, help in recruiting strong candidates and raising money for the midterms, the death of the Obama mystique, a critical 41st Republican vote in the Senate, and a stirring example of how to win.


... The breakthrough in Massachusetts may foreshadow a Republican revival after the lost elections of 2006 and 2008. Brown’s victory “was not just symbolic,” insists Republican consultant Frank Luntz. “It’s representative of a change in the public’s mindset.”

But political moods are sometimes ephemeral. So Republicans must be wary. “Republicans—not President Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid​—will decide their future,” Luntz says. The midterm elections in November “will require a genuine break with the past.” Luntz’s advice includes opposing earmarks, “a laser-like focus on wasteful Washington spending,” and “no tolerance for ethical malfeasance whatsoever—no more Mark Foleys.”

Pre-Brown, Republicans were more excited than Democrats. The Brown Effect only adds to their enthusiasm to defeat Democrats, Obama, and their agenda, and elect Republicans. This is crucial because zeal creates turnout. Republican turnout sagged in 2006 and 2008, then soared last year in New Jersey and Virginia, which replaced Democratic governors with Republicans.


It also showed that Republicans can appeal to independents. They are going to have to also be unrelenting in opposing spending and that means earmarks too. They need to be as smart as Brown in opposing new taxes.


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