What Lesson Will RI GOP Take From Brown's Win?

The Rhode Island Republican Party, locked in a nasty fight about whether to move right or strike a moderate tone in its bid to return to relevance, has a question to answer: what is the lesson of Republican Scott Brown's surprise victory in the US Senate race in Massachusetts yesterday?

Party chairman Giovanni Cicione, who has pushed for a more moderate, inclusive approach and is the target of a conservative effort to oust him, is clearly seeing vindication for his position in Brown's victory. In a fundraising missive he sent out today designed to capitalize on the galvanizing win in Massachusetts, he says this, in an aside:

The Brown victory represented all the best aspects of Ronald Reagan’s coalition – all the best of the “big tent” philosophy.

And there is an argument to be made for this view. Brown is a folksy character who won by appealing to independents, after all. And he staked out a moderate position on some key issues: yes, he opposed the health care reform bills now making their way through Congress, but he talked of supporting universal coverage. Hardly a hard-line position.

Still, you had to be a close observer to know that he voiced support for universal health care. The message Brown projected was pretty conservative, pretty partisan: I will be the 41st vote. I will block Obama's agenda. It was that message, arguably, that won the day. Evidence, for conservatives, that a red-meat Republican can win in the bluest of states.

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