Battle Behind The Curtains

Finally! Something interesting going on in the US Senate race.

Not the candidates -- they're fine, but not very interesting. You can't get much more diametrically opposed than Coakley and Brown, so I can't imagine there are many truly undecided voters. That is, people who care enough to show up to vote next Tuesday, but not enough to have already formed a preference between the check-the-boxes liberal and the check-the-boxes conservative.

This situation means that the strategy for both sides is A) make sure the less-informed voters sympathetic to your side know which one is the liberal and which one is the conservative, and B) get the better-informed voters sympathetic to your side fired up about voting. Fortunately, you can do both at the same time, by calling your opponent a tax-and-spend, soft-on-terror Harry Reid liberal, or a heartless, warmongering, woman-hating, Bush-Cheney conservative, as the case may be.

But what's interesting -- to me at least -- is who's involved in pushing those messages.

The DNC has sent up Hari Sevugan to take over messaging for Coakley in the final week. Sevugan is Obama's top rapid-response guy.

On the other side, Brown has Mitt Romney's top communications people, including press secretary Eric Fehrnstrom.

That makes this an early proxy for the potential Sevugan-Fehrnstrom war that will be waged through most of 2012, if Romney ends up as the GOP Presidential candidate. Now that  I can get interested in.

You would think I'd be rooting for Sevugan, if only because he's never denigrated my personal and journalistic integrity (that I know of, anyway). But I have a little soft spot for Fehrnstrom, and besides I always like to root for the local guy.

Anyway, since coming to town yesterday, Sevugan has been obsessed with tying Brown to national conservative figures. He jumped all over Tim Pawlenty's endorsement of Brown yesterday, sending out a mammoth list of reasons to consider Pawlenty a wild-eyed ultraconservative. Since then, he's been sending out missives demanding to know why Sarah Palin hasn't endorsed, and whether Brown would accept her endorsement.

There's a delicious subtext to Sevugan's assault. Aside from the effect on the Brown race, Pawlenty and Palin are of course top competitors to Romney for the 2012 nomination. It does not behoove Romney's people to acknowledge that endorsements from those two are important either way -- it would be an acknowledgment of their importance as national political figures. Think about it: how is Fehrnstrom supposed to respond to Sevugan's blasting of Pawlenty? By defending Pawlenty? I think not.

Sevugan's efforts have gotten some prominent leftie bloggers to pick up the thread. And Fehrnstrom in turn gave a response to Greg Sargent in which he called Sevugan's ploy "feeble":

“Feeble attempts to characterize Scott Brown as anything other than someone who is independent-thinking will not work,” he emailed. “This election is not going to be decided by outsiders.”

Sevugan then blasted out a response to Fehrnstrom's response, that set some kind of record by using the word "weaselly" three times in four sentences:

That's a weaselly answer. And the people of Massachusetts deserve more than weaselly answers from their next Senator. And frankly so do the tea party supporters of Sarah Palin whose support and cash Scott Brown is happily soliciting. What does it say about Scott Brown that he can't answer a simple yes or no question without offering weaselly answers?

How can you not be excited about the possibility of these two going at it like this for months, with the most powerful office in the world at stake?

Meanwhile, Coakley went up with an attack ad that features pictures of Bush and Cheney, and includes a shot of Rush Limbaugh appearing to give a Nazi salute.  (The ad also, as Erik Gallant catches, misspells Massachusetts.) Brown has responded with an ad chastising Coakley for going negative -- and featuring a photo of Coakley along side Deval Patrick and Sal DiMasi. Take that! Now we're having some fun.


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