Brown's Week: American Idol

This is the first in what I intend to be a regular weekly wrap-up of the life and times of the Bay State's first new US Senator in a quarter-century.

In the week just past, Scott Brown got a taste of both the pleasures and perils of newfound fame.

Much like his daughter Ayla, Senator Brown entered a competition, did better than expected, and became the object of idolation among a portion of the national audience.

Brown got the pop-star treatment from some 10,000 of them when he made a surprise appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, to introduce Mitt Romney. (Brown's star power was not enough, however, to prevent Romney from losing the CPAC straw poll to Ron Paul.)

But fame brings with it the scrutiny of the nation's player-haters -- and after your handlers have moved on to the next batch of Idols (or next campaign), you're on your own to deal with it.

On Thursday, Brown did his first nationally televised interview since being sworn in (according to his interviewer, FOX News's Neil Cavuto), and on the very first question showed what can happen when you're free from the rigorous message-machine discipline of the campaign.

Brown, asked about the guy who flew his airplane into an IRS building in Texas, suggested that the motivation for that atrocious act might be akin to the frustrations of the Massachusetts voters who elected him to office.

That got him a lot of criticism in the blogosphere, but didn't rise to the level of major gaffe. Still, it demonstrated how easy it will be for Brown to get into trouble, with everybody watching everything he says and does.

Earlier in the week, the man who had been just a state senator two months ago managed to get into a public feud with the Vice President of the United States. Joe Biden, on "Face the Nation," had criticized Brown's position on legal representation for accused terrorists; Brown answered back in the press, telling Politico that Biden's comments about him were "insulting." Again, no major damage, but not necessarily the way to start one's Capitol Hill tenure.

At least, not if he wants to retreat a little from the national spotlight. For now, he's clearly in it. For proof, look way across the country to California, where Brown's got one pol using his image without permission, and another criticizing his claim that the stimulus has created no jobs.

And, more substantively, he's being watched closely on a jobs bill (which may get a cloture vote as early as tonight). A national lefty group is launching an ad campaign pushing him to vote for the bill -- if he's really not a lock-step Republican. (Although it's not clear at this point that the GOP will in fact be uniformly opposed.)

Maintaining popularity in the spotlight glare -- or controlling his brand image, if you will -- won't be easy. Brown may have gotten a hint of that when he discovered that he himself had fallen for the false portrayal of his senior colleague, John Kerry, who Brown was surprised to find is not actually the horrible beast depicted in RNC materials.

Brown does have one thing on his side, however, when it comes to selling himself back home: a campaign warchest of roughly $6 million leftover from the contributions that flooded to him from those starry-eyed fans across the country. That's a great head start on re-election, although he can't necessarily rely on those fans dialing in to support him in the next round: fans are fickle, and sudden fame is often the most fleeting.

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