Doing Scotto No Favors

Rob Eno has written a ridiculous response to my blog criticism, and I'll briefly respond below; normally I wouldn't get sucked into a back-and-forth yapfest over nonsense, but I want to make a point about how people like Eno are going to make it difficult for Scott Brown to win re-election.

There is great pleasure and self-satisfaction to be had from spending the next 14 months or so reflexively searching for outrage in your political opposition's every act and utterance. It's also really good at driving up ratings, or web traffic, or Klout score, or contributions, or whatever.

And in some places, in some situations, it proves politically beneficial. However, in large turnout elections in Massachusetts, it is absolutely counterproductive -- for either party, although much more so for Republicans because their margin for error is so slim to begin with.

It's not difficult to understand why. The persuadable middle of our state's electorate -- predominantly white, suburban, middle-class women -- have repeatedly demonstrated that they are very much open to liking individual local Republicans or Democrats, but loathe the image of most of what they view in national politics, and in particular of contemporary national Republicans, who they view as nasty, mean-spirited, and cold-hearted.

Republicans here can win (sometimes) when they pull off the trick of criticizing their Democratic opponents while remaining personally likable, and projecting an image of caring about the disadvantaged, while having a tougher, more conservative approach toward helping them. Bill Weld did it. Mitt Romney did it. And of course, Scott Brown did it masterfully. Go back sometime and watch his unbelievably masterful TV ads and web videos. It wasn't just the truck and the jacket -- it was the really nice, likable guy in the truck and the jacket.

One could argue that what Brown needs is exactly what the Enos of the world offer: an external entity to make the attacks, while Brown stays nice. Isn't that what happened with Coakley?

I would disagree, and argue that one of Brown's biggest lucky breaks was that for pretty much the entire campaign he was given so little chance to win, the obnoxious mean-spirited and cold-hearted partisans were sidelined, while Brown's campaign team, who understand the Massachusetts electorate, were able to control the messaging. The NRSC's refusal to put any resources into the state was a blessing for Brown: all they know how to do is the reflexive outrage -- which they'll be doing this time, daily, for the next 14 months.

Meanwhile, since nobody thought there was a real race, nobody paid much attention to the reflexive outrage spewing from the state party, and from people like Eno. They also paid little attention to Brown, who was able to be more red-meat outraged talking to the rabid conservative base on the stump, without those swing-voting suburban women hearing about it.

And, they were able to better control and manage the attacks on Coakley -- recognizing and capitalizing on the real impression she was giving of being isolated, imperial, presumptive, and out-of-touch. The daily nonsense attacks on her from the angry right stayed within that echo chamber.

(They were also able to brilliantly position Brown as the unfairly wounded white-hat when the Democrats screwed up and sent out a nasty mailer about him.)

This time, people will be paying a lot of attention. When some nonsense criticism circulates on blogs or Twitter or radio, and gets shouted out by Brown supporters at rallies, the media will be all over it. They'll also be there paying attention as Brown tries to straddle the line between pleasing that base, and pleasing the swing voters.

And if Eno, and the MassGOP, and the NRSC, and the rest spend the next year plus doing the kind of crap they were doing yesterday, it's going to do to Scott Brown exactly what Democrats are furiously plotting to accomplish: identify him with those nasty brutish national Republicans in the minds of those swing voters.

The MassGOP sent out a release yesterday slamming Elizabeth Warren for her "series of embarrassing gaffes" that reveal her to be "Coakley 2.0." None of them are actual gaffes, and none of them are reminiscent of Coakley. If I was the Massachusetts Democrats, I would try to get that release, and all the ones to come, circulated as widely as possible.

The Republicans seem utterly incapable of learning this lesson. I'll give you a great example: ask dedicated, politically involved conservatives in this state what the best campaign element was for a Massachusetts Republican in the 2010 cycle, and odds are they'll site the highly amusing dancing Barney Frank ad, run by Sean Bielat. It was a great little piece, really well done -- and it should never have been allowed to see the light of day. It was the beginning of the end for Bielat, and the start of the backlash that not only buried Bielat but every Republican candidate above state rep down the tubes.

Which brings me at last to poor Rob Eno, who apparently lives inside a Michelle Malkin book or a Glenn Beck episode, where Van Jones and the Tides Foundation are colluding to force your daughter to have an anchor baby.

Eno does not concede that he has unfairly charged Mass Uniting with lack of transparency. He instead insists that he has uncovered the nefarious secret that "the SEIU" is the "driving force" behind the Mass Uniting anti-Brown effort. He also suggests that I am part of the cover-up, for deliberately failing to report the SEIU's involvement, in my original Bobblehead Brown post.

First off, "the SEIU" is not involved, several SEIU locals are involved; they are among the 189 organizations that are members of the Massachusetts chapter of Jobs With Justice. (If Eno had actually clicked the link I provided, he would have seen that the very first JwJ member listed is ACORN, and he really would have blown a gasket.) Yes, two of those SEIU locals' executive directors put their names in as the establishing officers for the non-profit back in April, so it's fair to say that the heads of locals 888 and 509 have been more involved in Mass Uniting than, say, the Irish Immigration Center, the National Association of Social Workers, or UNITE Here Local 26, who are also JwJ members, publicly listed on the web page linked to from the Mass Uniting web page.


Eno argues, quite explicitly, that it must be SEIU specifically, rather than the actual named Mass Uniting coalition members, who are the "driving force" behind the ads, because Eno's heard of it. Great Scott, Holmes! Quod erat demonstratum!

And you know, he has a point -- unlike SEIU, Malkin has never devoted an entire book chapter to railing about the evil goliath Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN). To the best of my knowledge, Andrew Breitbart has never posted videos of Jorge Martinez and his Project RIGHT peer educators in Grove Hall. Not once in their 30 year history has the Massachusetts Senior Action Council appeared on Glenn Beck's chalkboard. How can they possibly be capable of collectively producing a 30-second video?

(As an aside, if diehard Massachusetts political activists on the right are so disengaged that they have never even heard of Jobs With Justice, this helps explain a lot about why they suck so badly in the political arena.)

More importantly, let me explain something to Rob Eno: no labor leaders at any of the SEIU locals in Massachusetts are trying to secretly supply resources to efforts in opposition to Scott Brown -- they are OPENLY AND LOUDLY supplying those resources. I daresay if you made buttons that say "I am devoting all available time and resources to defeating Scott Brown in 2012" they would gladly wear them and pose for pictures.

As for Eno's complaint that I wrote, accurately, that Scott Brown cast the deciding vote to kill the DISCLOSE Act that would have required full disclosure of funding behind the Bobblehead Doll ad..... yeah. I did that.

Anyway, as I said above, I wouldn't ordinarily bother to get into this back-and-forth over such nonsense, but I do want to point out that Eno and others like him are going to be blogging, and tweeting, and going on talk radio and NECN and whatnot, and going on these pointless screeds against anything the opposition says and does. And it will probably make them feel really good. But it's not doing Scott Brown any favors. In this particular case (to the extent anyone notices anything this early) it's drawing more attention to a pretty good anti-Brown spot; opening up criticism over Brown's DISCLOSE Act vote; providing cover for future Democratic attacks on funders of pro-Brown campaigns; and perhaps most importantly, setting a nasty tone from the pro-Brown side -- especially in the eyes of the white suburban women in union households who were one of the keys to Brown's victory last time. Something to think about.

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