Friday, January 15, 2010

Brown no Scozzofava; not being Scozzofavaed

Boris Shor runs the numbers and finds that Scott Brown, the GOP nominee for the special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts next week, has a considerably more liberal voting record that Dede Scozzofava did.  Why, then, are the Tea Party folks not savaging Brown the way they did Scozzofava?  According to Boris, it's because he's a better fit for the electorate:
It makes perfect sense that Scott Brown, a liberal Massachusetts Republican, has attracted Republican and conservative support. He’s perfectly suited for his liberal state electorate. Dede Scozzafava, in fact considerably more conservative than Scott Brown was not nearly so well matched to her intended constituency, the relatively conservative 23rd District that had returned moderate conservative John McHugh since the 1992 election.
Okay, true.  But I think we shouldn't ignore the potential costs and benefits of Tea Partiers undermining a GOP nominee.  In New York's 23rd district, the worst that would happen (from the right's perspective) was that the GOP would lose a House seat.  Big deal -- they're already hugely outnumbered by the House Democrats anyway.  On the plus side, taking out an unnecessarily moderate GOP nominee was a scalp on the wall.  The Tea Partiers could prove their credibility.

The Massachusetts Senate race couldn't be more different.  This is an opportunity to break the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority.  This potentially changes health reform, taxes, economic stimulus... Obama's entire agenda for the rest of the year.  And don't forget the psychological bonus of Republicans taking Teddy Kennedy's Senate seat.  In other words, the potential payoff for Republicans winning this seat is enormous, while it wasn't in NY23.

All of which goes to show that the Tea Partiers, the Limbaughs, Becks, Palins, etc., who undermined Scozzofava can be surprisingly strategic.  They may sound nuts, but only when they there's a relatively low cost to being that way.

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