In Mass. Senate race, Warren ties Brown to GOP
BOSTON (AP) — During their first debate, only one of the candidates running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts mentioned Mitt Romney — and it wasn’t fellow Republican and incumbent Scott Brown.
As she tries to deny Brown a full six-year term, Democrat Elizabeth Warren is working hard to link Brown not just to presidential candidate Romney, who remains unpopular in the state he once governed, but to the national Republican Party. Warren warns that voting for Brown could hand control of the Senate, including chairmanships of key committees, to conservative Republicans. Democrats control the Senate by a slim margin.
It’s a political argument Warren hopes will undercut Brown’s likeability and moderate political image.
It’s also an argument Brown has repeatedly rejected, pointing to what he says is his strong independent streak and his willingness to work with either Republicans or Democrats depending on what’s best for Massachusetts. He’s said Warren would be far less likely to reach across the political aisle if elected.
In making her case, Warren all but acknowledges Brown’s continued popularity, saying that he isn’t ‘‘a bad guy’’ and conceding that he’s cast ‘‘some good votes.’’
But Warren said a vote for Brown could have far wider implications in a campaign where control of the Senate is up for grabs.
‘‘Sen. Brown has been going around the country talking to people saying you've got to contribute to his campaign because it may be for the control of the Senate,’’ Warren said during the Thursday debate. ‘‘He’s right.’’
Warren pointed to Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and ranking GOP member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works who could end up heading the committee if Republicans win the Senate. Inhofe has called global warming a hoax and a conspiracy.
‘‘A man like that should not be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency,’’ Warren said.
Brown fought against the comparison, describing himself as one of the most bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate.
‘‘You’re not running against Jim Inhofe. You’re running against me, professor,’’ Brown said. Warren is a professor at Harvard Law School.
The political guilt-by-association argument is tricky but may be one of the strongest left to Warren as she and Brown scramble for the dwindling number of undecided voters ahead of the Nov. 6 election, according to Timothy Vercellotti, a professor of political science at Western New England University.
‘‘Warren is trying to get voters to connect multiple dots to see that their votes might have multiple impacts,’’ he said. ‘‘The question is, can the Warren campaign get that fairly complex message through to enough voters?’’
Warren has taken the argument further, saying a vote for Brown even has implications for the White House.
If the GOP were to take control of the Senate, Warren said, that would make life even tougher for Democratic President Barack Obama, who remains popular in Massachusetts and is leading Romney by double digits in recent polls of Bay State voters.
‘‘She’s saying that however much voter may like Scott Brown, sending him back to Senate increases the chances that Republicans will bottle up nominations,’’ including Senate confirmations of Obama nominees to the Supreme Court, Vercellotti said.
A similar argument is being made in the states’ closely-watched 6th Congressional District race.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Barney Frank has said electing GOP candidate Richard Tisei would set back efforts to expand gay rights — even though both Frank and Tisei are openly gay.
Frank, who is backing fellow Democrat and incumbent Rep. John Tierney, said that while Tisei supports gay rights, his election would help ensure Republicans retain control of the U.S. House, thus dooming any chance of progress on the issue. Republicans control the House.
Tisei, a former state senator and one-time GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, argues instead that the only way to make the GOP more accepting of gay rights is to start electing more gay Republicans.
‘‘I am sort of a trailblazer in a way. I am at the beginning of a movement,’’ Tisei said.
Whether the argument that electing Brown or Tisei strengthens the hands of congressional Republicans resonates with Massachusetts voters is a bigger question.
There is some precedent, however.
Vercellotti pointed to a bitterly fought 2006 race for U.S. Senate in Rhode Island.
In the contest, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse successfully defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee in part by tying Chafee to then-President George W. Bush and the ‘‘Republican agenda.’’ Chafee left the Republican Party the following year and became an independent.Continued...