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Winners and losers

Brown and Coakley aren’t the only ones whose reputation hinged on the outcome

By Alex Beam
Globe Staff / January 22, 2010

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Here is a list of people and institutions - aside from the candidates themselves - who emerged from the Senate special election with their reputation intact. Or the opposite.

I. Emerged with reputation intact or improved:

David Gergen. Whoulda thunk it? The world’s most compromised human (see Michael Kelly’s masterful 1993 New York Times magazine cover story, “David Gergen: Master of the Game,’’ if you don’t believe me) was a terrific and evenhanded moderator for the only Coakley-Brown debate anyone bothered to watch. The Kennedy School doughboy was polite, firm, and generally well informed. Plus he handled the awkward Joseph Kennedy situation with aplomb.

Brown’s back room of Eric Fehrnstrom, Beth Myers, Beth Lindstrom, and Priscilla Ruzzo. They ran a pretty clean campaign and seemed to have plenty of money when they needed it. The advertising wasn’t masterful, but it was very quick and responsive. I was a member of the idiotic “Brown Brigade’’ website from the day it was set up. It didn’t do much for me, but webheads felt that Brown’s team made much better use of social networking and the Internet than his opponent.

Conor Yunits, the heretofore anonymous “Senator’’ who ran the must-read website www.kennedyseat.com. Conor is a young political junkie who has run for office in Brockton and has a day job at the Boston Chamber of Commerce. He started kennedyseat.com the minute the special election was announced, and he aggregated every campaign ad and almost every newspaper and online story about the Senate race onto his site at least twice a day. He promised not to take sides, and he didn’t. Plus he was funny.

II. Emerged with reputation more or less in tatters:

The Tsongas crowd. Political insider Dennis Newman and his gang were pretty cocky, figuring they had won a special election with a presentable woman candidate with Niki Tsongas in 2007, and they could do it again with Martha Coakley. Winning in Lowell turns out to be not quite the same as winning on the big stage. They got outplayed, and they got outcoached.

The sisterhood. Coakley had EMILY’s list money and the whole gender solidarity thing going. None of it mattered. Yet again Massachusetts proved to be a graveyard for female candidates. Kerry Healey, Shannon O’Brien, Evelyn Murphy, and now Martha Coakley. Why is that?

The Kennedys. They did think it was their seat, and they shafted my hero Michael Dukakis to install their robot-satrap Paul Kirk in the Senate for a couple of months. When Senator Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, threw herself into the race, it seemed a little unconvincing and a little late. She called my home. A friend suggested I call her back today: “Hi, this is Alex Beam. I am returning Mrs. Kennedy’s call.’’

The Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America, that ridiculous Obama front group. Refresh my memory; they sent their best people to Massachusetts a few weeks ago, and . . . what happened? Their scarabs scuttled around the political landscape, spamming the world and trying to find homes for preposterously stupid non-stories about Scott Brown. (He owns rental properties! Wish I did.) Coakley lost, just as she would have had they not shown up.

The Fairness Doctrine. On Election Day, WRKO ran 11 hours of nonstop pro-Brown agitprop from 9 a.m. on, including get-out-and-vote-for-Brown pleas. Over at its sister station, WEEI, Glenn Ordway’s afternoon sports goons taped promotional videos for Brown. You could say the same thing about WTKK, but ’RKO and ’EEI have actual listeners. Hey, law school kids! Get the Tuesday tapes and show up when the slick Entercom lawyers file their license renewal papers with the Federal Communications Commission. Could be a long day for the suits.

Deval Patrick. What bunker was he hiding in? His GOP opponent Charlie Baker’s stock just went up about 30 percent, wouldn’t you say?

Alex Beam. He confidently predicted in November that Brown (“Scott Who?’’) would be crushed by the impossibly foreshortened election schedule. He viewed Scott Brown as an amiable nonentity, a narcissistic, suburban lightweight who liked to play soldier dress-up, even though he’s never fought in a war.

Well, now he’s Senator Narcissistic Lightweight to you.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.