How Scott Brown Won

The Massachusetts Senate race, on top of having vast national import, was something to behold. It saw Scott Brown come out of absolutely nowhere to defeat a popular Democrat, taking over the hallowed Kennedy family Senate seat.

So much has been made of Brown's victory--its ending of total Democratic rule in Washington, its alleged significance as a rebuke to health care reform--that it's easy to forget that an actual campaign took place, that talented Republican strategists came together and made it work, mechanically, step by step. (And that Democrat Martha Coakley's campaign also lost the race for itself, misstep by misstep.)

Politics Magazine's Jeremy Jacobs chronicles just how the Mitt Romney brain trust of Eric Fehrnstrom, Beth Myers, and Peter Flaherty, along with some other valuable Massachusetts political hands, ran Brown's insurgent campaign by capitalizing on unrest among independents and an anti-incumbent mood in Massachusetts, which was actually more intense than it was in the rest of the nation after a string of Democratic scandals on Beacon Hill.

Brown's campaign stayed under the radar to avoid waking the Democratic machine. It ran a tech-savvy operation. It capitalized on the national attention Brown received as a possible 41st Senate vote for the GOP, raking in donations after conservative-media appearances. It ended up raising $14.2 million in a week, mostly online. It benefited from a Democratic candidate absent from the airwaves and the open, retail-politicking air of campaign events, and from Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ads that actually hurt Coakley. It used national security--in the wake of the Christmas bombing and the announcement of an NYC trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad--as a wedge issue that drove voters toward support Brown. It crafted his image successfully; it saw Brown benefit from Tea Party energy without having to embrace Tea Party tenets; and it gambled on a TV ad that cast Brown as the rightful heir to the legacy of JFK's brand of politics--a gamble that paid off.

So no, it wasn't just that "voters rejected ObamaCare," as Republicans will tell you. Nor was it that "voters simply wanted change," or that the promised change hadn't arrived quickly enough, as Democrats are so fond of saying.

It was a real-life campaign, executed by GOP strategists at the top of their game, who used some luck and skill to seize the moment and out-campaign their Democratic adversaries. If you want to know how that happened, read Jeremy Jacobs' piece.

Presented by

Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Politics

Just In