When Scott Brown began to get national attention, many people wondered why the Republican Party organizations didn’t make a public splash. Headliners didn’t make appearances with Brown, while Barack Obama and Bill Clinton stumped for Martha Coakley. Michael Steele and the NRSC took some heat for ignoring the race, although Brown himself said that he was happy with the support he was receiving. Now it comes out that the national GOP deliberately played their cards very close to the vest — and sent a lot of money to Brown while Democrats self-destructed:
Working quietly and under the radar, the National Republican Senatorial Committee shifted $500,000 to the Massachusetts GOP in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s dramatic election, according to Republican sources.
The NRSC transfer, made in several dispersals beginning on Jan. 7, were used for phone and mail get-out-the-vote operations targeted at independent voters, said Rob Jesmer, the NRSC’s executive director.
NRSC officials kept quiet about the money transfers, despite public taunts from their Senate Democratic counterparts that the GOP leadership was declining to put money behind Brown’s candidacy.
While some journalists and political strategists across the partisan and ideological spectrum (including those at the Club for Growth in a press release attacking the NRSC) criticized the GOP’s campaign arm last week for not putting money into the race, the reality is quite different.
In fact, the NRSC had, a full week earlier, transferred $500,000 to the Massachusetts Republican Party to support Brown’s candidacy. For obvious reasons, the committee opted to keep that move quiet.
And the NRSC also got the Republican National Committee to agree to send funds to the Massachusetts GOP.
This was a brilliant move by both the NRSC and the RNC. They didn’t fall into a Democratic trap by trumpeting their involvement with Brown, who wanted to show as much independence as possible. Coakley and Obama spent Sunday making Brown look like a tool of the Tea Party movement and the GOP national machine, but it was Coakley getting bailed out by Democratic heavyweights from outside Massachusetts.
On the other hand, this shows the limitation of national Republican help, especially in deep-blue constituencies. Voters don’t want a top-down presence from committees like the RNC and the NRSC; they want to choose their own candidates locally through an active primary process and have support for their choices. In Massachusetts and other places like it, that won’t mean a firebreathing social conservative, but it should mean — and almost certainly will mean in 2010 — a fiscal conservative committed to curtailing the power of federal government and the overreach of the Obama agenda.
Rothenberg notes that this win will give the GOP serious momentum, and cause more Democratic retirements:
A Brown victory — or even a narrow Coakley win in the mid-single digits — could have significant ramifications. First, it could well produce a flurry of Democratic retirements. If Democrats couldn’t hold Kennedy’s seat rather easily with the state attorney general, some Democratic Members will worry, how the heck can they win in November in competitive districts.
GOP strategists are already compiling a list of possible retirees if Brown wins, including Reps. John Spratt (S.C.), Allen Boyd (Fla.) and Jim Matheson (Utah) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.).
A victory by the Republican in the special election could dissuade some Democratic incumbents from investing 10 months in a re-election bid that suddenly would seem dramatically less likely of success.
A strong Brown showing could also lead to another round of GOP recruiting successes, as candidates who have been on the fence, or initially rejected appeals to run, decide that a Republican wave is building for November and they better get on it.
The competence of the NRSC (which was in short supply when they endorsed Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio in the Florida primary) will certainly raise confidence in some potential candidates and get more people in the game for the GOP. Retirements may follow on the Democratic side of the aisle, but they would have to happen rather quickly, as primaries are already approaching in some states. We’ll probably know the scope of the impact by the end of March at the latest.
Meanwhile … job well done.