A former state chair of the Massachusetts College Republicans, I’ve long been bullish on the GOP’s prospects in the Bay State. State voters have shown an aversion to state Democrats’ affection for high taxes. In four consecutive gubernatorial election at the end of the last century and the beginning of this, they elected a Republican Governor. In the 198os, they twice delivered the state to the Gipper.
And yet the state hasn’t elected a Republican to Congress since 1992. Part of the problem has been a moribund state GOP. Its leadership hasn’t responded effectively to the state’s shifting demographics, not understanding that the urban ethnic citizens once a mainstay of the Democratic Party when it was the state’s opposition party through the 1940s and as it gained majority status in the 1950s and 60s were becoming increasingly disenchanted with the cultural liberalism of the party in the 1970s.
This year, however, with economic issues coming to the fore, could Republican senatorial candidate Scott Brown capitalize on popular discontent with Democratic policies and win the race to serve out the remainder of Teddy Kennedy’s Senate term?
He has a tough row to hoe in a state where registered Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by a margin of 3 to 1. Still, even in this state which sends 10 Democrats (and zero Republicans) to the U.S. House of Representatives, over half the voters choose not to register with either of the major parties. And all evidence shows that Brown is not just winning the lion’s share of those voters, he’s winning the lion king’s share, leading his Democratic opponent (whose refusal to debate Brown one-on-one shows she lacks the confidence her superior undergraduate education should afford) among independents by the same margin registered Democrats lead registered Republicans in the state.
That’s an even better margin than Governor-elect Chris Christie enjoyed in the Garden State and Governor-elect McDonnell enjoyed in the Old Dominion. Still, it may not be enough.
Here’s one thing to ponder. In the last “throw-the-bums-out” election when Democrats were in power, incumbent Republican Governor William Weld trounced Mark Roosevelt by a margin of greater than two-to-one in the Bay State. There was no statewide election in 1980.
With the 2009 elections showing suburban voters across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic moving back to the GOP and with independent voters preferring the party of Lincoln as Americans increasingly reject the big-government policies of Obama Democrats, perhaps this is the year, the Bay State will return to the Republican fold.
The anti-Washington mood just might help propel a Republican to the Senate in the only state to go for George McGovern in 1972. A lot depends on Brown’s ground game. At this point, I wouldn’t rule it out. But, I wouldn’t bet on it either.