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Mon November 12, 2012
Brown vs. Warren: The Bus Tour Results
It's easy to view the election results as a Monday-morning quarterback. But it seems like the numbers just never added up for Scott Brown’s re-election bid. To win, he would have needed more votes than any Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Massachusetts’ history. And just where was Brown going to find the 229,228 votes to tie Elizabeth Warren? Would it be from the three debates, his campaign ads, phone banks or the door-to-door ground assault?
"Shock The World"
In the days leading up to Election Day, Brown launched a bus tour, stopping in nine Massachusetts' cities and towns. In a campaign video, Brown promised "we're gonna shock the world" on Election Day. The last politician to say that actually did so after an exhaustive bus tour of his own. In 1998, former wrestler and Navy Seal Jesse Ventura ran for Governor of Minnesota. He barn-stormed the state, appealing to thousands of people who had never cast a vote in their lives but could register at the polls on Election Day. Running as an Independent, between a traditional Democrat and a Democrat-turned-Republican, Ventura attracted plenty of free media with his 72-hour bus tour. He also benefitted from off-the-wall campaign ads like "Jesse the Thinker" and “Action Figures” produced by ad genius Bill Hillsman. So on Election Night, Ventura actually did "shock the world" as he proclaimed in his victory speech.
The Bus Tour Meets Reality
Unlike Ventura's three-day, celebrity bus tour, Brown's voyage never attracted massive crowds or generate the momentum he needed to close the deal on Election Day. Brown’s tour started in Lynn and stopped in Beverly, Lynnfield, Lowell, Fitchburg, Worcester, Framingham, Walpole and Wrentham. A look inside the election results from those nine communities points to the difficult road Brown faced.
In those nine places, Brown surpassed his vote total from 2010 when he defeated Martha Coakley in the special election. But out-performing 2010 didn't take much effort since turnout this election was much higher. But here's the key: in all nine "bus tour" cities and towns, Brown surpassed his and Coakley's numbers from 2010, but Warren obliterated them.
In Lynn, Warren did so well she surpassed the number of combined votes Brown and Coakley won in 2010. Warren came close to doing the same in Lowell and Worcester. And those cities highlight the demographic hurdle facing Brown and state Republicans.
Women and Ethnic Voters
In the days following the election, two things could be said about demographics in Massachusetts and around the United States. Women and minorities formed strong coalitions for Warren and President Obama. Republicans counted mainly on white men, a shrinking demographic that has become less powerful at the polls.
A look at the 2010 Census highlights this changing political landscape. Lowell is 33% White, 30% Asian, 27% Hispanic or Latino. At 10% Cambodian, it's the second highest percentage of Cambodians living anywhere in America. Registered Republicans in Lowell measure in the single digits. So in 2010, when Brown defeated Coakley by five percent in Lowell, he saw an opening. But that was a special election. This year, with President Obama running strong in Massachusetts, Warren crushed Brown by 18%.
If you woke up on Election Day to WGBH Radio at 7am, as I did, you heard Bob Seay reporting on long lines at the polls — an hour wait in some places. Right then, I imagined the Brown campaign feared it would be an early night. Massachusetts delivered the President his seventh highest percentage win of all 50 states, 61-38%. And Warren rode "The Obama Wave" in Massachusetts.
But even in defeat, Brown can stake claim to winning the 2nd highest vote total of any Republican who has ever run for US Senate in Massachusetts, trailing only Ed Brooke (1972) by 56,752 votes.
By running in the middle, Brown knew the Republican brand wasn't an asset. After all, his tag line was "vote the person, not the party." In a year when the Presidential candidate was from Massachusetts, Brown didn't call on Mitt Romney to join him on the campaign trail or in ads. And at the polls, Brown couldn't rely on Republicans in three Congressional Districts where the party failed to even field a challenger. So where does this leave the Republican brand? Back in Minnesota, Democrats are called the "Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party" or DFL while Republican's used to be the "Independent-Republican Party" or I-R. Both parties knew who they were appealing to. In Massachusetts, one candidate had a party. The other called it an early night.