‘A Major Upset of Historic Proportions’: Experts say region could become base for the state Republican Party
January 20, 2010
By Vicki-Ann Downingand Erik Potter
Enterprise Staff Writers
Republican Scott Brown's victory at the polls was a "major upset of historic proportions" that will energize the GOP across the region and Massachusetts, local politicians and political-science experts said Tuesday night.
Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute for Law and Society and a political science professor at Stonehill College, said southeastern Massachusetts now could become a base for the state Republican Party if it decides to build on the Brown victory in November.
Brown received strong support from the region, even winning the working-class cities of Quincy and Taunton, which usually vote Democrat. (Democrat Martha Coakley did take the city of Brockton).
The key for the Republicans will be to hold on to the independent voters who voted for Brown, he said.
"It's really stunning," said Ubertaccio. "The Democrats seriously misjudged the mood of the electorate. That they would lose Ted Kennedy's seat is just a searing indictment of the state party and the Coakley campaign.
"This was a winnable race for the Democrats," he said. "They had the infrastructure, the history, the votes, and everything that could go wrong went wrong."
Ubertaccio credited Brown with putting together a strong organization that was able to make the most of the opening Coakley gave him.
"He's a good candidate," said Ubertaccio. "He was able to understand that there is a lot of frustration out there, 10 percent unemployment, a lot of anxiety about the state of the country and its future. There is frustration about Beacon Hill and Washington being out of touch.
"I think he was able to do what hasn't been done before - to make that a referendum on the presidency and the Democratic party in the state."
Bridgewater State College political science professor Brian Frederick called Brown's win "a major upset of historic proportions."
Frederick said Brown, in addition to running an effective campaign, benefited from a weak Coakley campaign, a popular backlash against Democrats and a short six-week general election season.
"(There's) a lot of positions that Republicans hold at the national level that are unpopular in Massachusetts," Frederick said. "Had this been a normal campaign with a normal campaign period, Coakley might have been able to exploit some of those more unpopular positions."
Frederick described the Brown campaign as "smart" in being able to appeal to a conservative base but, more importantly, being attractive to independents.
More GOP candidates may now enter state races, one official said.
Republican Central Committeeman Bill Nickerson, also chairman of the Raynham Republican Town Committee, said he spoke with several local politicians at the Brown rally in Boston Tuesday night who had been on the fence about challenging Democratic candidates this fall.
But after seeing what Brown was able to do, Nickerson said they're getting off the fence and planning to run.
"I really think it's a national (mood change we've seen), but it's really a Massachusetts thing, too," Nickerson said. "You're going to see some changes on the state level."
Kevin Bligh, Bridgewater Democratic chairman, said he saw Tuesday's results as a wake-up call for Democrats to return to the positive campaigning that worked for Gov. Deval Patrick in 2006 and President Barack Obama in 2008.
"We need to focus on the positive of what the Democrats can offer that Republicans simply aren't willing to offer - (reforming) health care, education reform, pension reform," Bligh said.
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