- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

As Washington struggled to discern a meaning from Massachusetts’ special election, candidates outside the Beltway said one message is clear: Outsider, grass-roots campaigns that tap voters’ anger at Washington arrogance will win in 2010.

Republican Scott Brown, who outhustled his opponent Tuesday to win a Senate seat that Democrats had held since 1953, became an instant brand name, with Republicans claiming to be “Scott Brown” candidates in their own races and Democratic candidates trying to heed the lessons of his shocking victory.

Scott Brown shares my belief that public office is a public trust, and he’s opened the door for Republican victories in the Northeast,” said former Rep. Rob Simmons, Connecticut Republican, putting himself in the mold of his New England neighbor in fundraising e-mail asking for donations of $41 in honor of Mr. Brown’s crucial 41st Republican seat in the Senate.

But his opponent in the Republican primary for Connecticut’s open Senate seat, pro-wrestling executive Linda McMahon, fired back, titling a press release: “You’re no Scott Brown.”

In Florida, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the state’s open Senate seat, said Mr. Brown fits his own mold.

“He sounds like a Charlie Crist Republican, from what I heard,” Mr. Crist said. “Very pragmatic, reasonable, conservative, that understands that the people are in charge and you need to listen to them and serve with a servant’s heart.”

Mr. Crist said Mr. Brown’s message of fiscal responsibility also was a powerful force.

“There is a frustration, if you will, with Washington and the ridiculous spending that’s going on,” he said.

Mr. Brown, speaking to reporters in Massachusetts on Wednesday, a day after his victory over Democrat Martha Coakley, said he is leaving it up to pundits to determine the message of the election.

“Bottom line is, I was always asked many times what kind of Republican I would be. And I really didn’t know how to answer that, so I just said I’m going to be a Scott Brown Republican,” he said. “Maybe there’s a new breed of Republican coming to Washington. Maybe people will finally look at somebody who’s not beholden to the special interests of the party, and who will look to just to solve problems.”

That message already has become a rallying cry.

Jim Gibbons, a Republican who is planning to run against Rep. Leonard L. Boswell, Iowa Democrat, said the Massachusetts election shows that voters want independence.

“They’re just looking for tough-minded people that are not just automatically agreeing with the premise. Scott Brown - his approach was just not to automatically agree with the premise that’s being served up,” Mr. Gibbons said.

Rand Paul, a Republican who is running for Kentucky’s open Senate seat, said the enthusiasm of “tea party” supporters, the anti-government movement that sprang up last summer and backed Mr. Brown, can aid candidates across the country - but only if they can distinguish themselves as outside the establishment.

“The tea party movement isn’t just about electing somebody with an “R.” They want somebody who believes in something,” he said.

Mr. Paul said the movement has fed off frustration with President Obama.

“It’s that people interpret that the country has gone too far to the left and too rapidly to the left,” said Mr. Paul, an eye surgeon and son of Rep. Ron Paul. “A lot of people who voted for Obama thought he was a smooth-talking, articulate young man who didn’t sound that radical. They didn’t realize he’d be buying businesses, going to Copenhagen, agreeing with Hugo Chavez.”

Even Mr. Obama claimed to be a Scott Brown candidate - two years before there was a Scott Brown Senate candidacy.

“The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office,” he told ABC on Wednesday. “People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”

Mr. Obama won his party’s nomination in 2008 in part because of his grass-roots efforts in Iowa’s caucuses, and several candidates said Mr. Brown’s victory shows that the power of hard campaigning can overcome tough odds.

That was a key lesson for Sue Lowden, a former chairmen of the Nevada Republican Party and one of those seeking to run against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has tremendous resources at his disposal.

“It emboldens Nevadans to know that even though we have a majority leader who’s so powerful and says he’s going to have $25 million to put into his race for re-election, it emboldens them to know that even though he’s the one who will have the most money, they’re in charge,” she said.

Kelly Ayotte, a former New Hampshire attorney general who is now a Republican candidate for her state’s U.S. Senate seat, spent time campaigning door to door with Mr. Brown and making calls on his behalf. She said his hustle made a difference.

“Grass-roots politics matter,” she said.

“There was a ton of enthusiasm for Scott Brown’s campaign and people were looking for a way to have their voices heard and send a message to Washington,” she said. “When I’ve been campaigning up and down our state for the last six months, I’ve been hearing the same things I saw in Scott Brown’s race: That Washington’s broken; we can’t have business as usual; we need to rein in spending.”

Dan Seals, a Democrat who is seeking the House seat being vacated by Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, said he sees in Mr. Brown’s victory a man who ran the better campaign and connected with voters.

“I certainly think that, at the end of the day, that one-on-one contact is what matters most. We do a lot of grass-roots campaigning, a lot of door-to-door work, and it’s allowed us to punch above our fundraising weight, if you will,” Mr. Seals said.

He rejected the notion that the election sent a message that Democrats have gone too far, though he said the outcome is a signal of voter frustration.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs described the election results as a “wake-up call for everybody in this town,” not just Democrats.

“That anger is now pointed at us because we’re in charge,” Mr. Gibbs said. “I think it would be inaccurate to just boil the results of yesterday down to one issue.”

c Kara Rowland contributed to this report.

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