Brown biding his time?

Some think the ex-Senator may be looking to run against Markey next year

Massachusetts Democrats ousted Scott Brown by turning the election calendar against him. The short calendar between Brown’s January 2010 election and his November 2012 defeat meant that the state’s dominant party essentially got a do-over for losing a critical election. The Democrats made up for losing to Brown in 2010 by running a far stronger candidate in 2012, while running Brown ragged with what amounted to three straight years of campaigning and fundraising.

Now, with a scant 17 months standing between Ed Markey’s ascension to John Kerry’s old seat and Markey’s next reelection date, state Republicans will be the ones looking to use the election calendar to their advantage. Markey beat Gabriel Gomez by 10 points this week, but the Malden Democrat ran a campaign that was far less impressive than his margin of victory would indicate; now he’ll have to wind it up all over again, likely against a stronger candidate than the political neophyte he just dispatched.

The most intriguing rumors about the GOP’s plans for 2014 surround Brown. The half-term senator remains personally popular in Massachusetts, despite losing his Senate seat to Elizabeth Warren by a solid margin last November. He left his party hanging in February when he backed out of the contest for Kerry’s seat. At the time, he told friends he was exhausted, and couldn’t take another two years of non-stop campaigning. Since hooking on with Fox News and the law firm Nixon Peabody, though, Brown has made a point of refusing to disavow interest in any office – the governor’s office, a future run for Senate, or even a move to New Hampshire.

Brown made a point of telling Fox 25 last week that “I could beat Ed Markey, absolutely.” In that same interview, he left the door open to a future political run. It could just be that Brown loves the camera, and will flirt with office as a way of keeping his face on television. Or it could be that Brown learned his lesson last time around, and he’s playing a long game – sitting out a potentially bruising race in 2013, when the only prize is an immediate reelection effort, and biding his time for 2014, when the reward for winning will be a full six-year term in the Senate.

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Paul McMorrow

Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

Whatever Brown’s game, it certainly appears that local and national Republicans kept some powder dry in the last Senate tilt. Federal Election Commission disclosures show what Gomez partisans have long complained  about: Even as Markey rolled deep with President Obama and Joe Biden and Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, GOP partisans largely sat out this race. The fundraising disadvantage allowed Markey to swamp Gomez in negative ads.

Markey’s reward for beating Gomez is an immediate reelection contest. He will walk into that contest with a relatively thin base of support, thanks to his inability, or unwillingness, to whip up excitement in voters. Turnout this week was roughly half what it was during the January 2010 Scott Brown-Martha Coakley race; Markey-Gomez attracted roughly 1.1 million fewer voters than the 2010 contest did. In Boston, turnout managed to top the city’s last city council race, but fell roughly 20,000 voters short of the city’s last mayoral race. As a result, far fewer Massachusetts residents actually voted for Markey than voted for Coakley in 2010. Only 60 percent of Coakley’s votes showed up for Markey – a sign of the tepid response Markey elicited, even in his Democratic base. The larger turnout expected for next year’s contest doesn’t necessarily change the makeup of the electorate in ways that hurt Markey. But it will mean that Markey will be chasing support among more than one million voters who sat out the June special election, but who will probably turn out in a gubernatorial election year. He’ll be stuck in a perpetual campaign. Scott Brown knows all about how those go.