Scott Brown’s partisan problem

The second most bipartisan member of the Senate has a Republican problem. And his potential GOP colleagues are not helping him any.

If there’s anyone in Massachusetts who has not heard Sen. Scott Brown touting his aisle-crossing voting record, it’s either a child just learning to talk or someone recently returned from a stint in the cable-free zone of the South Pacific.

But quibble all you want with whether he conveniently sides with Democrats on secondary issues while teaming up with his GOP leaders on matters of importance, especially regarding women’s issues, or his motivation, Brown inarguably does vote more often with the current majority than nearly all his Republican colleagues. In our most recent issue of CommonWealth, Bruce Mohl breaks down Brown’s voting record on filibusters and finds there is some validity to his claim.

But Elizabeth Warren, as those same ad-weary voters have seen, has been hitting hard on the anthem that a vote for Brown is a vote for a Republican majority. While Brown’s voting record appears to blunt that attack somewhat, the Globe’s Scott Lehigh made a salient point at a forum on the Senate campaign last night sponsored by CommonWealth and MassINC that was held at Suffolk University’s Modern Theater. Lehigh makes the case that Brown’s bipartisan record has been amassed because he is a member of the minority in the Senate. If Republicans rule the chamber, many of the issues Brown has voted for and supported on the campaign trail will likely not even come up for a vote at all, and his bipartisan voting record will disappear.

Many of Brown’s problems are out of his control because they are out of state. In Indiana, Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who ousted centrist incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary, is under fire for his debate statement that pregnancy from rape is God’s will. His timing didn’t help Mitt Romney too much, either, as a campaign ad featuring Romney asking voters to support Mourdock began airing the day before Mourdock’s declaration. Romney and Brown both put immediate daylight between themselves and Mourdock, but the Democrats aren’t letting it go that lightly.

A little further west, Tea Party favorite Todd Akin has begun to recover from his self-inflicted wound that women have a biological immunity from pregnancy caused by a “legitimate rape,” pulling into within five points of incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill. However, Akin continues to shoot himself in the foot even with it firmly entrenched in his mouth by comparing McCaskill to a dog over the weekend.

Despite Brown’s repudiation of Akin’s comments when they first came out and his call for Akin to drop out, Akin’s resurgence — and its implications for Republican control of the Senate — is another hurdle for Brown.

In Wisconsin, meanwhile, US Rep. Tammy Baldwin and former Bush secretary of health Tommy Thompson are in a statistical dead heat. Thompson is a loud and proud anti-tax, anti-government conservative who has been battering Baldwin over a vote against a resolution honoring  9/11 victims that nearly all fact-checkers say is taken out of context.

If Massachusetts voters think the GOP agenda in the Senate will be fashioned by the likes of Mourdock, Akin, Thompson, and others of that stripe, how much weight will Brown’s support for women’s issues, for instance, mean if there will be no vote on those issues? What sway will his support for funding of Planned Parenthood carry if it never makes it into the budget?

Back in mid-August, Republicans looked like they had a better than even shot at taking control of the Senate, but polls have shown that advantage slipping away, with Democrats most likely hanging on to a 50-46 edge with two independents from Vermont and Maine likely caucusing with them. But that is a slim margin to hang your hat on. If Brown truly wants to maintain his bipartisan cred, maybe he should think about abandoning the remainder of his campaign here and use his celebrity to go on the stump for Democrats elsewhere. Because if they lose control of the Senate, Brown’s ability to trumpet his bipartisanship may be lost with it. 

                                                                                    –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

The Globe reports that Massachusetts regulators appear to have been unusually lenient in dealing with reports of misconduct at New England Compounding, the Framingham firm at the center of the national meningitis outbreak.

CommonWealth’s Gabrielle Gurley reports that tax experts say Massachusetts has little leverage in its sales tax talks with Amazon.

The Massachusetts Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union are among several legal groups calling on Attorney General Martha Coakley to recuse herself and appoint an independent investigator to examine what happened at the state drug lab, WBUR reports.

Two airport workers have filed complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against Logan Airport for actions taken against them for speaking Haitian Creole at work.

Rep. Marty Walsh tells the Herald, “I’m not part of that 1 percent.”

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The soap opera continues in Lawrence, as Mayor William Lantigua seems incapable of appointing two licensing board members who meet the legal requirements, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Fall River city councilors are looking into drafting an ordinance that would ban idling on city streets and impose strict commercial vehicles parking limits.

Worcester officials are considering a ban on panhandling, NECN reports.

ELECTION 2012

President Obama’s edge could be his ground game, The Atlantic reports. Obama may have flubbed his chances to win the endorsement of the Des Moines Register by insisting, at least initially, that his remarks be off the record. See the editor’s comments here. The New Yorker endorses Obama. In the National Review, Deroy Murdock rounds up some randoms acts of kindness by Mitt Romney. The Weekly Standard says impounded Romney’s testimony in Norfolk County Probate Court in the divorce records of Staples founder Tom Stemberg and his ex-wife Maureen Sullivan Stemberg that celebrity attorney Gloria Allred is seeking to have unsealed have little relevance to the presidential race. Bill Clinton gets a view of the underside of a bus, as the New York Times hangs the Obama campaign strategy of hitting Romney as a severely conservative conservative, rather than a soulless ladder-climber, around Bubba’s neck.

Republican Colin Powell, who crossed party lines to endorse Obama four years ago, is backing the president for reelection.

Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown go to black churches seeking votes, but ministers are not impressed by the last minute outreach by Brown. Meanwhile, meet Elizabeth Warren, the family woman you didn’t know. The Massachusetts race is just one of a score of tight Senate races that have thrown control of Capitol Hill into doubt; Gail Collins checks in on another, Linda McMahon’s comeback bid in Connecticut.

In an editorial, the Salem News comes out against Question 3, which allows the sale and distribution of marijuana for medicinal use. The paper says the measure lays the groundwork for legal use of the drug in all instances.

The MetroWest Daily News suggests that presidential debates should open with the singing of the national anthem.

The Herald endorses congressional challengers Richard Tisei, Sean Bielat, and Jon Golnik.

CHARITY

An MIT study finds that conservatives and liberals are equally generous when it comes to philanthropy, the only difference being who they give to, with red states leaning toward religious organizations and those in blue states favoring secular nonprofits.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Barnes & Noble said devices used to swipe credit and debit cards at 63 of its stores, including three in Massachusetts, were tampered with, the Associated Press reports (via WBUR).

Some businesses have been withholding tips from food service workers in western Massachusetts and elsewhere, a practice that The Berkshire Eagle argues is bad for business.

Is start-up haven Kendall Square becoming a victim of its own success?

Bedford-based iRobot is laying off 80 employees, or about 13 percent of its workforce.

The US sues Bank of America for $1 billion, alleging the bank, along with Countrywide, knowingly sold terrible mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

EDUCATION

The experience of charter schools in Cleveland is a cautionary tale for other communities like Chicago looking to charters to help turn their school systems around, the Chicago Tribune reports.  Meanwhile, in California, parents at a lower performing elementary school vote to bring in a charter school operator under a test case of the state’s parent-trigger law, the Los Angeles Times reports.

HEALTH CARE

The coaches of the Southbridge and Tantasqua Pop Warner football teams have very different views of the game where five Tantasqua players ended up with concussions, NECN reports.

TRANSPORTATION

CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow explores what an infrastructure bank could do for the state’s transportation needs.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

An independent MIT review says mechanical dredging in New Bedford Harbor could release PCBs into the air at a rate 10 times higher than EPA estimates.

Cape Cod officials work on what to do about great white sharks in advance of next year’s tourism season. A California surfer died after a shark attack this week, and scientists are trying to discover why the great white populations are increasing off of both coasts.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

No wonder kids are afraid of clowns. A man who works as a clown is arrested after jumping, nude, into a tractor-trailer truck at a Rowley rest stop and soliciting the male driver, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Whitey Bulger’s defense team claims former US attorney Jeremiah O’Sullivan gave the gangster a license to kill in the 1970s. O’Sullivan, who passed away in 2009, never testified in the federal court hearings that unmasked Bulger as an FBI informant.

MEDIA

Howard Kurtz, in The Daily Beast, explores the “nuttiness factor” of the last weeks on the campaign trail.

Because of an overnight power outage on Morrissey Boulevard, many subscribers awoke today, headed to front porches, and were heard exclaiming, “The Globe’s not here.”

LOTTERY

On the last day of the Red Sox season, 11 lottery players correctly picked all five numbers in the Lottery’s Mass Cash game, each winning $100,000. The winning numbers, 1-4-6-8-9, are the retired jersey numbers of Sox players that hang on Fenway Park’s right field facade, and some who won said they choose the numbers for that reason.