Politics: Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate Win
State Senator Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate win over Attorney General Martha Coakley stunned the nation, derailed Obama’s signature political initiative, and handed state Republicans their first major victory in decades. Here, a behind-the-scenes look at the final days of the historic campaign for Ted Kennedy’s seat.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 16
Kevin Conroy heads into a meeting at Coakley headquarters and says, “The biggest thing we need to decide today is how I’m going to get Jets tickets for tomorrow’s game.”
He means to “bring a little levity to an otherwise serious moment” — Conroy is known to have a dry sense of humor — but to some the joke doesn’t come off as funny. Are you serious? There are a lot of people here working very hard, thinks one aide, who sees the moment as a perfect illustration of Conroy’s naiveté and how poorly he has managed the campaign. Conroy will later dispute that idea, adding, “My critics will think what they will.”
Hyannis looks like one big Fourth of July parade. Brown’s bus tour has already seen record crowds in Quincy and Plymouth, but here, the last stop of today’s tour, supporters line Main Street by the thousands — so many people, police must close off the street.
On the bus, Representative Vinny deMacedo can’t help but laugh. “Wow!” he keeps shouting as the bus forges ahead. He glances over at Brown, but Brown doesn’t smile. He looks humbled by it all.
Brown gets off the bus to rabid cheers. Supporters are waving campaign signs and homemade posters and even bloody socks, a poke at Coakley’s gaffe about Curt Schilling. He hops into the bed of his truck — the famous truck — which has doubled as a soapbox for the last days of this campaign. Someone hands him a bullhorn and he delivers a 20-minute speech about lower taxes, healthcare, and changing Washington. He’s repeatedly interrupted by cheers. When he’s finished, he jumps back down and starts shaking every hand he can find. Tommy Doyle’s is a few blocks away. It takes Brown roughly an hour to get there.
The bar is above its capacity of about 380 people; another 500 stand outside. Adam Dubitsky, Brown’s traveling press secretary, comes across two older women. “We were here in 1960,” they tell him. “And this has the same energy.”
Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Robert Haynes pops by Coakley headquarters around 9 p.m. Veteran campaign workers know surprise visits often lead to inspiring pep talks, but Haynes instead says he’s having a hard time getting his members to vote for Coakley. He adds that he’ll try to change their opinion in the remaining three days. “It was pathetic,” one campaign aide will recall. “The room just deflated.”
SUNDAY, JANUARY 17
The Coakley campaign comes to Tommy Doyle’s, too, but this time there’s no overflow crowd, no need for a bullhorn, not even here, mere miles from the Kennedy compound in -Hyannisport. Maybe 100 people convene at the bar.
Coakley delivers a brief speech to tepid response. Then she leaves for a stop in Quincy, and then for Boston, where President Obama is coming to try to save her campaign.