Why Scott Brown's Making Us Wait

Keeping the race boring is in his interest

There's an obvious strategy behind Scott Brown's silence as the special Senate election draws ever nigh; it's in the former Senator's interest to keep us from paying much attention to either him or his opponents for as long as possible.

An Associated Press report Wednesday gave us our first clear sign that Brown will run for John Kerry's seat. “GOP officials close to Scott Brown” told the A.P. that he was “leaning strongly” toward a run. And yet, we don't hear much from Brown himself (except for the occasional late-night Tweet … bqhatewvr that was). Brown only helps himself by keeping the race dull and uncontested. That's because so far, the Democrats running or considering running for the seat aren't exactly celebrities. In a recent MassINC poll, 34 percent of respondents had never even heard of Rep. Ed Markey, the only declared candidate. Thirty-nine percent had never heard of Rep. Steve Lynch, another potential contender. Of those that had heard of the Congressmen, few had strong opinions about them. Meanwhile, only 2 percent of respondents said they'd never heard of Scott Brown. (By comparison, a baffling 1 percent of respondents said they'd never heard of the U.S. Congress … Can't win 'em all.) Fifty-five percent have a favorable opinion of him, despite his just losing a high-profile race. 

Obviously, the special election contest hasn't even begun in earnest yet, so Markey, Lynch, and others have time to introduce themselves to the state, but not as much as they would in a general election. Plus, the Democrats can't count on droves of voters who might come to the polls to cast a vote for President Obama or Governor Patrick and check the box for the Democratic Senate candidate while they're at it. The moment Scott Brown gets in the race, the press will have a campaign to cover, giving his opponents a ton of media exposure. It's in his interest to delay that as long as possible and to keep the profile of the race itself down. The Wall Street Journal's Allysia Finley made a similar point Wednesday:

By delaying his decision to run, Mr. Brown remains above the fray. Plus, Democrats and liberal groups will have a hard time targeting a Republican who hasn't yet thrown his hat into the ring. Advantage Brown.

Brown will have to walk a line such that he doesn't appear ambivalent about the race while he avoids the press, but perhaps that's why he's allowed news to leak through his surrogates that he's strongly leaning toward the run. Brown has nothing left to wait for—Kerry was confirmed as Secretary of State Tuesday, Patrick is slated to name the interim Senator Wednesday, and the dates for the primaries and the election have been set. Even so, don't expect to see much of him for awhile yet.