Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 28, 2010

A FORGIVING ELECTORATE IN THE BAY STATE.... Evaluating lawmakers tends to be a subjective endeavor, but when I take a look at Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), I see a senator who's gotten off to a very rough start after about a half-year in office. The senator has, to be sure, benefited from undue hype, but he's struggled badly with his actual responsibilities.

After all, we've learned this year that Brown doesn't understand the stimulus, doesn't understand financial regulatory reform, doesn't understand health care reform, doesn't understand economic policy, and doesn't understand energy policy.

He's voted with the far-right to strip the EPA of its authority on climate change; he's voted with the far-right on health care; he's voted with the far-right on extending unemployment benefits; and he's voted with the far-right on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." At one point, Brown reflected on a deranged Texas man who flew a plane into a building, and told a national television audience that the terrorist's motivations reminded him of his own Senate campaign.

By all appearances, Brown just isn't ready for prime-time. But what I can't help but find striking is that his constituents just don't seem to mind.

US Senator Scott Brown, who only months ago was a little-known figure even within the tiny band of Republicans in the state Senate, not only catapulted to national stature with his upset US Senate victory, but is today the most popular officeholder in Massachusetts, according to a Boston Globe poll.

After less than five months in Washington, Brown outpolls such Democratic stalwarts as President Obama and US Senator John F. Kerry in popularity, the poll indicates. He gets high marks not only from Republicans, but even a plurality of Democrats views him favorably.

For context, Kerry's favorable rating in Massachusetts is 52%, Obama's is 54%, and Brown's is 55%. That's not an approval rating, but is a gauge of personal popularity.

I guess this is a reminder that voting records and on-the-job performance are nice, but in politics, charm and appearance often matter more.

Steve Benen 11:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Comments

Someone is surprised that the vast body of the American people are politically-illiterate? when did you last see any classes on "citizenship" in the public schools? Even when we had those, I recall the majority of my fellow-students sleeping through them, which has always explained a lot to me politically in the years since.

Scott Brown's entire career is further proof that Mencken was right: nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Posted by: TCinLA on June 28, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

There are all kinds of weird polling results this year. I think that we may have a lot of non-response bias now that will probably clear up by September or so.

Posted by: Frank C. on June 28, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

But he looks like an American. That's the important thing.

Posted by: mister moonlight on June 28, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

And he "looks like a senator." Don't forget that bit of wisdom from the cable buffoons.

Posted by: Molly Weasley on June 28, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Reminds me of a not-very-funny joke Carson made one night. He referred to one politician's platform as "Vote for me - I have Kennedy hair!"

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on June 28, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

It's the image, stupid.

Posted by: rbe1 on June 28, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Oscar Wilde's noted that, "style is everything;" or words to that effect. I have seldom found his guidence off target.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on June 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Beat the Brownie

Dean Baker, who writes the Beat the Press blog, has one of the sharpest pens I've seen. It usually only takes him a paragraph or two to shrink wrap stupidity for popular consumption.

Here's his full recent post on Mr. Brown:

Senator Brown is Concerned About a Tax Equal to 0.01 Percent of GDP
Senator Scott Brown has indicated that he may reverse himself and vote against the final version of the financial reform bill. He claims to be upset about fees levied on financial institutions that will total $18 billion over the next decade.
It would have been helpful to put this number in some context so readers would have clearer idea of what is at stake. The fee is approximately equal to 0.01 percent of projected GDP over the next decade. If it is fully passed on by financial institutions to customers will cost people an average of $6 a year.

Posted by: koreyel on June 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Or perhaps they meant it when they voted for a conservative. Go figure?

Posted by: anomimouse on June 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Voters are likely more ill-informed than Brown and don't recognize him as unprepared. Besides, he's just following the con ideology, isn't he? If voters were as informed as they ought to be, do you think they would tolerate the republicans blocking needed legislation? Would they elect representatives like inhofe, bachmann, and paul?

Posted by: CDW on June 28, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

I've always been sceptical of the people saying "Oh, he'll be toast in 2012." Once they're in, senators are hard to dislodge, no matter how incompetent or out of tune with their constituents.

Next time, maybe the Democrats should nominate someone who doesn't think it's beneath them to talk to voters.

Posted by: somethingblue on June 28, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Americans are stupid. Enough said.. Plus that Brownie is one hot bubby, did you see that photo shoot? Oohhh, Ahhhh.......... When George W. Bush made President of the United States, it was officially over.

Kill me!

Posted by: Tollop on June 28, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

If 'favorability' polls mean anything, and I'm not convinced they do, they are ephemeral at best. Even the generally well educated voters of Massachusetts don't pay that much attention to the legislative process in Congress, or for that matter their own legislature in Boston.

Most people don't have time for or aren't interested in the nuances of government. Television has taught us all to respect style over substance, and Brown understands that better than many politicians. If you've ever had a conversation with John Kerry you'd know that he is all substance and no style. He comes across as a stick, and was very hard to campaign for in 2004.

Thus a dim-witted pretty boy, who at least used to look good without his clothes and still retains a comely face gets a pass when he doesn't do his homework. It's probably been that way his entire life, and he has little reason to change his approach.

Posted by: rrk1 on June 28, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

This particular poll appears to be timed (and has succeeded) to raise the profile and value of his upcoming vote.

Posted by: Mawazo on June 28, 2010 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

I would just like to thank:

  • The media, for doing such a shitty job that the average person has no idea what's happening in the country and who's responsible, and
  • People who continue to support politicians like Brown and worse (Palin) because they're either too lazy or too stupid to understand what really terrible leaders they are.

Thanks for fucking things up for the rest of us.

Posted by: David Bailey on June 28, 2010 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Is a 1-3 point spread something to brag about?

Posted by: Alli on June 28, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

"I guess this is a reminder that voting records and on-the-job performance are nice, but in politics, charm and appearance often matter more."

The MN DFL seems to put this consideration last in voting for their gubernatorial nominees.

Posted by: ......... on June 28, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

in politics, charm and appearance often matter more.

That's a ridiculous comment, Brown just got elected, hasn't done anything to draw particular attention to himself and he doesn't come up for reelection for more than 2 years. Voters in the Bay State know that.

It's absurd to compare his approval rating to that of a sitting president during a time of record unemployment and the worst recession in recent memory or to a Senator who has been sitting in office for 25 years.

Posted by: Jinchi on June 28, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

He looks the part. That's more than enough for most people.

Posted by: greenjeans on June 28, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

@ somethingblue

But he is toast in 2012. Its a pres election, MA will go roughly 60/40 for Obama, whoever runs will be the un-Coakly (could you imagine Barney Frank, for example, eviscerating Brown?)

He's toast, he knows it, he's angling for a nice consultancy somewhere.

Posted by: efgoldman on June 28, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I guess this is a reminder that voting records and on-the-job performance are nice, but in politics, charm and appearance often matter more.

Yeah, the latter count for a lot when people who should be forthright critics don't make the slightest effort to talk about the former. The Democrats' equivalent of the GOP noise machine, at best, reaches a decible level approximately wequivalent to that of a feather dropped in the Grand Canyon.

Posted by: quivcalent on June 28, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'm gonna reserve judgment until after the opinion poll that takes place in 2012, when the Democrats will provide someone to contrast and compare with Brown.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on June 28, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't be surprised if a follow up poll showed those numbers tanking. Brown's votes are starting to pick up more play in the local press, and someone just started running some very pointed attack adds against his pro-oil voting record during Red Sox games (my favorite are the ones featuring locals with thick Mass. accents talking about how they thought they voted for someone who's independent). Give this a month or two and I think you'll start seeing his numbers taking a dive.

Posted by: Nied on June 28, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a Mass resident, people here are a lot more conservative than is generally known. I think there's a lot of ignorance, but I also think that people like what he's saying.

Posted by: Allen on June 28, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

I think there's a lot of ignorance, but I also think that people like what he's saying.

I think there's a lot of ignorance, as demonstrated by the fact that people like what he's saying.

Fixed it for ya. Thank me later.

Posted by: mister moonlight on June 28, 2010 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

That's why we called them Massholes.

Posted by: elbrucce on June 28, 2010 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Plato sez, "Told ya so, muthafuckas..."

Posted by: dr sardonicus on June 29, 2010 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

"A plurality of Democrats support Brown"

49% max. That means about 70-80% of Rerpublicans are giving favorable views to Brown. Given their approval ratings for George W. Bush, this isn't shocking.

They stand by their own when they are total screw-ups. Brown, thus far, has not disappointed us nearly so badly as Dubya.

That Kerry pulls 52% tells me 70-80% of democrats like him and 20% of Republicans do too.

Nothing to see here. Mindless partisanship, dog-bites-man stuff here.

Republicans will ALWAYS out-poll Democrats because Dems are willing to criticize their own (which keeps them more honest.)

Posted by: towearyforoutrage on June 29, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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