Race in Massachusetts

Who knew that the Massachusetts race for the United States Senate – and maybe for Democratic control of the entire Senate – would come down to race?  When I wrote about this last May I thought this was a one-off remark and since it didn’t move the polls, I figured the whole thing would die.  A lot of people who are part Cherokee didn’t register for many reasons including fear of being targeted if they were open about Native American ancestry.

But now Scott Brown has made Elizabeth Warren’s race the centerpiece of  his campaign.  He has decided that the path to re-election is to question Warren’s family heritage.  He has not produced any proof that her having “checked the box” made any difference in her tenure at Harvard Law School.  On the other hand, Warren has produced people, including Republican Charles Fried, to say either they didn’t know or if they did it made no difference.  Where’s the beef, Senator Brown?

After her initial fumbles at a response, Warren has settled on a great answer and produced a good response advertisement.  But this is not the end for Scott Brown.  This is the opening of this mornings Boston Globe story

In a tough new ad and in his attacks at last week’s debate, Senator Scott Brown has stoked questions about ­Elizabeth Warren’s professed Native American ancestry. But the difficulty of seizing on the controversy without crossing into uncomfortable racial territory became apparent Tuesday with the release of a video showing Republican staff members, including an aide in Brown’s Senate office, performing tomahawk chops and war whoops outside one of his campaign events.

Brown said such behavior is “not something I condone,” but declined to apologize.

“The apologies that need to be made and the offensiveness here is the fact that Professor Warren took advantage of a claim, to be somebody, a Native American, and used that for an advantage, a tactical advantage,” Brown said.

Does he really think this is going to get him re-elected?

Race is a difficult construct and, no, Elizabeth Warren’s family never registered to be members of a tribe.  On the other hand, one cannot simply look at someone’s physical characteristics and say she is obviously no a person of color as Brown did when he opened the last debate.  Melissa Harris-Perry talked about this the other night on the Rachel Maddow Show.

But I actually think that what we need in part is a conversation about what race is.  Race is a social construct, not a biological reality.  So, you know, when we think about blackness, which is the one most can put their finger on, yes, most Americans think they can tell a black person when they see one based on hair texture or how broad your nose is, or how brown your skin is.  But in fact, there`s no clear distinct line that makes one black or outside of black or inside of indigenous identity or outside of it.

It’s not our blood that makes us those things.  It’s our social constructs.   —MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry on Scott Brown’s peculiar racial attack on Elizabeth Warren

Brian McGrory is not quite calling the election yet, but his column in today’s Globe is not kind to Senator Brown.

Go ahead and stick a fork in the image — or, more ­accurately, the illusion — of Scott Brown as the affable everyman, the consummate good guy who folds laundry before pointing his pickup toward the docks to shoot the breeze with his fishermen friends.

It took him less than 30 seconds at last week’s debate to try and claw the eyes out of his opponent by questioning her character, honor, and truthfulness. He summoned the press corps he generally disdains to his office the following morning to distort ­Elizabeth Warren’s work on an asbestos case. He released his first negative ad on statewide TV Monday. His daily schedule on Tuesday included the line that he was “available to the media to address today’s revelation that Professor Warren worked on behalf of LTV Steel Company.”

And then, of course, there are his idiotic underlings filmed making tomahawk chops and reciting ridiculous Indian chants at a Dorchester rally. Nice.

It brings new meaning to being a Scott Brown Republican.

Boston is atwitter with half-cocked pundits wondering whether Brown is taking too big a risk by going too negative too soon. Here’s what they’ve got wrong: It may not be a strategy. It’s probably just who he is. When things went well, when he glided into the Senate on the wings of a short campaign and a hapless opponent, Scott Brown was as charming as they come.

McGrory concludes

I’ll say again what I’ve written before: Campaigns are long for a reason. In this case, Brown isn’t wearing well with time. So much of it comes down to whether ­Warren can rise to the moment, whether she can lift herself above an increasingly ugly fray.

The Mayor with Warren

There are a lot of serious issues to talk about and Scott Brown picks Elizabeth Warren’s heritage?  Give me a break.  Let me end with a quote from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston, who threw his valuable political support to Ms. Warren last week, said in an interview on Monday, “When candidates go negative, it means they have nothing to talk about.”

He continued: “Education, public safety, jobs, housing — my God, he won’t talk about any of it. He voted against a jobs extension bill three times.”

Photograph Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Did Obama win Iowa?

Mitt Romney won the Republican Caucus by 8 votes over Rick Santorum.  They both got just under 25% of the vote followed closely by Ron Paul.  You can read this as 75% of the vote went to other Republicans with the two closest rivals representing extreme positions.  Two interesting comments I heard on the MSNBC coverage last night.  First, former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts noted that he thinks Mitt’s 25% is about what his support is.  Not clear if he was talking about Iowa or generally amoung Republicans.  Second, Rev. Al Sharpton who hoped that Santorum and/or Paul stayed in the race for a while so that Mitt had to keep moving right to get the nomination.

(Daniel Acker for The New York Times)

Robert Creamer writes in the Huffington Post today that the Iowa was bad news for the Republican establishment which just wants to nominate Mitt and be done with it.

To maximize their odds of reclaiming their hold on the White House, the Republican establishment believes they need two things:

• To nominate Mitt Romney;
• To effectively end the Republican nominating process as soon as possible.

Last night’s results from Iowa lower the odds they will get either.

In fact, what we saw in Iowa last night was the Republican base gagging on the presidential candidate the Republican establishment is trying desperately to cram down their throats.

The problem is that Mitt is not good at displaying human qualities.  Brian McGrory wrote in his column in today’s Boston Globe

For not foreseeing his rise from the State House to, potentially, the White House, I shouldn’t, in truth, be so hard on myself. Romney has made a habit of getting in his own way.

First, there was the small matter of that gubernatorial campaign. His very best day was the one right before he declared. On the stump, he was, in a word, terrible – hollow and plastic in speeches and mannerisms. “How are you?’’ he would repeatedly ask, never waiting for a response.

There was one October campaign swing through Boston’s North End with Rudy Giuliani when a burly laborer in a crowded Mike’s Pastry called out “Let me buy you guys a cannoli.’’ Brilliant, I thought. The cameras would capture Romney with ricotta cheese on his strong chin, a man of the people. Then Romney called back, “No thanks, got to run,’’ as he headed for the door. He said it with that nervous smile, which was still frozen on his face when Giuliani said to the guy “Let me buy you the cannoli!’’ The place erupted in cheers.

Mitt and the establishment have other problems.  Like the fact that Rick Santorum was able to peak at the right time and become the anti-Mitt.  Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will also continue in the race.

All of which leads me to ask whether Obama actually won Iowa.  He had some 25000 people show up to watch a live message, signed up over 7000 new volunteers and has 8 field offices open in Iowa.  He had almost as many people at meaningless caucuses as Romney, Santorum and Paul each got as vote totals.  Sure maybe people aren’t as excited as in 2008 and everyone – even supporters  can name at least one thing he did they don’t like, but I’m with Rev. Al:  Let this go on for a while and let Mitt move to the right.  Then we shall see what the general election will bring.  Even better the Republicans could nominate Santorum.  Howard Fineman said in the Huffington Post late last night: 

The final Iowa results aren’t in but we already know one big winner: President Barack Obama.

The dismal, nasty campaign here was not good for the Republican Party or the country. There was precious little debate on anything other than who literally was Holier than Thou; the dollars spent on attack ads were, vote for vote, enormous. One GOP top finisher is unpopular with the base; another is too far out of the mainstream to be nominated, let alone elected; the third lost his last Senate race, in Pennsylvania, by 17 points, and is far to the right of the country on social issues.

All of which is good news for a president with a 40 percent job approval rating and a desperate need for a weak opponent next November.

The winner in Iowa.

I’ll leave Richard Viguerie with the last word.  In an interview today with the New York Times, Viguerie said

The conservative direct mail pioneer and activist Richard Viguerie predicted that the pack would continue to seek out a more ideologically pure standard-bearer this year than it did in accepting Senator John McCain as the Republican nominee in 2008.

“Romney has just seemed to have gone out of his way to try to get this nomination without giving conservatives anything, and that’s troubling to a lot of conservatives,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to go away quietly into that long dark nominating fight — I‘d be surprised if the conservatives didn’t mount a serious effort to derail Romney.”

On to New Hampshire!