Inside fight

Does Brown have the staying power to go toe-to-toe with Whitehouse?
By IAN DONNIS  |  February 23, 2006

ROLLING THE DICE Although Brown edged ahead of Whitehouse with a classic challenger's strategy, this fundraising quarter will reveal whether he has the bucks to compete during the primary air war.By all accounts, Thursday, February 9 was a red-letter day for US Senate candidate Matt Brown. A headline atop that morning’s Providence Journal — “Brown leads Whitehouse” — heralded the findings of a new Brown University poll. The results represented the fruit of the Democratic underdog’s high-stakes strategy: pour campaign cash into television advertising, in hopes of raising recognition and poll results, and thereby spurring a fresh wave of campaign contributions. And here was liberal icon Kate Michelman, the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, headlining a “Women for Brown” fundraiser at a comfortable home on Providence’s East Side, and lending the candidate her most enthusiastic support.

Still, even during one of the best weeks of Brown’s run for the rarefied brass ring of the US Senate, reminders of the advantages enjoyed by his chief primary rival, Sheldon Whitehouse, were never far away. When I asked Cheryl Blazar, the hostess for the event and the finance co-chair for Brown’s campaign, how she got involved with the candidate, she recounted being introduced to him by her good friend Mark Weiner — who, after being a Brown supporter, subsequently took on the post of national finance chairman for Whitehouse’s campaign.

Brown dismisses the level of establishment support for Whitehouse — as further evinced by the backing of US Representatives Patrick J. Kennedy and James R. Langevin — touting a disciplined message that he is more distanced from politics as usual. “I’m someone who has fought some very tough fights and who always fights on issues that I think are important,” he says, “and I think that’s the kind of ROLLING THE DICE Although Brown edged ahead of Whitehouse with a classic challenger's strategy, this fundraising quarter will reveal whether he has the bucks to compete during the primary air war. leadership we need.” By way of example, Brown points to his call last August — the first by a Senate candidate, he says — for President Bush to set a timetable for bringing US troops home from Iraq, and he raps Whitehouse for refusing his invitation to take part in a debate on the war. With a $1.5 million war chest, Whitehouse can afford to bide his time for now in terms of airing commercials, and he’s doing his best to ignore Brown’s campaign.

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