Taking sides

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  November 4, 2009

Political observers — of both parties — say it’s smart for Brown and the state GOP to force themselves into the Democratic primary contest. With Brown facing just token opposition (perennial also-ran Jack E. Robinson is the only other Republican trying to qualify for the ballot), he might otherwise slip into irrelevance until after the December 8 primary.

The Republican attacks might also get them precious press coverage for criticisms — fair or not — that the Democrats may be unwilling to raise against one another.

Perhaps more important, state Republicans can use this high-profile race to define their own party in voters’ minds, as the voice of opposition against the status quo, political corruption, and tax-and-spend liberalism — a “branding” that should pay dividends in next year’s state elections.

What’s surprised political insiders, though, is how effective the state’s Republicans have been so far — given the woeful impotence and incompetence that has seemed the state party’s signature in recent years. (Despite all of Beacon Hill’s ills, the state GOP actually lost seats last November.)

So, what’s changed? Some of the credit probably should go to the new Massachusetts Republican Party staff and its chair Jennifer Nassour, as well as to Republican legislators like Richard Tisei. But most give the lion’s share of credit to Brown and his advisors. Those advisors include some old pros from the Romney days, including Brown’s campaign manager Beth Lindstrom and spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom.

Even Romney himself is pitching in. He was scheduled to headline a big MassGOP fundraiser in Boston Tuesday — along with former governors William Weld, Paul Cellucci, and Jane Swift. That cooperative effort may be another sign that the party is getting its act together, which could spell trouble for Beacon Hill Democrats long after the Senate race ends. Or, at least, the Republicans may add some excitement for spectators of the Senate race.

To read the “Talking Politics” blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

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