The other wing opposes such moderation. That rift has boiled into public view since Baker announced his selection of State Senator Richard Tisei as his lieutenant governor running mate. Tisei, who is gay, is among the most moderate — some say liberal — of Massachusetts Republicans.
One Republican consultant predicts a major blow-out over the Tisei candidacy at the party's state convention, which will be held in Worcester in April. That could be even more likely if Brown energizes the conservative base in December and January.
"Where do all those people go?" asks one Republican consultant. "It could potentially have a backlash effect on [Baker]."
But others, including Hedlund, say that the intraparty divide is overblown. "The fiscal issues are so overriding right now," he says, that "people are going to get behind [Baker and Tisei]."
So far, Brown seems to have tilted to the center with his Senate campaign. He says he supports the constitutional protection of abortion rights, leaving the issue of same-sex marriage to the states, and the general principles of national health-care reform (though not all of the specific legislation that is working its way through the US Senate).
In the Republican primary, in fact, Brown's opponent ran radio ads calling him a RINO — Republican in Name Only.
This election, the only active federal contest, is for a filibuster-busting 60th Democratic vote in the US Senate — not to mention the symbolic seat of Ted Kennedy. But surprisingly, Brown has attracted virtually no interest from Republicans and conservatives across the country, save for one Coakley-bashing article by national conservative columnist Ann Coulter.
Some Massachusetts Republicans, worrying about state elections, think that's just as well. They'd rather not have the MassGOP linked with the rabid right, who are extremely unpopular here. But Coulter and her ilk can be the keys to a grassroots gold mine — especially since, thus far, the official GOP conduits (the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senate Committee) have made no commitment to spending money on the Massachusetts race.
Some sources say that Brown's campaign is trying to get that national conservative attention. But others, noting that Brown's campaign is being run by Romney personnel — including Eric Fehrnstrom, Beth Lindstrom, Peter Flaherty, and Priscilla Scuzzo — say that, if they wanted national attention, they'd already have it.
Those Romney folks are also, for the most part, former Malone team players. GOP insiders say that those old Malone hands know to keep their eye on the long-term goal beyond this Senate race — and that Coulter and others won't be helpful for that.
This Senate campaign is a major coming-out party for Brown in the state. If he makes a good showing — even by getting more than 40 percent of the vote — he will be, at least for the moment, the face of the Massachusetts Republican Party.
Presumably, Baker will quickly eclipse him as the governor's race heats up. But few think Brown will slink back to the State Senate and wait for an opportunity four or more years down the road.
Most believe Brown will instead immediately run for attorney general or some other statewide office, should he lose the Senate election to Coakley.
In fact, some of these political veterans think he's already running more of a state-office than a federal-office campaign. In his election-night victory speech, for instance, Brown stressed how one-party government breeds corruption. Says the same insider: "That's not an argument for Washington, that's an argument for Beacon Hill."
To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.