January 23, 2010 in Nation/World

Republican candidates try on Brown coattails

From California to Florida, they offer similarities
James Oliphant Tribune Washington bureau

WASHINGTON – Republican candidates for Congress are latching onto Scott Brown’s bolt-from-the-blue win this week in the Massachusetts Senate race, with political outsiders and longtime officeholders alike casting themselves in a similar mold – or seeing Brown in their image.

Brown was a nearly obscure state senator who shocked the Democratic favorite, Martha Coakley, in the race to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., by employing a tightly focused, populist, anti-Washington message. His victory energized Republicans nationwide.

Brown’s unlikely success drew on support from moderates and conservatives, meaning that both camps have found something to emulate in his win. He has become a sensation in a party that has been eager for new stars.

“I don’t know too many candidates who haven’t seized on Scott Brown,” said Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst in Washington who watches Senate races. “If I hear one more time that someone is the next Scott Brown, I’m going to lose my mind. These things are not easily replicated.”

In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate running for U.S. Senate, was quick to telephone Brown after his win. Crist’s GOP rival, Marco Rubio, a conservative, had asked his supporters to send money to Brown.

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is running against a field of challengers to secure the GOP nomination for Senate in his home state, which has voted overwhelming Democratic in recent years. He spoke to Brown on Thursday, when the newest senator visited Washington for the first time.

“If it can happen in Massachusetts, it can happen in Illinois,” Kirk said in an interview. Kirk said that he and Brown were alike, both social moderates who were fiscally conservative and strong on national security.

In California, all three Republicans vying to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer have pointed to Brown’s win.

Former Rep. Tom Campbell, who entered the race earlier this month, likened himself to Brown in a statement, saying that Campbell “was the only candidate for Senate with a proven record of fighting federal spending.”

Meanwhile, the campaign of Carly Fiorina, another GOP Senate candidate, said that, like Brown, Fiorina isn’t a Washington insider.

The campaign of a third GOP candidate in the California race, Chuck DeVore, said it directed its supporters to make calls for Brown before the election.

DeVore said that “there is a direct line that can be drawn” between his campaign and Brown.

His spokesman, Joshua Trevino, said that Brown “will be for some time the most in-demand Republican on the planet. Every office-seeker from a dogcatcher in Ohio to a Senate candidate in California will want him to come out.” But he said that DeVore had not asked Brown to come to California to boost his campaign.

In Connecticut, Republican Senate candidates Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons have been comparing themselves to Brown. McMahon says she, like Brown, is an outsider. Simmons says that, like Brown, he is a deficit hawk who is strong on national defense.

As one Republican campaign aide said, “Everyone is the new Scott Brown.”

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