In 2010, he was the tea party poster boy. In 2012, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown may not get so much as a nod of acknowledgement from tea party groups.
Brown shocked the country back in 2010 when he beat his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, and was elected to the state’s Senate seat vacated by the late Teddy Kennedy. The Tea Party Express paid to run pro-Brown ads. FreedomWorks activists campaigned for him.
In short, Scott Brown was the tea party movement’s first electoral victory. But now that he’s up for re-election for a full six-year term in 2012, tea party activists tell The Daily Caller they’re not going to bother putting together the same operation that swept him into office the first time.
That’s not to say tea partiers will not vote for Brown, or even put up much of an effort to oppose him since a serious primary challenger has yet to be found. The movement has matured into realizing that sometimes the “least of two evils” — as one activist put it — is necessary in a traditionally blue state like Massachusetts.
But don’t expect tea partiers to be happy about it.
“Scott Brown has disappointed us a few times,” Carlos Hernandez, state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, told TheDC. “So are we going to go out there and hold signs for him everyday? I don’t think so.”
“Now, does that mean we’re not going to hold our nose and vote for him? No, because the other option is not an option,” added Hernandez, referring to the Democrat roster challenging Brown. (Poll: Brown in statistical dead heat with Elizabeth Warren)
Hernandez’ sentiments were also echoed by national tea party representatives TheDC talked to. One prominent tea party activist said that “while he won’t be a major target for defeat … he also won’t be getting anywhere near the support that helped sweet him into office.”
Adam Brandon, communications director for FreedomWorks took a slightly more nuanced view when talking to TheDC. According to Brandon, FreedomWorks is planning to largely ignore Brown altogether.
If he does end up getting a challenge from the right, Brown is on his own. If he faces a difficult challenge from, say, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, while FreedomWorks may take steps to “educate voters” on the Democrat, Brown is essentially on his own.
That latter scenario is already starting to materialize. A Massachusetts poll released earlier this week had Warren in a statistical dead heat. The poll had Brown narrowly leading at 41 to 38 percent.
“He is not, let’s say, rising to that level of champion,” said Brandon, comparing Brown to other 2010 tea party stars like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
“Don’t expect to see FreedomWorks stuff all over Massachusetts,” he added. “You’re not going to see same fanfare you’ll see with us working in Ohio, Florida or Nebraska.”
Still, the lack of tea party enthusiasm shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the Scott Brown campaign. In April of 2011, Judson Phillips, leader of the Tea Party Nation, said Brown effectively threw tea partiers “under the bus”.
“Memo to Scott Brown,” wrote Phillips during the budget battle last spring. “If you think budget cuts ‘disproportionately affect low-income families and seniors,’ what do you think is going to happen when we have an economic collapse?”
Brown frequently found himself at odds with the more conservative members of Congress during the recent budget fights. While they called for drastic spending cuts, Brown oftentimes opposed them, saying the cuts unfairly hurt low-income families and the elderly.
He also supports expanding alternative energy sources, and was one of the few Republicans to vote for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
But so far for the 2012 election cycle, FreedomWorks is sticking to its targeting of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.
The Tea Party Express is doing the same thing. According to spokesperson Shawn Callahan, the Tea Party Express is going to focus on replacing Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
“As you know, Tea Party Express worked hard to help get Sen. Scott Brown elected and his re-election and campaign against the progressive economic policies of Elizabeth Warren are important to us,” Callahan told TheDC. “There will, no doubt, be other races that we will get involved in, but they have not been announced at this time.”
When contacted by TheDC, Tim Buckley, communications director for the Massachusetts GOP, offered support for Brown’s re-election.
“Scott Brown agrees with voters across the political spectrum that advancing pro-jobs policies are reining in excessive government spending should be our top priorities right now,” Buckley told TheDC. “He will continue working tirelessly to get people back to work.”
Yet, as the 2012 campaign season heats up, the tea party movement is collectively washing its hands of Scott Brown, though its keeping his race well within peripheral vision.
“[Brown] will only be the senator we need him to be if we can win these other fights,” FreedomWorks’ Brandon explained, pointing to races in states like Ohio, Texas and Nebraska and suggesting that a more conservative Senate will drive Brown farther to the right.
“You can make Scott Brown.”