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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 12/29/2010

Scott Brown to kick off book tour during President's Day recess

By Felicia Sonmez

Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown's upset win in January's special election for the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) instantly propelled him onto the national stage. It seems only fitting that as he gears up for a tough re-election bid in 2012, he's doing it by opting for the route most national figures travel: by launching a book tour.

Brown adviser Eric Fehrnstrom tells The Fix that the Bay State's junior senator is planning to embark on a "mini-book tour" of Massachusetts during the Senate's President's Day recess, which runs from Feb. 21 to 25, 2011. Brown will be signing copies of his new book, "Against All Odds," slated to be released on Feb. 22, 2011.

"It's a remarkable book about the challenges that Scott faced as a young man growing up in adverse circumstances and how he overcame that adversity to eventually enter public service," Fehrnstrom said. The book's cover features Brown wearing his signature barn jacket.

(For a look at Brown's hard-knock beginnings, check out Brian Mooney's November 2009 Boston Globe profile of the then-largely unknown candidate.)

The reported seven-figure book deal was negotiated by Bob Barnett, the powerhouse Washington attorney whose roster of clients includes political luminaries such as Kennedy, President Obama and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R).

Brown's mini-tour will likely give him a boost going into what's sure to be a challenging re-election bid. Earlier this month, Brown came in at number-four on The Fix's list of Senate seats most likely to switch party control in 2012.

The biggest obstacle for Brown, of course, is Massachusetts' heavy Democratic tilt. Thirty-six percent of the state's voters are registered Democrats, 11 percent are registered Republicans and a whopping 52 percent are unenrolled.

Those unenrolled voters -- coupled with the campaign missteps of the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Martha Coakley -- were the backbone of Brown's come-from-behind win.

Voter turnout in January was above the norm for a special election, but in 2012, Brown will be running in a presidential year, in a state that has traditionally had high voter turnout in general elections.

On top of that, last month's midterms saw Democrats sweep all of the state's congressional seats; Gov. Deval Patrick (D) also won re-election by a larger-than-expected six-point margin in a hotly-contested race against Republican Charlie Baker, state Treasurer Tim Cahill (I) and Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein. Patrick's win illustrated the strength of Massachusetts Democrats' ground game, a factor that Brown will be hard-pressed to overcome.

Brown's camp argues that the midterm results are only more evidence that once again, their candidate is running from behind.

"I think the results of the November election prove again just how difficult it is for a Republican to win in Massachusetts, and that that's why Scott Brown will always, no matter what the polls show, he will always be the underdog," Fehrnstrom said.

Brown also faces the possibility of a challenge from the right, as tea partiers dissatisfied with his moderate record have suggested they may run a candidate against him in the GOP primary.

But Brown has many factors working in his favor, too. His $6.8 million war chest makes him among the best-funded incumbents heading into the 2012 cycle, and a poll released by Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling earlier this month showed Brown leading in general-election match-ups against five potential Democratic contenders, although Brown polled at below 50 percent in each of the match-ups.

The same poll showed Brown with a 53-percent favorability rating, making him more popular than the state's senior senator, Democrat John Kerry, who was viewed favorably by 50 percent of respondents.

Much will depend on who Democrats nominate to take on Brown. Massachusetts Democratic strategists view Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch as the two most likely contenders, although two potential wildcards are Deval Patrick and Vicki Reggie Kennedy, the late senator's widow. Other names floated include Rep. Ed Markey, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei (who ran in this year's special) and Robert Pozen, chairman emeritus of MFS Investment Management.

Capuano, the former mayor of Somerville, is the more liberal of the two congressmen likely to run and could fire up Democratic base voters; he ran in the 2010 special but came in second behind Coakley in the Democratic primary.

Lynch, a former ironworker and labor attorney, abruptly dropped out of the special election last fall after it became apparent that Coakley had swept up the support of unions; a social conservative, he could appeal to unenrolled voters in the general election.

Another PPP poll earlier this month showed that both congressmen remain largely unknown to Democratic primary voters; more than two-fifths of respondents did not know enough about either Democrat to have an opinion on him.

The state's upcoming redistricting battle is also likely to play a key role in forming the Democratic primary field, noted longtime Massachusetts Democratic consultant Dan Payne.

"Capuano and Lynch both are going to have to start making decisions because Massachusetts is losing a congressional seat," Payne said. "If they're not going to run [for Senate], there's going to be pressure on them to tell the legislature whether not they care what the boundaries of their district look like."

Then there's the Deval Patrick factor. Veteran Massachusetts Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh noted that despite Patrick's statements that he won't enter the race, his close ties to Obama as well as his status as the state's second-most popular pol (behind Boston Mayor Tom Menino) make him worth keeping an eye on. A call from the White House asking Patrick to take on Brown "would be a hard thing to say no to," Marsh said.

Meanwhile, some Massachusetts Democrats have begun a movement to draft Vicki Kennedy into running, and there's been much speculation that her heightened campaign-trail presence over the past year has been an effort to keep the door open on a potential bid to win back her late husband's seat.

Her entry into the race would almost certainly clear the field and instantly nationalize the race. That could be a good thing for Democrats, who would likely see the fundraising dollars roll in, Payne said.

"Democrats around the country would see this as an opportunity for payback," Payne noted, adding that Massachusetts "still has a deep love affair with the Kennedys."

On the other hand, a Kennedy candidacy could also be a good thing for Brown, who could revive his campaign mantra of running for "the people's seat, not the Kennedy seat."

Kennedy is also the only woman among the potential contenders; if she were to run and win, she would become the Bay State's first female senator.

Marsh noted that Kennedy's time and effort has been consumed by her work on the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, on which "her focus is singular." The institute's groundbreaking is slated for the spring of 2011, and while Kennedy has not given any indication that she's seriously considering a bid, any announcement regarding her political future would likely come after the center's groundbreaking.

Other Democrats eyeing the race would likely have to start ramping up their efforts before then, however, especially since the state Democratic Party convention -- where candidates begin making their pitches -- is slated for June.

By Felicia Sonmez  | December 29, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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