For most Republican Senate candidates this year, attacking President Obama is a no-brainer. That's not the case for Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, running for reelection in a state where the president is expected to win easily.
A poll released last Monday showed Obama with 60 percent favorability in Massachusetts and just 34 percent seeing him unfavorably (Mitt Romney had 39 percent favorability in the survey, 53 percent had an unfavorable view of him).
As I wrote when the poll came out, it will be very tough for Brown to win the race if Obama's numbers stay so high. And the day the poll came out, Brown released a web video that took the president on more directly than he has before -- on his controversial "you didn't build that" comment.
While it would clearly benefit Brown for Obama's favorability to drop in the state, going after the president carries risks for him -- something he's clearly aware of, given his frequent mentions of his bipartisan track record. Still, other than ads aimed at New Hampshire residents that will air in Massachusetts, he can't count on anyone else to attack Obama for him in the Bay State.
But Brown's attack has proceeded with caution, and over the course of a week and a half evolved to the point where it's no longer an attack on Obama at all, but one entirely aimed at his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren
The web ad, which has over 1 million Youtube hits, starts with the words of past presidents, then gets to Obama's speech, and then links it Warren, who made similar comments in a video that went viral last year. "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own," says Warren in the clip.
The day after releasing the web ad, the campaign launched a radio spot
on the same theme -- but this one was much more vague, and Brown didn't mention Obama or Warren in it. "Lately it has become fashionable in politics to attack success and belittle the achievements of our businessmen and women," he says. "You won't catch me demonizing our job creators."
On the following morning, July 25, Brown went on Fox and Friends with a slightly different message: that Obama was led astray by Warren.
"Listen, obviously the President made his statements, but people should know that Professor Warren made her statements over a year ago," Brown said. "They're almost verbatim. And the President got bad advice from Professor Warren certainly."'
He weighed in on Obama's complaint that the remarks were taken out of context as well, further differentiating him from Warren.
"First of all, I'm glad the President is correcting the record, but there is none of that with Professor Warren," he told Fox. "She's actually doubled down and believes that we should have more government interference and more government regulations and more taxes taken out of people's pocket books and wallets."
"By walking back his earlier statement, it's clear that President Obama now realizes the bad advice he got from Professor Warren," said Brown's campaign manager Jim Barnett
in a statement that same day.
Then, on Tuesday, July 31, Warren was selected for a primetime speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention -- but not the keynote slot (she was rumored to be under consideration for it). Brown's campaign tied it to her comments. "Professor Warren's radical, anti-free enterprise rhetoric is so far out of the mainstream even within her own political party that she got downgraded from her speaking role at the Democratic Convention," said Brown's communications director Colin Reed
in a statement.
And Thursday, Brown wrote an entire Politico op-ed
on "you didn't build that" -- without mentioning the president a single time, instead calling it "the new refrain of the extreme left" and hitting Warren on it.
We'll see if and when Brown dips another toe into attacking the president.