How conservative is Scott Brown? More conservative than you might think 

There's been a lot of fretting about exactly how jubilant conservatives should be over Scott Brown's election. Sure, his election may spike health care legislation -- but the Senate has just inherited a Pro-Choice Northeastern Republican who may buck the party on a number of issues going forward.

It's clear that Scott Brown is no Jim DeMint, and it remains to be seen how Brown will assert his independence after repeatedly asserting he wasn't beholden to Washington interests in the campaign. But there's evidence that Brown is much more conservative than your typical Northeastern Republican.

For one thing, while Brown may be pro-choice he's not a social liberal. Last month, the Boston Phoenix published what in retrospect is an hilariously wrong thumbsucker on Brown's Senate race. The theory was that Brown was simply running in the Senate race to elevate his profile so he could run for Governor. Whoops. However, the piece does contain this telling observation:

Throughout his political career, Brown has been considered a staunch conservative. His first race for the State Senate, in 2004, was defined largely by the issue of same-sex marriage, which Brown opposed. He is extremely popular among the conservative base of the state party, say insiders.

That's worrisome to those in the wing of the state GOP — personified by gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker — who believe the party needs moderate candidates who focus on job creation and fiscal responsibility. They want to downplay social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, and to distance themselves from the hard-line rhetoric of the Tea Party movement.

The liberal Republicans in the Massachusetts state party actually saw him as a threat because he was too conservative? After last night, it's hard to say Brown's more conservative detracted from his campaign rather than benefited him.

It's also not clear that Republicans in Massachusetts are all that fiscally conservative, even as they try and dodge socially conservative issues. As discussed in my column today, "Are the Reagan Democrats back?", former Democratic state treasurer Tim Cahill renounced his Democratic partisanship on the grounds Democrats are fiscally reckless. Cahill has teamed up with a pro-life Republican state Represenative to run for Governor in Massachusetts. It's now a three way race against an unpopular Democratic incumbent Governor where an independent former Democrat(!) is credibly running to the right of the Republican in the race. That's how liberal the Republican party is in the state.

And Massachusetts may be Democratic, but it's not necessarily liberal. In his report from Massachusetts yesterday, Reason writer Michael Moynihan -- a Boston native -- summed up Massachusetts voters this way: "These guys support labor unions, not civil unions."

Given Brown's demonstrable personal appeal and the fact he campaigned specifically against the Democratic economic agenda, Brown might prove to be able to get away with being more socially conservative and economically conservative than anyone could expect from a Massachusetts Republican.

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Mark Hemingway

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