Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts has political candidates across the country trying to claim his mantle of insurgency. But a question lingers: who are his real heirs? The answer doesn’t appear to be, interestingly enough, which candidate most resembles Brown ideologically, but rather who is the most conservative candidate relative to his or her political race and whose candidacy feels the most like an insurgency rather than just another ordinary political campaign.
First in line to wrap himself in Scott Brown’s victory was John McCain who wasted no time in telling reporters how happy he was to be joined in the Senate by his new colleague. But it’s not McCain but radio talk show host and former Arizona congressman J.D. Hayworth who smells the most like the Scott Brown of that race. If Hayworth takes down McCain, it will be no less stunning than Brown’s Massachusetts surprise.
In California, though Carly Fiorina and Tom Campbell quickly issued congratulatory statements aimed at Brown, it is GOP Senate challenger Chuck DeVore -- the most conservative of the three and, in an ordinary year, the most implausible candidate -- who seems to be Brown’s natural heir. DeVore is down by only six points in a hypothetical match-up against longtime liberal Senator Barbara Boxer, he’d likely be down by 20 or 30 in an ordinary election year.
In Florida, facing a tough primary challenge from Marco Rubio, Senate candidate and Republican Gov. Charlie Crist let it be known that he, too, had placed a congratulatory call to Brown. But there’s little doubt that Rubio is the implausible insurgent in the race and like Brown he’s managed to overcome a double digit deficit and has now pulled ahead in the race.
As for Brown, after his big win in Massachusetts he may have come to believe that he now has the ability to transfer his magic to other candidates. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll endorse a Republican candidate whose voting record most resembles his. In that case, it would likely mean Republican former California Congressman Tom Campbell in California, McCain and Crist in their respective races. But if he tries that it may be a miscalculation. His endorsement by tea party supporters shows a remarkably sophisticated political calculus on their part. It's one that finds them willing to vote for relatively liberal Republicans provided the candidate running is in a liberal state and has no serious challengers from his or her right flank.
It will be several months before we know exactly what the Scott Brown factor will mean in 2010, but if Rubio, DeVore and Hayworth are the GOP nominees in November, it will be clear that we are in a most unusual election year. In fact, it will be clear that this is a year in which candidates, who would never have won under normal circumstances, may find themselves the beneficiaries of the same kind of pent-up energy that catapulted a little known State Senator named Scott Brown into Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.
Mark Joseph is a producer, author and editor of Bullypulpit.com. He is a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum.