Could Scott Brown Be the Anti-Sarah Palin?

Out of office, the former senator could become a more sane, less self-promoting version of the former Alaska governor.

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FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2012 file photo, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., speaks during a media availability, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Brown, who was defeated in his re-election bid, said Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 that he will not run for the Senate seat vacated by John Kerry, who was named secretary of state.

Scott Brown is not running for governor of Massachusetts. And it's possible he may not run, either, for a Senate seat in either the Bay State or New Hampshire. And that may not be so bad for Brown.

A run for the Senate in either state would be a daunting task for Brown, whose upset win in a special election in 2010 created a myth of a reddening Massachusetts and a magical Republican candidate. Brown was a bit of a fluke victor to begin with; he was running in a special election against someone who – while being a very good state attorney general – was arguably the worst candidate to run for any office, anywhere, and ever. And he hit at the perfect time of the rise of the tea party – when its strength was more than most people had realized, and before Democrats or the media started to take the movement seriously.

Brown lost to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and a re-run against Sen. Ed Markey would probably not be more successful. Markey is a much better legislator than a candidate, but he's a veteran lawmaker with a lot of chits around the state, and a solid, loyal Democrat in a state that is still quite liberal. Bay Staters have also historically shown much more of a willingness to vote for a Republican for governor than for the Senate or even the House. And New Hampshire? The carpet-bagger tag would not serve him well.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Still, that doesn't mean Brown can't make a contribution to the dialogue. He's said he is interested in talking about issues, and about the general dysfunction of the Senate. That's a good thing, as long as it's not done in a purely partisan manner. And if Brown is not running for office, the partisan nature by definition recedes a bit.

It's not that Brown is a bipartisan hero. He frequently noted that he was ranked by a major political magazine as being among the most bipartisan members of the Senate. That wasn't entirely true; Brown crossed party lines in voting, but that's not what it means to be bipartisan. Being bipartisan means working with the other party so intently when legislation is being drafted that it ends up passing overwhelmingly anyway, without crucial “swing votes.” In his defense, Brown arrived to the Senate at a time when things were already so bitter and uncooperative that it would have been hard for him to forge those kinds of relationships even if he wanted to do so. And Brown never seemed all that happy, anyway, in the Senate, which is a much different environment than the Massachusetts state legislature.

So maybe it's better all the way around if Brown become some sort of voice on politics and policy, but not attached to a particular campaign. He could be a more sane and less self-promoting version of Sarah Palin. He could talk about things, start a dialogue, and not do it with the goal of political office. There are many ways to serve the country and contribute to the conversation. Elected office isn't for everyone.

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