Had any interesting conversation with another person the other day. Went kinda like this.
Them: So the Tea Party hates moderate Republicans right.
Me: Yeah, but it isn't like an organization with centralized leadership.
Them: So they hate Scott Brown.
Me: Well, no.
It got me wondering why there wasn't any organized and effective Tea Party movement against Scott Brown during the Massachusetts Republican primary. You could argue that Massachusetts conservatives were being prudent and, knowing that they weren't going to get anyone to the right of Brown, they took what they could get. There is something to that, but, it doesn't explain why there was a dump Castle movement in left-of-center Delaware, but not in Massachusetts. I think that the explanation is that a populist conservative insurgency against a moderate Republican requires several elements to come together. Brown avoided the fate of Bennett, Murkowski, Crist, Specter, and Castle due to several things that were in his control and one big thing that wasn't.
1. Brown's opponent in the Republican primaries was a perennial candidate with a history of personal problems (sound familiar?.) But Jack E. Robinson was not able to distinguish himself as a populist and more conservative alternative to Brown. He might have had some paid media, but I never saw any of it. I saw him on one of the local evening news shows one time and, while talking the same anti-Obamacare, pro-tax cuts stuff as Brown and just about every other Republican he said nothing to distinguish himself from Brown . There were some differences on social issues. Robinson was pro-life and pro-gay marriage, while Brown was the reverse. The lack of a conservative alternative in the race gave Massachusetts down-the-line conservative no one to coalesce behind. If there hadn't been a credible (Joe Miller) or semi-credible "real conservative" in the race, Lisa Murkowski, Charlie Crist, and Mike Castle would be on the way to winning Senate elections.
2. It strikes me that the Tea Party movement is (along with the right-leaning issue preferences and media consumption habits of its supporters) an anti-entitlement, anti-establishment movement. While I expect that Scott Brown will show up as a moderate Republican in the next ACU ratings (fwiw) he didn't come across as entitled or as a member of the establishment. He worked hard and did so in a way that he was seen to be working much harder than anyone else. He also campaigned against the state and federal political establishments.
3. He focused on issues on which he agreed with conservatives. He built his campaign against the stimulus (unlike Crist and Specter, who supported it), Obamacare (unlike Murkowski and Castle who voted no but later waffled), and civilian trials for terrorists, and in favor of tax cuts. He even explained supporting tax cuts in the very Reaganite way of invoking JFK in a very clever ad.
4. Brown maintained good relations with the local right-leaning media. He not only went on the local right-leaning talk shows (or in the case of Dennis and Callahan, shows with right-leaning hosts and audiences), he often got the hosts to say nice things about him and what an improvement he would be over any of the Democrats and explaining to their audiences that we can't expect conservative perfection in Massachusetts. Brown didn't treat conservatives with disdain.
5. Timing. There was very little of an "almost any real conservative can win" narrative in early 2010. Doug Hoffman had just lost the special election in New York-23. Obamacare was still working its way through Congress and it seemed like one more Republican Senator (and maybe the shattering effect on Democratic morale of a Republican win in Massachusetts) would stop Obamacare. It didn't work out that way of course, but it probably made it easier for some Massachusetts conservatives to support Brown