The most common—and to my mind the strongest—counterpoint to my piece arguing Elizabeth Warren would be a better, safer running mate for Hillary Clinton than Tim Kaine is one that stems from Coakley’s 2010 loss to Scott Brown. While we know to a certainty that a Democrat would replace Vice President Kaine in the Senate, Democrats would have to make their peace, for at least a brief interlude, with a Republican holding Vice President Warren’s seat as an interim senator. They would then have to run the far more consequential risk that said Republican would win the subsequent special election, and hold the seat for another couple years. Scott Brown all over again.
This is a very serious objection, and I more or less outsourced my rebuttal to Harry Reid, who is far more heavily invested in returning Democrats to the majority in the Senate than I am, and far more attuned to Democratic political realities than I am, and yet isn’t worried about a Coakley-Brown redux.
But this isn’t an argument from authority. There are very good reasons not to worry Democrats will blow this Senate seat again, and I find them persuasive.
- Coakley is retired from politics, and in any case it’s unthinkable that Democrats would let her anywhere near a statewide race in Massachusetts ever again.
- The special election would fall in close proximity to the general election, which should preserve turnout.
- Memories may be short, but Scott Brown isn’t forgotten. Massachusetts Democrats remember what happened in 2010, and wouldn’t allow themselves to get caught flatfooted again. To wit: the current junior senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey, won his seat in a June 2013 special election after President Obama named John Kerry secretary of state.
- Democrats have a very strong bench in Massachusetts.
- Republicans have a very weak bench in Massachusetts.
These considerations don’t eliminate the risk that Democrats would lose Warren’s seat. But they reduce it so substantially that it shouldn’t be a decisive factor in Clinton’s selection process.