Editorial: Brown’s ‘uh-oh’ moment at the Eire

The ‘uh-oh’ moment for Boston politicos in the disastrous Martha Coakley campaign of 2010 came on the Sunday morning before the special election. Even before most citizens could begin to rub the sleep out of their pre-Mass eyes, the calls started coming in to ward bosses and precinct captains about Dot Ave. There were scores of red-and-blue Scott Brown placards grinning at them from storefront windows from Lower Mills to Columbia Road. The Coakley team had been caught flat-footed and it was all the worse because there was not a single Coakley sign to be had inside the 128 belt. They didn’t think they’d need them.

Signs don’t vote, but they can be harbingers of bad things to come. A few days later, Brown’s surge laid bare the total incompetence of the Coakley strategy statewide. Sure, she carried Boston— but not in a manner that would prompt any boasts at the next ward committee meeting.

That was then, this is now.

Even before last Friday’s much-trumpeted endorsement of its candidate by Mayor Tom Menino, Warren’s campaign was hitting on all cylinders in Boston’s neighborhoods. She’s had most of the city’s labor unions at her disposal for months— and some of them, like Rep. Marty Walsh’s laborers union, have been on board since last October. Menino’s nod will help boost morale and further swell Warren’s ranks— but no one should labor under the myth that key instruments of the Boston machinery were waiting for the “green light” from City Hall to do real work for Warren.

Saturday’s spectacle outside the Eire Pub — which included some foolish Florida State-style “Indian” chants from Brown’s sign-holders — is raising sensitive eyebrows along with some real and contrived outrage from Warren’s folks. But what was most notable about the day’s events in Adams Corner was just how weak Brown’s ground game is locally. For someone who supposedly spends so much time pulling pints and shooting hoops in Dorchester, Brown has failed to translate any of that into genuine, homegrown support, even in places like Neponset, which he won last time. Most of Brown’s bodies in Adams Corner last weekend were imports and some were members of the senator’s staff. They were badly outnumbered and outmaneuvered by Warren’s throng, who camped out on the corner for most of the day. What seemed at first like a bold strike on Brown’s part— defiantly wading into the Eire to signal his indifference to Menino’s endorsement— backfired.

This time, it was Brown who got caught flat-footed and overmatched.

It’s something that just didn’t happen back in 2010.

What’s striking about this is that Brown is precisely the kind of Republican who could have built a competitive organization locally. He could have ward and precinct captains in much of Dorchester pressing his case. He could have empowered the right-leaning independents and Reagan Dems in Dot to step into his column with confidence and wear their allegiance publicly. We’ve asked Brown’s campaign to have a local surrogate pen an article for the Reporter and, to date, they’ve offered nothing.

Outside of former Mayor Ray Flynn, the Brown camp has been woefully underrepresented in the wards and precincts we cover.

Everyone, including Brown, knows that he can’t win Boston. But, his appeal in ’10 was predicated on the idea that he’d be that Republican moderate who’d make a dent in the deep-blue armor and create partnerships with Democrats who share his blue-collar base. That he’s failed to deliver on that promise in places like Dorchester, and even South Boston, does not bode well for the junior Senator.

Perhaps Brown’s brain trust should spend less time worrying about house signs getting clipped off Howie Carr’s Wellesley lawn and more time worrying about the lack of support for his re-election on the three-decker streets of Neponset and Savin Hill.