Nearly three weeks after Scott Brown’s earth-shattering political triumph over the entrenched political establishment, it’s clear those on the losing end have barely begun to lick their wounds. They never saw this coming and were done in by extreme complacency.
Postmortems from the left have begun to focus on the role of talk radio in Brown’s victory, the importance of which can’t be understated. But in The Phoenix, Adam Reilly manages to omit entirely the key player- Howie Carr:
Talk radio was huge for Brown. Yes, the dearth of exit polling in the Brown-Martha Coakley contest makes it hard to quantify its exact impact. But if you listened to Boston talk radio during the race — commercial talk, as opposed to the sedate stylings of NPR affiliates WBUR and WGBH — you know that this segment of the airwaves was, overwhelmingly, Brown country: a source of hope and good cheer when things looked grim, and a high-volume ally as the Brown juggernaut headed down the home stretch.
Consider, for example, the love lavished on Brown by WEEI, the sports-radio powerhouse that doubles as a source of conservative commentary. On primary day, Gerry Callahan, half of the duo behind its morning drive-time Dennis & Callahan, tossed Brown this softball: “Does it make any sense to you that people follow this far-left agenda, and want another far-left loon like [Senator John] Kerry, like [Congressman Barney] Frank, like [Congressman Edward] Markey, like the rest of them?” And shortly before the election, Glenn Ordway, host of the afternoon drive-time Big Show, and three Big Show associates (Pete Sheppard and former New England Patriots Fred Smerlas and Steve DeOssie) appeared in a video in which they gushingly endorsed the Republican. (Brown “believes in a country that’s sovereign,” Smerlas explained, sort of.)
Yes, WEEI, WTKK-FM, WBZ, WXTK-FM on the Cape, WBSM in New Bedford, WCRN in Worcester and other stations all played a role, but I don’t think Scott would be where he is today without Carr, who is heard statewide on several of those stations.
Carr’s presence alone didn’t put Brown over the top, it was the longtime afternoon host’s change in strategy that made the difference. Until the primary election, Howie’s focus was on saving Scott from the embarrassment of likely defeat by insisting he was merely warming up for a later statewide campaign.
Something clicked, however, once the general election campaign was underway. Howie shed the defeatist attitude and learned to exercise some muscle for a change. The audience was more than receptive and got to work immediately. Once it became clear he truly believed Scott could win, it became a campaign worth an investment of time and money.
New England has always had the benefit of a great deal of local talk versus a national landscape cluttered with (largely unsuccessful) syndicated fare, but the US Senate campaign represented the first time in years hosts really stepped up to the plate and led the way.
From here, anything is possible. Let’s hope defeatism has been abolished for good.