GOP's Brown maps strategy in Mass. Senate campaign

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2009 6:52 PM

Republican Scott Brown is hoping to ride a tide of voter anger at Wall Street bailouts and soaring national debt as he seeks to topple Democrat Martha Coakley in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Edward Kennedy.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Brown laid out what he hopes will be a winning strategy against Coakley _ identifying what he believes are her weak spots, particularly on pocketbook issues.

"These issues that I'm talking about effect everyone, every man, woman and child in Massachusetts who pays taxes, who cares about the massive amount of debt we're getting into," Brown said.

Fresh off a primary win a day earlier, Brown wasted little time going on the attack, challenging Coakley to join him in signing a "no new taxes" pledge _ an offer Coakley dismissed as "a campaign gimmick."

In making the pledge, Brown tore a page from the state's Republican play book. Similar anti-tax promises proved successful for a string of Massachusetts Republican governors throughout the 1990s and into the current decade. But it's not foolproof.

Republican Kerry Healey tried to use taxes and spending in the 2006 governor's race, but lost to Democrat Deval Patrick's message of change and hope.

Brown is banking the public mood has changed dramatically since then, and particularly in the year since Barack Obama was elected president and pushed through a stimulus spending package.

The Republican says he sees other vulnerabilities for Coakley, even in Massachusetts _ a state whose majority independent voters typically skew Democratic.

Brown faulted her for opposing extensions of Bush-era tax cuts and said Coakley's support of the federal health care overhaul could lead to deep cuts in Medicare and endanger Massachusetts' 2006 health care law.

Her backing of cap-and-trade proposals designed to ease greenhouse gas emissions amount to a national energy tax, said Brown, who also criticized her for not opposing another federal stimulus package.

Brown, 50, an attorney and lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, also criticized her opposition Obama's plan to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and her support of trying alleged Sept. 11, 2001, terror mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York City.

He also differs from the 56-year-old Coakley on key social issues.

Brown opposes gay marriage and supports the Defense of Marriage Act, which Coakley has fought against as attorney general, saying it denies federal benefits to married gay couples in Massachusetts.

Brown said he expects to be outspent by Coakley, but isn't worried.

"Certainly the special interests are going to come in and try to buy this election," he said. "Obama will come in and the Clintons."

Coakley, who soundly defeated three Democrats in the primary, said her campaign against Brown is anything but a slam dunk.

"No matter how many Democrats there are in Massachusetts, no matter how many independents there are, we know and I know that you never take anything for granted," Coakley said after a unity event with her former Democratic rivals.

Coakley said she also sees the faltering economy as a top issue.

"People understand that both the government and the economy is in trouble right now," she said. "I'm going to take a thoughtful and a good approach to what we need to do."

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, who finished second in the Democratic primary, said he's ready to fight for Coakley.

"Let me be as clear as I can," he said. "There is no way in hell we're going to elect a Republican to Ted Kennedy's seat. Period."

Kennedy held seat for 47 years before his death from brain cancer in August.

The special election in Jan. 19.