Sen. Scott Brown visited Philadelphia recently to stump for Pat Toomey on the city’s scenic Boathouse Row. Brown’s endorsement, and his fundraising assistance, are the latest in a string of endorsements seen as surprising given Toomey’s unrelenting fiscal advocacy as head of the Club for Growth.
Brown’s support, however, follows on the heels of a similar endorsement by Maine’s Susan Collins, a moderate Republican whom the Club attacked as a “Comrade of the Month” last year for her support of the stimulus package.
But with a dramatically darkening economic forecast, jobs, spending, and deficits have emerged as the drivers in practically every campaign conversation – the very issues Toomey has been warning about for years as head of the Club.
In this context, Brown’s endorsement is not unsurprising, and Battle ’10 caught up with the Senator to put things in context.
“I called him, he didn’t call me [for the endorsement]” Sen. Brown told Battle ’10. “I’m looking at races throughout the country and people that are very concerned about the debt and spending and jobs, and Pat’s that type of person, and he can make a difference.”
Toomey’s candidacy, once all but written off by factions within the state party as not moderate enough for Pennsylvania, echoes a concern some had about Brown’s chances in Massachusetts.
On this point, though, Brown remained stoic.
“I’m not sure about what’s happening in terms of the polling here [in Pennsylvania]. I never was a big poll person,” he said, “but I do know that people are angry, and they’re hurting, and they’re tired of business as usual not only in their state legislatures but on Capitol Hill in particular.”
“I’m hopeful that people come out in droves and send a very powerful message to the people on Capitol Hill,” Brown told Battle ‘10.
Tea Party groups, especially, are likely to drive Election Day turnout against a party led by an enormously unpopular president. Joe Sestak, for his party, has positioned himself as the “president’s strongest ally.”
Brown hit upon the similarities between his experience in New England and Toomey’s challenge in Pennsylvania, saying, “all I know is that when I look at Washington I felt there was a disconnect between what they were pushing and what I believed in, and what they were pushing, and what the people in Massachusetts believed in.”
“The people here now are concerned with all the same things.”
One of those concerns, taxes, has dominated headlines in recent weeks, as the expiration of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year.
As Battle ’10 has pointed out previously, an increase on those earning more than $250,000 per year would also hit many thousands of small businesses – “S” corporations – that are treated for tax purposes like individuals.
Speaking on the uncertainty created by lack of clear government action, Brown explained to Battle ’10, “if you’re a corporation or you’re a very successful business and you have money, the government wants it.”
“There seems to be an assault on business, and even if we do the tax cuts, the streamlining, and the innovation and stimulating [of] the economy … if we don’t actually create jobs, then it’s not going to work,” he said.
“It’s a total approach. Everything has to be on all cylinders to get us out of this economic mess, and the policies being pushed by the administration aren’t helping.”
Brown elaborated on the impact of tax hikes on earnings over $250,000, saying, “when the administration talks about the $250,000 [level], don’t forget, that includes LLCs, that includes people who are using their Social Security numbers, and that still effects 750,000 businesses in the United States, [through] which all the ancillary businesses will be dramatically affected.”
“So I’m for fair tax policy,” Brown said, “but I’m also in favor of government using their tax dollars wisely, and I don’t think we’re doing that.”
If the polls, putting Toomey up between 5-9 points, are any measure of the mood in Pennsylvania, it would seem Sen. Brown is not alone.