"Clearly, the Kennedy legacy is everywhere, but it is most powerful in Massachusetts," said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics and Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at UVA. "The January 2010 election was a special election with a lower turnout and a sub-par Democratic nominee. Thus, Scott Brown won at a time of rising unhappiness about the economy and President Obama's policies."
But Brown has fashioned himself into a political moderate on Capitol Hill. He is one of the few Republicans who will still at times vote with Democrats on contentious pieces of legislation. He helped break a filibuster, for instance, that enabled Democrats to pass their Wall Street reform bill.
Frank Phillips, longtime state politics reporter for The Boston Globe and currently State House bureau chief for the paper, points out that Brown could use the elitism associated with the Kennedys to his advantage. "He effectively used two years ago … the phrase, 'This is not a Kennedy seat,' and that I think resonated with a very strong strain of conservatives - even conservative Democrats - who sort of had a backlash against the Kennedys," he said. "This is what Brown is playing upon - the anti-elitism strain that runs through both parties, and through conservative independents." Such a strategy could be an effective counter to Harvard law professor Warren, Phillips explained.
In spite of this potential benefit, Brown's campaign cannot afford to ignore the potential continued impact of Kennedy's legacy. The combination of the family's presence as a nostalgic touchstone in Massachusetts, which could very well be skillfully leveraged by Warren's campaign, particularly if they were to secure Vicki Kennedy's support, and an Obama win in Massachusetts could, Sabato says, spell doom for Brown's reelection campaign.
"Obama will win Massachusetts by an enormous majority and there will be coattail for Elizabeth Warren," he said. "This is an exceedingly close race, and Brown has to be worried that the Kennedys might be able to do in 2012 what they could not in 2010 - get a Democrat elected to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. He is right to be concerned. Every new burden on his shoulders weighs him down more in a year when he cannot afford more weight."