Of course, Brown had plenty of good reasons not to run. He caught lightning in a bottle in the 2010 special to fill Ted Kennedy's seat, when conservatives were convinced his election would block passage of Obamacare. Not only did that turn out to be badly wrong, but there's no defining issue fueling tea party rage right now that Brown could use to replicate his unlikely first run for office.
On top of that, he got turfed by eight points last year while running against a first-time candidate in the form of Elizabeth Warren. Warren certainly benefited from increased presidential-year turnout, but new polling from PPP showed Brown under 50 percent, with most undecideds saying they'd voted for Warren just a few months earlier. Those types of numbers painted a very difficult picture for Brown, who, after all, just endured a very bruising race. Though if he wants to run for something else, many Republicans have pushed him for next year's gubernatorial contest, a potentially easier affair in which he may well engage.
For now, though, the GOP has to turn to its various Plan B's, none of whom look particularly attractive. Former state Sen. Richard Tisei may be their best bet, but he blew what appeared to be a sure thing against wounded Dem Rep. John Tierney in MA-06 last year—and it's worth pointing out that Massachusetts as a whole is considerably bluer than the 6th. There's ex-Gov. Bill Weld, who has sounded very uninterested ... and also tried running for governor of New York (!) in 2006. Mitt Romney's former Lt. Gov Kerry Healey is a possibility, but she's an unknown, and anyway, would you want to run for office in the Bay State with a Romney anvil hanging around your neck?
Someone will run, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if this race winds up much closer than we'd like. Indeed, we absolute cannot get complacent and allow the mistakes our candidate made in the last special here to be repeated. It's why I've harped repeatedly on Rep. Ed Markey for failing to put up a legitimate campaign website. He may be the frontrunner, according to PPP, but he can't take anything for granted.
That's particularly true for the Democratic primary coming up on April 30, where conservative Rep. Stephen Lynch just entered the race. Lynch's campaign will be fueled by his tight union connections, but no one doubts that Markey is the only progressive running. PPP also had Markey up big in the primary, but again, we can afford no laurel-resting. Markey needs to really hit the ground running here, lock up liberal support, win the primary, and intimidate the GOP into realizing they shouldn't bother trying to compete.
The general election is June 25, and for progressives, this news changes nothing: It's still all hands on deck.