By Chris Camire
Scott Brown's appearance at the Iowa State Fair over the weekend left Republicans salivating over the prospect of the former Massachusetts U.S. senator running for president. While Brown insists he is testing the 2016 presidential waters, some believe his visit to the important primary state was a stunt aimed at drumming up business for his law firm and inflating his speaking fees. Here's a look at the best arguments for and against a Scott Brown presidential campaign.
WHY HE SHOULD RUN
Keeping up with the Browns
The Brown family would give the Obama and the Kennedy clans a run for their money for the most picture-perfect first family. Brown's wife, reporter Gail Huff, has spent most of her professional career in front of television audiences. Before that, she was a model. Brown's eldest daughter, Ayla, appeared on American Idol when her father was still an obscure state senator from Wrentham. Brown's youngest daughter Arianna, who he charmingly told the world was "available" in his 2010 U.S. Senate victory speech, just got engaged. A presidential campaign is the ultimate reality show, and the Brown family is more than ready for the spotlight.
He may not run for president, but he could play one on TV
Dwight Eisenhower was the last bald man to be elected president, in 1956. We haven't had a fat president since William Howard Taft, who's been out of office for more than 100 years.
Not red state or blue states
Brown built his ill-fated 2012 re-election campaign on the fact that he was ranked the second most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate. While this strategy failed in Massachusetts, national polls routinely show voters crave a Washington where political leaders put party politics aside and work together. Brown could be the candidate who unites the establishment, libertarian and neo-conservative branches of the Republican party during the GOP primary. In a general election, his fiscal conservatism and moderate views on social issues would appeal to swing voters.
Mr. Brown leaves Washington
After eight years of George W. Bush, Americans were hungry for a candidate with few ties to Washington. Enter Barack Obama. If the economy is sluggish come 2016, the country could turn to Brown, who like Obama, is a former state senator who had a cup of coffee in the U.S. Senate. They're both lawyers, too!
Brown would presumably be one of the few presidential contenders coming from the private sector, always an appealing position to be running from as a Republican. And unlike the most recent batch of Republican nominees (Romney, McCain, Bush), Brown was born sans silver spoon. His humble upbringing and troubled youth (detailed in his autobiography), coupled with his service in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, is the kind of material presidential ad-makers dream of.
WHY HE SHOULDN'T
The Curse of Camelot
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. That's the storyline for presidential hopefuls from Massachusetts since John F. Kennedy squeaked past Richard Nixon in 1960. If history tells us anything, a Brown presidential-run would end in disappointment just as it has for these fellow Bay Staters.
* 1980, Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy loses a contentious primary to incumbent President Jimmy Carter.
* 1988, Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis is defeated by Vice President George H.W. Bush.
* 1992, After jumping out to an early lead in the Democratic Primary, Paul Tsongas is bested by Bill Clinton.
* 2004, Democrat U.S. Sen. John Kerry narrowly loses to incumbent President George W. Bush
* 2008, Former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney loses to incumbent President Barack Obama.
Not ready for prime time
Winning votes by pressing the flesh at American Legions and diners is one thing. Winning votes by convincing the American public you could be commander-in-chief during nationally-televised debates is a different ball game. The bare-knuckle brawls between Obama and Romney last fall are proof that presidential debates are no place for lightweights.
While Brown held his own against Elizabeth Warren in 2012, his debate performances were not mistake-free. Remember when he called arch-conservative Antonin Scalia his favorite Supreme Court Justice? Brown also had a penchant for making gaffes on the campaign trail, such saying he had met with kings and queens and erroneously claiming to have seen the Osama bin Laden death photos. If Brown were to make similar gaffes in a presidential match-up against, say, Vice President Joe Biden, he might get away with it. Against Hillary Clinton? Stick a fork in him.
He's a RINO
Brown's bipartisanship could be a nightmare in the Republican Primary. As he carved out a moderate stance in the U.S. Senate, Brown alienated some of the conservative and tea party activists who helped elect him in 2010. Those are the same people he will need to win the Republican nomination. Brown's shift to the middle by supporting the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law and his refusal to back a bill amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage may prove fatal. He could, of course, shift to the right as so many other GOP presidential hopefuls have done. But that would erode his biggest asset -- his authenticity. And when you lose that, it's game over. Just ask Romney.
If he couldn't beat Elizabeth Warren...
Is Brown's stock artificially high? Democrats would say so. He was supposedly the most popular politician in the state before being soundly defeated by a consumer advocate most voters had never heard of. Why would he fare better in a presidential contest? His victory over Coakley may have been a fluke, the result of a Democratic party caught asleep at the wheel. Two years later, Democrats righted the ship and sent Brown packing.
Follow Chris Camire on Twitter @chriscamire.