By Matt Murphy
Statehouse News Service
BOSTON -- A Missouri congressman spoke, Isaac threatened to crash the party and MGM Resorts put down a stake in Springfield. For another sleepy week on Beacon Hill, outside forces, natural or otherwise, dictated.
As dozens of Bay State Republicans packed their bags for Tampa this week, flashlights, batteries and ponchos became must-have items as Tropical Storm Isaac spun its way north through Haiti and Cuba threatening to wash out Mitt Romney's coronation party on Florida's Gulf Coast.
It was a storm of a different kind, however, that dominated the week in politics after another out-of-state Republican left his boot print on the Massachusetts campaign trail.
A week after Mitt Romney's pick of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate turned the state's U.S. Senate and House races into a referendum on Ryan's budget-cutting plans for Social Security, Medicaid and ObamaCare, Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin opened his mouth.
Akin, who is attempting to steal a U.S. Senate seat from the Democrats in Missouri, ignited a national controversy over abortion when he said pregnancy from "legitimate rape" is "really rare." Almost instantly, the race between U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren shifted to a debate over reproductive rights for women, as well as issues like pay discrimination in the workplace.
Even Republican state Rep. Daniel Winslow took to Twitter to call Akin a "dumbass."
Gov. Deval Patrick was back in the public eye -- but he had almost as many public appearances in Wisconsin stumping for Obama as he did in Massachusetts -- returning from the cheese state where he called Romney a "chameleon" to tour the Boston Ballet, celebrate gaming in Mashpee with the Wampanoag tribe and take a rare turn with the gavel presiding over the Governor's Council.
And speaking of gaming, MGM International Resorts unveiled its plans for an $800 million casino/entertainment/ housing complex in Springfield and paid the $400,000 application fee to officially become the third bidder for a full-scale casino license, behind the tribe and Suffolk Downs.
The spotlight, however, was left once again trained on the candidates for U.S. Senate. Warren and other Democratic officials hammered away at Brown's voting record on women's issues and tried to conjoin him to the extreme right of the GOP, while the People's Pledge started to show cracks.
The junior senator played his hand almost as well as any candidate could, becoming one of the first Republicans in the country to not just denounce Akin but also call for him to withdraw from the Missouri Senate race.
Then came news that the Republican platform committee, in preparation for the Republican National Convention starting Monday, approved language calling for a Constitutional amendment to ban abortions with no exceptions for rape, incest or the protection of the mother.
So what did Brown do? He immediately wrote a letter to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus opposing the platform and urging the party to adopt a "big tent" agenda with room for pro-choice Republicans like himself.
Both Brown and Warren also tried to put their fingers in the dike to stop an anti-Warren, pro-banking super PAC from opening the floodgates on outside spending in Massachusetts, results TBD.
Brown has proven himself somewhat adept at walking that fine line almost required of Massachusetts Republicans to appeal to a moderate electorate. But the buildup to the Republican National Convention, which should be a cause for celebration among the minority political class of Massachusetts, also highlights the uneasy situation Romney's nomination creates for candidates like Brown, or Richard Tisei, challenging U.S. Rep. John Tierney.
Leaving Romney out of the equation for a moment, Brown is the most prominent Republican in Massachusetts, and yet he is leaving his pickup parked in Wrentham, and according to staff, plans to only quietly slip into Tampa on Thursday to take in Romney's acceptance speech.
As for Tisei, national Republicans have branded Tierney one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats in the country, and yet the former Senate minority leader will not even sniff the podium in Tampa. Without knowing whose choice that was, it's still worth noting that convention organizers gave away speaking slots to 10 non-incumbent House candidates dubbed the "future of our party" by convention CEO William Harris, but not to Tisei.