The Real Story Behind a Romney Aide’s Challenge to Elizabeth Warren

So, is this the best the Massachusetts Republican Party can offer?

Longtime Republican operative Beth Lindstrom, a former senior aide to Mitt Romney and manager of Scott Brown’s victorious Senate campaign, said Wednesday she is considering a challenge to US Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Lindstrom has held a series of conversations with top state Republicans about the prospect of seeking the party nomination and is leaning toward running, according to several people familiar with her thinking.

“I am actively exploring a run for US Senate,” Lindstrom wrote in an e-mail. “I’m a wife and mother with three kids who cares deeply about our state and where we are heading as a country. So much of our politics these days is pointless bickering.

“We need a senator who will work with people of all political stripes to make progress for Massachusetts.”

Of course, Massachusetts already has a senator “who will work with people of all political stripes to make progress for Massachusetts,” but Lindstrom is a Republican, which means she won’t let inconvenient facts get in the way.

Of course, there’s a transparent political calculation behind this run–a calculation that involves the Bay State’s Republican Governor, Charlie Baker:

Like Kingston, Lindstrom would represent the Romney/Baker wing of the party, while [pro-Trump GOP Senate candidates Shiva] Ayyadurai and [Geoff] Diehl have carved out more populist profiles. Republicans acknowledge that Warren, a leading national figure on the left, poses a tough challenge for whomever emerges from the GOP primary in 2018.

Richard Tisei, a former state Senate minority leader who was Baker’s running mate during an unsuccessful 2010 campaign, called Lindstrom “a formidable candidate.”

But he said Diehl was “the odds-on favorite” to win the primary, where the party’s more hard-core conservatives generally vote. The more right-leaning grass-roots also wield tremendous influence at the party convention earlier in the year.

Obviously, Baker, who fashions himself as a representative of the we’re-not-crazy wing of the GOP, hopes that Diehl somehow fails to beat Lindstrom in the primary, so that Diehl, who is Scaramuccian in his love for Trump, doesn’t inflame the sensibilities of voters Baker needs to vote for both Warren and himself on the 2018 ballot. Baker wants–needs–a reprise of the 1994 Massachusetts midterm elections, where the then-Governor, William Weld–a Republican who also fashioned himself as a non-demented GOPer–was re-elected by the same folks who voted to give Democratic US Senator Ted Kennedy a sixth term. (Kennedy beat Mitt Romney that night, but the 1994 Romney was nowhere near as wingnutty as Diehl.)

Will this gambit work? Highly unlikely. The right-wingers who control the Massachusetts GOP now view Lindstrom and Baker as de facto Democrats; “Tall Deval” is the favorite right-wing insult towards Baker, a reference to former Democratic Governor Deval Patrick (I guess calling Baker “White Deval” would be too blatant). Lindstrom’s cause isn’t helped by this rhetoric:

[Former Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Jennifer] Nassour said Lindstrom in the Senate would likely function along the lines of US Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who has been an intraparty critic of President Trump. “I don’t think she would be a puppet,” Nassour said, adding, “Beth is definitely not the type of person who will say, ‘Yes, Mr. President, I will do that.’”

Yeah, that’s exactly what the GOP’s base wants to hear.

Diehl will likely win the GOP Senate primary and injure Baker’s re-election chances, as he reminds the Bay State electorate of the madness Baker is inextricably linked to by virtue of his party affiliation.

As for Lindstrom, like Romney and Baker, she still doesn’t quite comprehend that the GOP’s base has no use for people like her. If you’re educated and even slightly centrist in your policy views, the GOP electorate’s message for you can be summarized with the title of a Tom Petty classic: “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” It’s a guarantee that on Primary Day, Lindstrom will be free fallin’.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.