January 18, 2010

Brown/Clavin vs. Coakley/Obama (Or: Where Everybody Knows Your Name)

John Ratzenberger Scott Brown.jpg

If you’re measuring by: “the-guy-you’d-most-want-to-have-a beer-with” test, Scott Brown’s PR strategy on Sunday to counter-program the Obama, Kerry and Victoria Reggie Kennedy event with Coakley at Northeastern might not have been much of a contest.

Brown’s campaign replied with a rally at Mechanics Hall in Worcester featuring no political luminaries, as far as I could tell. Instead, the gathering — aiming square at the heart of independent voters and die-hard Boston fans — featured local sports legends Curt Shilling and former quarterback Doug Flutie. And notice, by the way, how thoroughly dressed down people were, especially “the stars” — in another contrast with the “suits,” the connected, the well heeled, the party-branded, and, really, anyone who either works or is from — hint, hint — out of town.

Perhaps the most clever slice of local populism, however, came in the person of John Ratzenberger.

John’s mere presence embodied a layer cake of symbolism, all strategic to Brown’s anti-Washington/anti-elite campaign. As much as the Browns are a TV family (his wife a TV anchor, his daughter an American Idol finalist, Brown himself a former model), Ratzenberger trumps them all, heralding from Boston’s most famous TV family, as one of those lovable, blue-collar characters who made a home of out of the quintessential Boston bar, Cheers.

Just to look at “Cliff” is to think of him as the perfect (and perfected) successor to McCain/Palin’s Joe the Plumber, Cliff Clavin being more the personification of a mailman — and, Brown’s anti-Washington everyman — than any real one you might know.

(9:50 pm PST – slightly revised)

(photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP. caption: Actor John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff Clavin on the TV show “Cheers,” speaks in support for Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, at a rally in Worcester, Mass., Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010. Brown is running against Democrat Martha Coakley and Joseph Kennedy, a Libertarian who is running as an independent, in a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat left empty by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.)

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Michael Shaw
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