Brown team takes campaign template on the road

By MICHELLE R. SMITH and GLEN JOHNSON (AP)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The political team that helped Scott Brown stage his improbable victory in the Massachusetts Senate race wants to apply its winning strategy elsewhere this election year. First stop: Rhode Island.

The Shawmut Group, led by aides to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is helping GOP congressional candidate John Loughlin, who’s campaigning to replace retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.

The handiwork of two Shawmut Group principals, Eric Fehrnstrom and Peter Flaherty, was evident in Loughlin’s campaign announcement speech, staged shortly after Brown’s win on Jan. 19. Loughlin, like Brown a state legislator and longtime member of the National Guard, said suspected terrorists should be handled in the military justice system, not civilian courts.

“When it comes to terrorists, we should be getting information from them, not the other way around,” said Loughlin, reprising almost verbatim one of Brown’s campaign lines.

It also was a shift for Loughlin, who previously had focused on taxes and his belief that Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the man Brown replaced, had lost touch with average people.

The Shawmut Group also is working with New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio, Long Island congressional candidate George Demos and Massachusetts state auditor candidate Mary Connaughton. A relationship with Connecticut Republican Tom Foley ended when he switched from a U.S. Senate to gubernatorial campaign.

Their marquee “product,” Brown himself, was in Arizona over the weekend, campaigning for Sen. John McCain. The 2008 GOP presidential nominee is facing a primary challenge from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

“I think the Brown campaign really was a perfect storm, but they learned a lot of lessons about the Internet, raising a lot of money and sharpening a message that can be taken to other states and races,” said Scott Reed, a Republican political consultant who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.  Continue…

Johnson reported from Boston.

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