Sen. Scott Brown, meet Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao. The two have a lot in common. Brown became a hero of conservative Republicans recently when he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate seat held for decades by the late Democratic stalwart Ted Kennedy — but he saw how quickly the political winds can turn last week when, in his first vote since being sworn in Feb. 4, he broke ranks with the GOP and voted for Democratic Sen. Harry Reid's jobs bill. Brown, who had raised more than $14 million in the 19 days before the election, found himself under attack by the very conservative media that had buoyed him. (Glenn Beck, once a supporter, took to the airwaves to denounce Brown as a "liar.") Brown also was besieged by angry donors nationwide asking for their money back.
It all might sound familiar to Cao, the New Orleans Republican who was hailed as a hero when he won the traditionally Democratic 2nd District seat in November 2008. House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner issued a statement titled, "The Future is Cao" — but the honeymoon was definitely over by November 2009, when Cao became the only Republican to vote for a version of President Barack Obama's health care bill. Cao suffered immediate financial consequences from his own party. According to an Associated Press report last week, Cao's campaign contributions dropped 40 percent in the three months following that vote. The AP noted that Cao had raised a total of $874,602 since beginning his re-election campaign last year, but he spent $640,000 of it on more fundraising. That's an awfully high expense-to-revenue ratio for political fundraising.
It may be too early to tell whether Brown will feel the slap of checkbooks closing, but his supporters went into paroxysms of fury on his Facebook page, many of them swearing never to give the junior senator another cent. Perhaps the unkindest cut of all came from the blog The Rude News, which headlined its condemnation "Heckuva Job, Brownie." — Kevin Allman