Scott Brown is the only white guy on his team playing a charity basketball game at the Dunbar Y Community Center in Springfield, Mass., and he’s working. He huffs up and down the court in a gold tank top with a number 10 on it, maroon shorts, and Nike high-tops that make it look as if he’s got black-and-white hams strapped to the ends of his legs. The crowd is feisty, Love Shack pulses from the speakers, and the winded, increasingly sweaty Republican senator from one of the most Democratic states looks annoyed as he misses a pair of foul shots. “This isn’t soccer, Senator!” someone shouts from the stands, after Brown goes flying, for the second time, onto his butt. The silhouette of two men jabbing at their BlackBerrys from the sidelines is a subtle reminder that this carefully staged display of athleticism is more than just an effort to raise money for troubled youth on a steamy August afternoon. Scott Brown’s race against Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren to hold on to his Senate seat—formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy and narrowly won in a 2010 special election—has become one of the most closely watched congressional elections in the country, as well as the most expensive, with more than $53 million raised so far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Much of Wall Street, in particular, is determined to see Brown reelected.
At stake is the vote that could alter the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, as well as a position of symbolic importance. The race is about two very different views of America’s economic future. For the Wall Street bankers, hedge fund managers, and private equity executives from New York, Connecticut, and elsewhere who are pouring money into Brown’s campaign, it’s also about something much closer to their hearts: stopping Elizabeth Warren. The Harvard Law professor, former head of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and driving force behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, has become the populist champion of government restraint of Wall Street. When asked why he thought Wall Street had become so active on behalf of Brown, Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank says: “Two words: Elizabeth Warren.”