Update: Elizabeth Warren will declare her candidacy on Wednesday, September 14. Polls show her behind, but closing the gap with, Scott Brown.
With the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau instead of Elizabeth Warren, many Democrats are pushing for an Elizabeth Warren - Scott Brown match-up in the 2012 U.S. Senate race for Massachusetts. Scott Brown defeated Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley after Coakley made several gaffes and displayed a remarkable lack of people skills.
Here we'll tell you what factors to look out for in an Elizabeth Warren/Scott Brown race.
Scott Brown gained tremendous national recognition as a Republican from Massachusetts, replacing Ted Kennedy in the midst of the health care reform battle. He's alternately been a lightning rod for liberals as well as Tea Party activists who don't like some of Brown's more moderate tendencies. Elizabeth Warren came to the fore as one of the leading figures in regulating Wall Street excess and building the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was heavily opposed by many Republicans. Warren became a darling of the progressive left-wing and a detested figure for conservatives. Both Brown and Warren will get national attention and money, and Warren's instant recognition as someone with liberal credentials will help turn out voters in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Brown's own name recognition in Massachusetts will turn out the voters who got him elected the first time around.
Momentum and Organization
Both Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren will be able to raise heaps of money and inspire voters to turn out. But the fact that this Senate election will take place as President Obama seeks election will bring Massachusetts Democrats to the poll in greater numbers than a special election or a midterm election. Since Massachusetts is so predominantly Democratic, the burden will be on Scott Brown to find a strong organizing strategy to get his voters out to the polls.
Martha Coakley Syndrome
While Elizabeth Warren may be the strongest candidate for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, her campaign will want to study Martha Coakley's failed campaign against Scott Brown and guard against Coakley's mistakes. Martha Coakley came across as someone who detested the fundamentals of campaigning and meeting people. She appeared impersonable, and even insulted Massachusetts residents by making a Boston Red Sox gaffe. Scott Brown came across as an ordinary Massachusetts guy who genuinely liked people, and was able to draw a clear dividing line between himself and Coakley.
Warren faces similar dangers because her ties to Massachusetts are weak, and she comes across as an intellectual. Her connections are with Harvard, but she is from out of state and could be painted as a Washington insider. The rhetoric from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) suggests that it thinks this is the strongest line of attack, and for good reason.
Nevertheless, Elizabeth Warren has the substance, name recognition, and clear liberal appeal that Martha Coakley simply didn't have. Her campaign will have a strong message. Therefore, she simply needs to stay out of the limelight, avoid gaffes, and turn up the heat on Scott Brown's voting record. Warren has a unique opportunity to put Scott Brown on the defensive in a state that, generally speaking, doesn't like Republicans.
Scott Brown has a mixed voting record. As a Massachusetts Republican, he needs to be much more moderate than most of his counterparts in the GOP to have a shot at re-election. Nevertheless, the current political climate more often than not puts him in the same camp as his more conservative Senate colleagues and against the majority of his constituents. Brown's voting record will be a key talking point for any Democratic challenger, and Massachusetts may start to hear the word "flip-flop" once again.
Brown will try to turn this record to his advantage. He will portray himself as an independent, moderate Senator. He can campaign on the votes he shared with Democrats because the conservative Republicans in the state have no one else to vote for. He will try to take the center ground.
Brown has also provided pretty good constituent service, and that will help his campaign. He will come across as someone who gets things done for his constituents and empathizes with regular people in Massachusetts.
To recap, the campaign messages will probably be framed like this:
Elizabeth Warren campaign - Scott Brown is out of touch with Massachusetts voters, and votes with conservatives on the issues that matter most. Elect a reliable liberal and make Massachusetts blue again for the new Obama administration.
Scott Brown campaign - Scott Brown is an independent Senator who works hard for his constituents, while Elizabeth Warren is an out-of-state intellectual who cannot understand the interests of regular Massachusetts folk.
At this point, we're thinking Elizabeth Warren would win in a presidential election year for a Democrat, but we expect Scott Brown and the NRSC to put up a tough campaign.
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