Mass. Senate

Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Elizabeth Warren talks to the media after casting her vote in the Massachusetts state primary election at the Graham & Parks School in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo)

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign malaise continues to mystify. However, as election season enters its post-convention phase, underlying reasons for her inertia have begun to emerge. The bad news for Warren is that they’re not easy to correct.

Warren’s candidacy appears spawned from Washington, D.C. – contrived by higher-ups in her party – and she’s done little over the past year to dispel that perception. She has shallow political roots in Massachusetts, having developed her public persona as a consumer technocrat in D.C. and as a special aide to President Obama. True believers in her party have fawned over her with descriptors like “rock star,” but to others – beyond those who wore funny hats and screamed on the convention floor in Charlotte last week – she’s come across as mediocre.

This is unfortunate for a campaign facing Scott Brown – the ultimate organic grass roots candidate. Brown earned much of his respect among the electorate the hard way, jumping onto the national stage as a consummate underdog.

Elizabeth Warren is trying to fit round-peg national messages into the square-hole of Massachusetts politics.

Brown’s is a tough story to trash, especially among nearly half of the Massachusetts electorate who are Independents. He’s methodically honed his reputation through a relatively bi-partisan voting record and an affable presence throughout the Commonwealth. His most recent example of shrewd decision-making was selecting the week of the Republican National Convention to serve his National Guard duty and ascend to the rank of full colonel – a convenient time to show voters in his home state that he is not bound by a national party agenda. That plays well in Southie.

Warren, in contrast, hasn’t been able to close the perception gap, even though her strategists knew a year ago that this would be her biggest challenge – or did they? If anything, she’s added to it through an awkward, generic strategy where she often tries to fit round-peg national messages into the square-hole of Massachusetts politics.

Most recently, Warren copied the national template of attacking Republicans and accused Brown of being “anti-women.” Given his strong voting record and pro-choice platform, the charge is downright silly. She’d have known that – and might have hesitated when political advisors harangued her to deploy that message based on their national polling and focus groups – if she had thought through the local political terrain. Much of Warren’s anti-Wall Street and protect-the-middle-class rhetoric attacks Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan – but not Brown directly. Brown often draws laughs when he points out that Warren is running against him – not Romney and Ryan. Yet, Warren stubbornly refuses to adapt her message.

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (AP)

The D.C.-centric view of the race was typified recently when Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne – the quintessential inside-the-Beltway pundit – referred to Brown as “Mr. Personality.” Dionne didn’t realize that he wasn’t effectively disparaging Brown as much as he was dissing the Massachusetts electorate – particularly the Independents – who pride themselves on being able to spot a phony. And they don’t see Brown as that.

The first crack in the conventional narrative is that the race is close, “within the margin of error.” A poll by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling revealed in late August that Brown had opened up a five-point lead. Some insiders believe this figure may be even higher. For its part, the Brown campaign, and the senator himself, radiate confidence – an odd posture if polls indicate closeness within the margin of error. It seems more like a campaign that believes it has set the stage for a classic case of vote-splitting – Obama and Brown – as the senator’s latest television ad implies.

The likelihood of Warren seeing the light didn’t seem promising until this week. On primary day, Warren claimed she wasn’t a politician, and that, “the idea that (she) could calibrate something is just kind of beyond (her) reach.” The Boston Globe reported on Tuesday however, that under extreme pressure from Democratic leaders, she may recalibrate – television ads at least – to try to come across as warm and fuzzy while attacking Brown directly. It’s late in the game, but desperate times in the Warren campaign call for desperate measures. And that’s good news for Brown.

Tags: Election 2012, Mass. Senate, Scott Brown

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  • Dr

    He says he is pro choice but some of his votes, like on blunt amendment would challenge the idea that he never votes against a woman’s interests or rights. It would also give evidence to the charge that he is a phony, as would the intentional loophole left in the STOCK act and his ads about it.

  • Class No More

    I have to say ” the ultimate organic grass roots candidate” is not true. Scott Brown has Channel 5 and all those resources behind him. He is a Corporate “I made it on my wife’s coat tails and by posing nude” clone.

  • Chip White

    By the time I got to the second paragraph I knew I was reading a conservative lawyer who belittled the delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Oh, I thought, this will be good… let me read what else he has to say.

    He argues Warren campaign’s is beset by malaise. And yet a poll released a few days ago shows Warren closed a six point gap to one point, a statistical tie, against the incumbent. Malaise? If you call “tied with the incumbent” malaise, I’ll take it. Otherwise, wrong mister Phd candidate.

    Let’s consider if “mediocre” campaigner is a fair assessment. It’s her first campaign and she’s tied with Scott Brown, who is widely achkowledged to be an excellent campaigner. By that measure she must be pretty good, too.

    Conservative lawyer John says: Scott Brown has “methodically honed his reputation through a relatively bi-partisan
    voting record.” I agree with the “honed his reputation” part but I disagree that the reputation is earned or representative of his actual record. It is more the function of a lazy press that prints the words he says without studying them to parse which ones have merit.

    Let’s examine the narrative that Scott Brown is ‘relatively bi-partisan.’ Scott Brown voted with his Republican colleagues 76% of the time on key votes. A majority of those votes were an effort to FILIBUSTER legislation, to keep a bill from getting an “Up-or-down vote.”

    Scott Brown, as the 41st Republican in the US Senate, was THE KEY vote in Mitch McConnell’s strategy to make President Obama a one-term President, and it would work so long as Scott brown played along. Mitch McConnell said it was his #1 priority, not economic recovery, Obama’s term in office. It’s yet to be seen if Mitch McConnell succeeds but it’s no secret that Scott Brown played along and used his vote for politics and not economic recovery initiatives In conclusion, I would refute that Scott Brown has earned the adjectives moderate and bi-partisan. People say before DC he was issues before party. Clearly that has changed.

    The two best things Scott Brown has going for him is that the narrative he’s spun has been around for a long time and used to be true, and he friendly.

    • Dr

      And his claim to be the tie breaking vote on wall st reform is dishonest. All his vote did was prevent a filibuster, it did not break a tie (how can there be a tie in a 100 person group with only one person left to vote? Did someone abstain?) add this to his negotiating to weaken wall st reform and the intentional loophole left in the STOCK act shows that he is a phony. Also, he voted against covering cancer for 9/11 first responders, twice.

  • mike

    I think her dishonesty is the real problem.

  • Kathy Wnuk

    Firstly, let me say that I’m an independent – or as Massachusetts insists on calling me, “undecided.” From what I’ve seen in Warren’s ads, she is preying on people’s fears – women losing their rights, the little guy vs the big guy, high cost of college. She doesn’t say what she’ll do. I also don’t see that she has any experience in small businesses – the real victims of this economy. Brown’s ads concentrate on what he’s done ( and no, I don’t agree with all of it ) and on issues specific to Massachusetts. And I must say, he got some impressive Democrats to openly back him.
    I forsee Warren, should she get elected, voting Democratic 100% of the time. Brown has shown that he will cross party lines. As a junior senator, he does so at his peril. Going over to the other side could well cost him in his party, so any move to compromise on his part shows courage. Senator Kerry? Votes 98% with the Democrats.
    In order to get things done, both parties have to work together – yes yes yes, the Republicans are being asses, but would it hurt the Democrats to go out of their way and actually work with those who are moderate Republicans?
    If Congress can’t get its act together, you’ll see our bond rating go down. I’m voting for Brown.

    • Dr

      Which democrat in his commercials do you find impressive? Are any of them still considered democrats? I think warren has been specific, wall st regulation,
      Tax cuts for lower and middle class (which brown voted against), and he would repeal the ACA whixh is another middle class tax cut. I’m not sure if mentioning high cost of college is fear mongering, talk to any parent and they’re already thinking about it and worried about it. I respectfully disagree that a politician mentioning a problem is fear mongering. She would protect poll grants which the GOP wants to roll back. You also mentioned women, senator brown voted for the blunt amendment, and when a state senator proposed allowing medical providers to deny abortions to rape victims. So brown has taken part in GOP laws and initiatives that would affect women….of course it is up to you how much you care about this issue. I’m also not sure what brown wants to do for jobs other than renew the bush tax cuts and drive a truck.

    • Dr

      Sorry for two part reply, but You mention the bond rating being lowered. Wen that happened s&p specifically blamed congressional republicans. You say can’t democrats work with moderate republicans? I would note the senators from Maine have worked with dems, and that senator brown voted to
      Filibuster with the GOP 76% of the time. If they specifically say we will not work with you how can it be done? If you give in to everything they want you are rewarding them refusing to compromise, why would they ever compromise again? The truth is a GOP senate with leader match McConnell will just be a road block to getting anything done, even worse than the last for years.

      • Dr

        Sorry for typos. iPhone typing is hard.

      • maryannejones

        “last for years” – I’m guessing you meant four and if you are going to use the words “the truth is”, then state the truth. Obama had the senate and house with democrat control his first two years including an unprecedented super majority. Stop the lies and deceit.

        • Anita Paul

          There is this small thing called the filibuster. The most ever in histo

    • jo

      Too many facts and common sense for the left to comprehend.

    • Thinkin5

      If Brown is elected he will vote with the GOP. I see that he’s signed Grover’s pledge so he’s no longer his own man.

  • chris

    The Republican Party is only 4 seats away from taking over the U.S. Senate. Even if Obama is re-elected, if the Republican Party succeeds in taking over the U.S. Senate you can forget about Obama carrying out his agenda of fairness, opportunity and economic growth for the middle class. We will move further down the road of everyone goes their own way rather than a society where “the good of the whole” or the “common good” guides public policy. Re-electing Brown places us closer to that edge. The central question is what kind of society do you want? If you want the go your own way society (vote Brown) or a society that believes in shared rewards and shared responsibility (vote Warren). This is a defining election. The founders of our country did not believe in the “go your own way society, they believed in the “good of the whole.” America is not just about freedom, it also about responsibility to one another. On the economic front that means that policy be guided by a belief that if I am doing well, you are doing well or “raising the purchasing power of the lowest is good for the people on top,” and fair tax policy that ensures those that benefit the most pay a little more rather than pay less. Hopefully, more Massachusetts vote according to what is best for the whole rather than which candidate has the best personality.

  • Vicki

    I welcome stories like this one, because I think Elizabeth Warren is, in every rational sense, the best candidate here to represent Massachusetts in the Senate, and the fact that she is not crushing Scott Brown in the polls needs to be explored and understood in all its dimensions. She has proven, throughout her entire career, that she is dedicated and effective in standing up for “average” Americans. She has proven her toughness, effectiveness, and intellectual and organizational power, in having set up the new consumer finance agency in DC against tremendous political opposition, as well as her commitment to its survival in having stepped aside so graciously when the President had to appoint someone else to head it for political reasons. She did not take any guff from the powers that be when she testified before Congress, either. She tells it like it is. Scott Brown has had tremendously effective ads on TV, and his supporters are out there holding signs on the street corner every day,despite the fact that he has very few true political accomplishments, except having won the special election for his seat. Nonetheless, he is perceived as a winner, and research shows that people can be swayed to throw their votes behind the person they believe is going to win. So those of us who appreciate and suppport Elizabeth Warren–and we are more numerous than polls suggest–need to be brutally honest with ourselves, as does her campaign staff, about why her strengths and her quality are not coming across to the average voter. And we need to do something about it right now!! So bring on the negative commentary!

  • Vicki

    Oops, typo : Elizabeth Warren set up the new consumer protection agency. Sorry, Elizabeth!!

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  • Thinkin5

    Scott Brown comes across as mealy mouthed and pandering in his ads and his voting record shows that he pretty much votes the GOP party line. So, I guess some of the public is still voting on who’s the cutest? Every woman poll on the right speaks in harsh know-it-all terms and they’re cheered as “fighters”. Sarah Palin’s glasses were called “librarian” glasses. Palin also talks in local, common, language. So, does Warren have to be sexy and try different glasses and sexier clothes?! What is it that people want? Why can’t we get straight talk from a woman and not have to think of her as our “teacher talking”?

    • gardenia

      Thinkin5 You stated my opinions beautifully, thank you. Scott Brown is a cutie, flirty, nudie rudie in my estimation. Does that qualify him to be a USA Senator? Certainly NOT. He votes the party line, sort of cutely. Plus, I love your expression ,”mealy mouthed”. Elizabeth Warren does not have to stoop to Sarah Palin’s loutishness and disrespect in her campaign. I say, Win Warren Win!

  • Charley Deisla

    If you want an independent minded senator, who will vote the will of the people, vote Scott Brown, if you want someone who will be in lock step with the Obama administration, vote Warren.

    • Mark Howell

      I will vote for the candidate who most closely votes the way I would vote, even if I ‘like’ the other candidate better.

  • PithHelmut

    Scott Brown voted NO to labeling GMO’s just so you all know. Anyone who voted NO the that, demands kicking out of office.

  • Gentlewomanfarmer

    Senator Brown is no intellectual, but he knows what he does not know. The same cannot be said of my candidate, Elizabeth Warren. There is no question that the Democratic candidates are brighter than those of the Republicans, but they apparently are not smarter. Beginning with the candidacy of Shannon O’Brien – her loss begat our own Governor Romney – and continuing with Martha Coakley and now Ms. Warren – Massachusetts Democrats are offering up female candidates who are either hacks or brainiacs who lack the human touch. I will vote for Elizabeth because the Democrats need a filabuster-proof Senate and her views make her the better candidate But in Massachusetts this should be easy, and we women of Massachusetts can and must do better.

  • Carl G.

    What surprises me most is that Warren has not cut right to the real meat of this contest.
    If she were to review Brown’s voting record (something the media and Brown himnself are failing to do), it would be very easy for her to favorably contrast her approach to reperesenting the Commonwealth vs. Brown’s.

    • Dave

      Carl: I think you nailed it.

      Talking about the voting records are where the meat is. After all, if MA voters are so smart, we aren’t going to care about flannel shirts and (shiny new) pickup trucks (that have never seen a shovel of dirt).

  • Jeanne

    I wouldn’t say that a campaign separated by a margin of error is more an uphill battle for one than for the other candidate. Furthermore, Brown does vote on national issues sine, wait a minute, we are electing a federal Senator.

    Is Atty. Sivolella insinuating that the Massachusetts electorate cannot see beyond its own borders? I think we’re more informed than that, Sir. Let the clear thinking of Elizabeth Warren be there in DC to protect us little guys instead of Scott Brown who votes the GOP party line the majority of the time.

    After all, Mr. Brown is backed by such independents as Mark Rubio and John McCain.

  • Dave

    While I am considered pretty liberal by my friends, I have to admit that
    this writer, though clearly conservative, gives the Brown campaign a
    lot of constructive criticism that they would well heed.

    Though I have not looked carefully at his voting record, I do not think Scott Brown has been that far out of step with the Republican party – though if there is ONE state the Republicans would be wise to allow such insolence, it would be MA (and the party leaders are smart enough to know).

    I did see a great TV ad last night that had a working class guy in a fighting ring talking about Warren being a fighter and that is what we need. The ad also criticized Sen Brown’s voting record.

    One other thing: it is a pleasure to hear a conservative who writes like he has a brain – and not the current crop of “know-Nothing”, science denying, historical revisionists that seem to dominate the Republican party these days.

    I am going to forward this article to the Warren campaign to make sure they have seen it and are listening.

  • Sarah Louise

    Brown is pro-choice? How do you figure that?

  • maraith

    What a junk article. Brown is pro-women? The man who sponsored the Blunt Amendment allowing employers – not just the Catholic Church but all employers – to decide if their employees can get contraception covered on their health insurance. Want to have that conversation with your boss, ladies? And saying Brown is “relatively bi-partisan”? The man who voted 87% with the GOP? And the craziest of the GOP, at that! Do some real research rather than focus on what’s wrong with Warren’s campaign in your biased view. Maybe even, gasp, do an article on why Scott Brown is out of step with Massachusetts.

    • gardenia

      Scott Brown is a phony baloney with a pretty face who always votes the Republican Party line!

  • Jim Nauen

    The facts are these- the issues Warren is supporting are not just Massachusetts issues, they are national, and so a “Washington-oriented” approach is not so far out of line.
    The Republican attacks are their continuing denials of reality.

  • Jean

    Piblishing an autobiography after one year as a senator displays Brown’s grandiosity . Using his history of sexual abuse for his own political ends displays his moral bankruptcy.

    • razorfish

      Speaking of moral bankruptcy, what about Elizabeth Warren’s spurious claim to Native American ancestry? Now that her lie has been discovered and vetted for months, there is still no evidence anywhere, certainly none offered by Warren herself, that supports her claim. (I’m confident that her Harvard colleague Henry Louis Gates would be happy to help her get a DNA test if she wanted one.) Though she prevaricated about this for some time, she ultimately admitted that she had reported her ethnicity as Native American to both Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania and they, in turn, reported this to the U.S. Department of Labor. In so doing, she perverted the good intentions of affirmative action in order to further her own ambitions. This is dishonest and dishonorable. It completely undermines her self righteous pose of moral superiority. Yet Warren supporters in this forum describe Scott Brown as a phony. Somebody please help me understand this flagrant double standard.

  • Po’sMom

    One only has to look at some of the votes that Brown has cast, or the bills he has co-sponsored to know he is not for any law or bill that is for women. He was one of the co-sponsores of the Blunt Amendment. If that is Pro-Women, it is no wonder some beleive his lies, that he is for Women. He is also against the equal pay bills, and the Violence Against Women Act. How is that Pro-Women?
    He talks a good line, but if you listen to what he has said, one will realize he is not the brightest bulb in the lamp. Remember he has been busy talking to Queens and Kings ever since he entered the Senate, this was SAID at least Five times. Also many of the leaders are constantly calling him–another LIE his staffers had to work around, because it was just another LIE. Here is a perfect example of what he does not know, —

  • J__o__h__n

    Check today’s polls.

  • Chuck Arning

    Chuck: The thing about Scott Brown is you don’t really know where he stands. Nice family / good guy, but where is he? Folks in the Blackstone Valley don’t see him. Central Mass and the Montachusett region don’t see him. Press releases are all you get. He waits until the last minute to make is vote known, which may work in a 1 1/2 stint as Senator, but for 6 full years? I have no idea what his thoughts are on climate change which is a serious threat to our coastline and businesses. The difference is I know where Elizabeth Warren stands. With many complex issues coming up that can’t fit into sound bites I want a Senator where I know where he/she stands.

  • Daniel Healy

    Warren is on the side of the little guy. A Harvard professor is on the side of the little guy. OK, it’s only a cold sore. I enjoyed our time together tonight. I’ll call you. I really want to meet your Mom. Don’t worry, a women’s body has a natural method for getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy. And yes, of course, I’m not married. Did I miss anything?

  • PragmaticMom

    Ha! @John Sivollela Aren’t you on Scott Brown’s payroll, probably in a sneaky back handed way. Who is battling uphill now? He lost! Good riddance. Guess your “influence” isn’t so helpful after all. #loser

  • PragmaticMom

    As a post mortem analysis, it appears that John Sivolella is not much of an analyst or strategist. I think going negative against Warren, always the Republican go to tactic when they are losing, cost you the race. Duh! Undecideds hate negative. We are all jaded now and going negative means that we think the person paying for the commercial is the liar not the person being assaulted.