Commentary Magazine


Topic: Elizabeth Warren

Scott Brown’s Future

About a month ago, I noted that moderate Democrat Heath Shuler’s retirement was oddly unnoticed for a liberal media landscape obsessed with the supposed lack of “moderates.” I had mentioned that the retirement of Joe Lieberman, to be replaced by a more liberal Democrat, would be another sign that moderate Democrats were going extinct, and that this didn’t seem to bother Washington’s bipartisanship fetishists. And two days ago, I made the same point with regard to Scott Brown, the moderate Republican Massachusetts senator who was popular and bipartisan but who went down to defeat last night at the hands of a class warfare superstar of the academic hard-left.

So in that way, last night’s liberal victories in Massachusetts and Connecticut were hardly surprising, and the trend they solidify–moderate politicians being unwelcome in the Democratic Party–continues unabated. But while the results were easy to interpret from the standpoint of the victorious Democrats, left unresolved this morning is what the Massachusetts Republican Party will do with Scott Brown.

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About a month ago, I noted that moderate Democrat Heath Shuler’s retirement was oddly unnoticed for a liberal media landscape obsessed with the supposed lack of “moderates.” I had mentioned that the retirement of Joe Lieberman, to be replaced by a more liberal Democrat, would be another sign that moderate Democrats were going extinct, and that this didn’t seem to bother Washington’s bipartisanship fetishists. And two days ago, I made the same point with regard to Scott Brown, the moderate Republican Massachusetts senator who was popular and bipartisan but who went down to defeat last night at the hands of a class warfare superstar of the academic hard-left.

So in that way, last night’s liberal victories in Massachusetts and Connecticut were hardly surprising, and the trend they solidify–moderate politicians being unwelcome in the Democratic Party–continues unabated. But while the results were easy to interpret from the standpoint of the victorious Democrats, left unresolved this morning is what the Massachusetts Republican Party will do with Scott Brown.

Brown, as the Boston Globe notes today, rose quickly to prominence as something of a conservative hero, winning Ted Kennedy’s seat with a mandate to stop the health care bill Kennedy supported. But his victory didn’t stop Obamacare, and now he is headed out of office. The Globe mentions the two most likely scenarios for a near-term continuation of Brown’s political career:

Indeed, few believe Brown’s career is over. He remains a popular figure, even after pounding Elizabeth Warren with attacks and taking a beating from her ads. Republicans Tuesday speculated that if Obama taps Senator John Kerry to serve as the next secretary of state, Brown could run for Kerry’s seat next year. It would be his third Senate run in three years. Brown has also been mentioned as a possible future candidate for governor.

“Defeat is only temporary,” Brown said, sparking loud applause from supporters, some of whom shouted, “Governor Brown!” To his supporters, Brown had done what voters had sent him to Washington to do: serve as a bridge between two parties.

Brown would have to be considered something of a favorite if Kerry’s seat opens up. Brown was popular, and went into the election last night with a 57 percent approval rating. That, combined with his political skill, blue-collar roots, and unmistakable Bay State accent put him in what would normally be a relatively safe reelection campaign. But as the Democratic Party moves to the left nationally, Massachusetts, a deep blue state, has moved with it step for step.

Additionally, Warren utilized the only strategy to beat a popular incumbent: take him out of the conversation about the race. Warren nationalized the race, warning of global warming skepticism by the likes of Jim Inhofe, a GOP senator from Warren’s native Oklahoma who Massachusetts voters probably don’t know but who sounded scary enough to liberals with a choice. Elect Scott brown, Warren said, and you may end up with a Republican-controlled Senate. In the end, Warren’s seat wasn’t needed to prevent a Republican Senate, but ironically this makes it more likely Brown would win another statewide Senate election if held in the near future: not only would the risk of a GOP Senate have dissipated, but Warren ended up manipulating the fears of the Massachusetts electorate unnecessarily.

They liked Brown, but Warren convinced them they needed her. They didn’t, and they still don’t, and they probably still like Brown. The governor’s office might be a bit tougher for him, because that would depend more on his potential opponent. But Massachusetts certainly elects Republican governors (Mitt Romney’s term wasn’t so long ago), and Brown’s moderate politics and steep knowledge of the issues facing his state would make him a strong candidate.

So when the Globe claims, in its headline, that Brown’s star has “set,” they may be jumping the gun. Brown’s victory to replace Ted Kennedy may not have stopped Obamacare, but it still may have launched the career many expected.

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Polls Show Scott Brown Popular, but Vulnerable on Election’s Eve

Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign against Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts has sought from the beginning to nationalize the race. Brown is popular and a local Bay Stater with blue-collar roots, and Warren is a tenured law professor from out of state. But she is also a Democrat, in a state full of them. So she has tried to make the race almost solely about control of the U.S. Senate, and has gained some momentum making Brown a stand-in for the national Republican Party.

One sign that this tactic was successful is that on the eve of the election, both the Massachusetts campaigns sound almost exactly like their national counterparts. Brown, like Mitt Romney, is touting his bipartisanship and willingness to bring the two parties together to break the “gridlock” in Washington and get the economy moving again. Warren, on the other hand, is appealing to her party’s base, going almost exclusively negative, and doing the impressive juggling act of trying to advocate for women while also wrapping herself in the legacy of Ted Kennedy–an ironic combination to say the least. Another sign the messaging is working is that the candidates’ supporters are making the same arguments:

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Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign against Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts has sought from the beginning to nationalize the race. Brown is popular and a local Bay Stater with blue-collar roots, and Warren is a tenured law professor from out of state. But she is also a Democrat, in a state full of them. So she has tried to make the race almost solely about control of the U.S. Senate, and has gained some momentum making Brown a stand-in for the national Republican Party.

One sign that this tactic was successful is that on the eve of the election, both the Massachusetts campaigns sound almost exactly like their national counterparts. Brown, like Mitt Romney, is touting his bipartisanship and willingness to bring the two parties together to break the “gridlock” in Washington and get the economy moving again. Warren, on the other hand, is appealing to her party’s base, going almost exclusively negative, and doing the impressive juggling act of trying to advocate for women while also wrapping herself in the legacy of Ted Kennedy–an ironic combination to say the least. Another sign the messaging is working is that the candidates’ supporters are making the same arguments:

“Women are equal to men and we ought to get paid the same,” Warren said to a cheering crowd.

Like Democrats across the country, Warren has hammered the GOP, saying the party is waging a war on women, and has used Brown’s votes on several issues affecting women, including equal pay, to try and tie him to his Republican colleagues.

It’s a message that resonated with people in the gym in Lowell, including Laura McLaughlin.

“Why I’m here?” McLaughlin said. “Because I’m a woman. Let me tell you: I am 75 years old, I worked from age 20 to 65. When I was 63, we got equal pay in a community college. [It] took that long to get equal pay.”

And here’s a typical Brown supporter from the same story:

As Brown headed back for his bus, people crowded around him as if they did not want him to leave. Among them was Patrick Manning, who brought his two young daughters in his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Manning, an Army veteran, works for the Department of Public Works in Norwood.

“Scott is a … he is bipartisan. He can work between the two aisles, and when you have so much division up on Capitol Hill and they’re not working together, and Scott’s one of the people that will go in there and he can listen to both sides and do what’s right for both sides and make the best choices for the American people, not what’s right for the party,” he said.

Manning sees the race as much more partisan than Brown’s race against Martha Coakley two years ago.

“Because I believe Elizabeth Warren is much more partisan,” Manning said.

As the Boston Globe reports, the two latest polls of the race are split: one shows a one-point Brown lead, the other a four-point Warren lead. But the Globe also notes that Obama is favored over Romney 57 percent to 37 percent in the state. Warren’s strategy to change the subject every time her name comes up (or Brown’s, for that matter, since he has a solid approval rating) is a strange way to win a mandate to represent your state. But if Warren is as unpopular as she seems to think she is, she may be right that this is her best bet.

Brown, on the other hand, is in normally safe waters for an incumbent: job approval nearing 60 percent one day before an election. But the disappearance of Blue Dog and pro-life Democrats has shown a Democratic Party trending to its extremes and away from the center. In that environment, Massachusetts Democrats may prefer the liberal candidate to the competent, popular one, especially in the polarized atmosphere of a presidential Election Day.

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Bay State Senate Race Once Again on National Stage

In September, after the first Senate debate between Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown and his liberal challenger Elizabeth Warren, I criticized Warren’s decision to nationalize the race. In the debate, Brown—a local Bay Stater who sounds the part and speaks with fluency about local issues–repeatedly offered answers to questions that showed his moderate, bipartisan streak and his insistence on voting as he believes Massachusetts voters would want him to. Warren, on the other hand, kept referring to what the U.S. Senate would be like if Republicans won back the majority.

But Warren seems intent on proving such criticism wrong. She has now wagered the entire campaign on this gamble. As the race nears its end Warren has given up on trying to portray Brown as a Tea Partier and instead paints a picture of what has to be a dystopian future in the minds of northeastern liberals. Here is Warren’s closing argument, per her TV ad (followed by the transcript):

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In September, after the first Senate debate between Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown and his liberal challenger Elizabeth Warren, I criticized Warren’s decision to nationalize the race. In the debate, Brown—a local Bay Stater who sounds the part and speaks with fluency about local issues–repeatedly offered answers to questions that showed his moderate, bipartisan streak and his insistence on voting as he believes Massachusetts voters would want him to. Warren, on the other hand, kept referring to what the U.S. Senate would be like if Republicans won back the majority.

But Warren seems intent on proving such criticism wrong. She has now wagered the entire campaign on this gamble. As the race nears its end Warren has given up on trying to portray Brown as a Tea Partier and instead paints a picture of what has to be a dystopian future in the minds of northeastern liberals. Here is Warren’s closing argument, per her TV ad (followed by the transcript):

Just one vote, just one senator, could put Republicans in control of the United States Senate. Scott Brown could be that senator. What would republican control mean? Deep cuts in education, Medicare; new tax breaks for millionaires; the next Supreme Court justice could overturn Roe v. Wade. One vote could make the difference–your vote, against a Republican Senate; your vote for Elizabeth Warren.

And this is the ad (and transcript) Brown is currently playing:

The coal company had moved on, but they didn’t just leave buildings behind. LTV Steel went to court to avoid paying health benefits it promised to retired coal miners. The corporation’s hired gun was Elizabeth Warren. Warren sided with yet another big corporation against working people. First, asbestos victims; now, she worked against coal miners. Elizabeth Warren’s just not who she says she is.

Though I’ve long thought that talking over the heads of Massachusetts voters would harm Warren’s campaign, there is an argument to make that she was left with no choice. Elections like this are often like a chess match: the player who moves first has an advantage in setting the tempo, and controlling the center often gives the player who does so the best chance at winning. As the incumbent, Brown set the tempo by putting his record out there and challenging his opponent to compete within those parameters.

And his moderate record has won control of the center, forcing Warren to his left. But Massachusetts is such an overwhelmingly Democratic state that there are quite a lot of votes left of center. And Brown’s record is popular—even in a blue state, his approval rating is above water. So she can’t run against his record, but must use him as a proxy for his national party.

The ironic aspect to all this is that Brown did something similar when he ran in the 2010 special election to replace Ted Kennedy. Obamacare was on the march and the Democrats thought they needed 60 votes in the Senate to pass it. Since the bill was unpopular in Massachusetts as elsewhere, Brown ran as the 41st vote against Obamacare, and won. Warren is trying to turn the tables on him by re-nationalizing the race, and telling voters that far from being the 41st Republican in the Senate, Brown might actually be the 51st, giving the GOP the majority.

Since voters are usually averse to any approach that involves minimizing their local issues in favor of overarching culture wars, such a strategy often fails. But Warren is betting that a state that voted in an anti-national-healthcare Republican to succeed Ted Kennedy has another surprise in it this year.

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Brown-Warren “Civility” and the Law of Unintended Consequences

In February, Lindsay Mark Lewis, a former Democratic National Committee finance director, wrote a heavy-hearted piece for the New York Times. Lewis wrote that he has always supported campaign finance reform, but something funny had recently happened. The Law of Unintended Consequences, that bane of liberal social engineers and red tape wielding bureaucrats, had hit Lewis–and hard. One of the effects of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation was that it didn’t take money out of politics after all; it merely redirected money to less accountable groups like 527s and super PACs. Wrote a defeated Lewis:

Nevertheless, I’ve decided that the best way forward may be to go in the opposite direction: repeal what’s left of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as McCain-Feingold, which severely limits the amount of money the parties can collect for their candidates.

Well what do you know–the cure was worse than the disease. So much worse, in fact, that the country’s biggest boosters of that cure were turning against it, ruing the day they went after the First Amendment with malice aforethought. Something similar, but slightly less ironic, is now taking place in Massachusetts between Senator Scott Brown and his liberal challenger, Elizabeth Warren. To great fanfare—OK, modest fanfare—Brown and Warren signed a pledge that would effectively ban third-party groups from the race. When Brown announced the deal to Fox News in January, the station’s website reported it this way:

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In February, Lindsay Mark Lewis, a former Democratic National Committee finance director, wrote a heavy-hearted piece for the New York Times. Lewis wrote that he has always supported campaign finance reform, but something funny had recently happened. The Law of Unintended Consequences, that bane of liberal social engineers and red tape wielding bureaucrats, had hit Lewis–and hard. One of the effects of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation was that it didn’t take money out of politics after all; it merely redirected money to less accountable groups like 527s and super PACs. Wrote a defeated Lewis:

Nevertheless, I’ve decided that the best way forward may be to go in the opposite direction: repeal what’s left of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as McCain-Feingold, which severely limits the amount of money the parties can collect for their candidates.

Well what do you know–the cure was worse than the disease. So much worse, in fact, that the country’s biggest boosters of that cure were turning against it, ruing the day they went after the First Amendment with malice aforethought. Something similar, but slightly less ironic, is now taking place in Massachusetts between Senator Scott Brown and his liberal challenger, Elizabeth Warren. To great fanfare—OK, modest fanfare—Brown and Warren signed a pledge that would effectively ban third-party groups from the race. When Brown announced the deal to Fox News in January, the station’s website reported it this way:

The Senate race in Massachusetts is going for the civility vote as Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren have agreed — under threat of financial penalty to themselves — to ban third party ads from their race.

Ah, civility at last. There was just simply no way this could end up having the opposite effect, right? Yet today, Rosie Gray reports from Lowell, Massachusetts:

The poison that runs through this state’s Senate race seemed to spill over into the traffic Tuesday night: Everyone was paralyzed, furious, and headed to the same place, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell’s Tsongas Center.

Everyone sounds really angry and on-edge. What happened? Gray explains:

The Massachusetts Senate Campaign, between a moderate Republican and a liberal hero, began with a pledge that was meant to keep things clean. The campaigns promised not to let outside groups run radio and television advertisements on their behalves. That agreement appears to have accomplished roughly the opposite of its goal: Now, instead of letting outsiders do the dirty work for them, Warren and Brown have had to do it themselves. And a race that was always going to be tough has reached an unusual depth of personal nastiness[.]

So it didn’t take the negativity out of the election, it simply caused the candidates to stoop to the levels of incivility previously only occupied by third parties—“an unusual depth of personal nastiness,” in Gray’s telling. As Gray describes it, the fact that the candidates themselves are behaving this way has set the tone for everyone involved, so even the debate audience seemed on the edge of a brawl.

Of course, they didn’t mean for this to happen. They just signed legally binding agreements to curtail free political speech, and somehow it didn’t work out. They had good intentions—and paved the road to Lowell with them.

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Warren Ad Repeats Unfounded Claims

One of the unwritten rules of political campaigns is that when there are accusations against a candidate that seem to be taking their toll on the candidate’s poll numbers, the campaign should seek to rebut the allegations without elevating them. That was one of the main criticisms–though surely not the only one–of Christine O’Donnell’s infamous ad proclaiming that she was not, in fact, a witch. Why even suggest to voters that they had any reason to believe she might be a witch, regardless of the stories of strange, and long forgotten, teenage eccentricities?

That is the primary difference between O’Donnell’s ad and a new one released by the campaign of Elizabeth Warren, who is running against Scott Brown in Massachusetts–O’Donnell was obvious innocent of the charges against her. Earlier in the campaign, it was revealed that Warren claimed Native American heritage on job applications that would give her “minority” considerations in the hiring process thanks to the increased focus on ethnic diversity in education. She did so without—then or since—providing evidence in support of her claimed status. Warren is now a tenured professor at Harvard Law, and has earned the ire both of Native American groups—whose heritage has been used as a prop by a wealthy, white, elite professor—and of minorities in general, who understand that Warren may have taken a spot away from a minority applicant by claiming she was one.

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One of the unwritten rules of political campaigns is that when there are accusations against a candidate that seem to be taking their toll on the candidate’s poll numbers, the campaign should seek to rebut the allegations without elevating them. That was one of the main criticisms–though surely not the only one–of Christine O’Donnell’s infamous ad proclaiming that she was not, in fact, a witch. Why even suggest to voters that they had any reason to believe she might be a witch, regardless of the stories of strange, and long forgotten, teenage eccentricities?

That is the primary difference between O’Donnell’s ad and a new one released by the campaign of Elizabeth Warren, who is running against Scott Brown in Massachusetts–O’Donnell was obvious innocent of the charges against her. Earlier in the campaign, it was revealed that Warren claimed Native American heritage on job applications that would give her “minority” considerations in the hiring process thanks to the increased focus on ethnic diversity in education. She did so without—then or since—providing evidence in support of her claimed status. Warren is now a tenured professor at Harvard Law, and has earned the ire both of Native American groups—whose heritage has been used as a prop by a wealthy, white, elite professor—and of minorities in general, who understand that Warren may have taken a spot away from a minority applicant by claiming she was one.

As I wrote last week, a Boston Herald poll showed that Warren might be developing a “trust problem,” because she has sought to avoid answering questions about her claim rather than provide an explanation. Voters may have been picking up on a sense that Warren was hiding something. In the candidates’ first debate last week, Brown criticized Warren on the issue at the outset, and has followed up with an ad about it. Warren has responded with an ad of her own, advancing her claim and suggesting Brown’s criticism should be off-limits. She also says in the ad that she never asked for any benefit from her unfounded claim. The problem is, she is wrong on both counts. As CBS reports in its story about Warren’s defensive ad:

Warren has said she is Native American, and listed herself as such in some professional forms in the past, but has not offered up documentation proving that she is an official member of the Native American community.

There’s just no way around the fact that she claimed unsupported minority status on a job application where that minority status was expected to give her an edge. And in an age when anyone can trace their genealogical history from their personal computer, and in an era when records have been digitized, it’s much less convincing for Warren to insist that family lore and childhood stories are to be the final arbiters of the truthfulness of her statements.

Additionally, this is not the first time she pretended to be the victim when called out on her dubious assertions. As I wrote when this issue first appeared on the national radar screen:

Then Warren waded into it herself, saying of Brown: “What does he think it takes for a woman to be qualified?”…

Despite her obvious smarts, she has reflexively fallen back on charges of sexism, even when they are so ridiculous as to make you cringe. If Warren, a rich, white, Harvard professor, is a victim, everyone is.

I said that this was something of a tragedy for modern liberalism, since Warren is extremely intelligent, informed, and capable. Yet now she wants her gender, along with her supposed ethnic identity, to insulate her from fair criticism. It’s a pattern, and it only reinforces the credibility of the accusations against her.

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Warren’s Mistake: Nationalizing the Race

A poll of Massachusetts voters gave Scott Brown the win over Elizabeth Warren in last night’s Senate debate by ten points. Though I think Brown probably did win the debate, I thought Warren kept it very close—much closer than that poll suggests—and helped herself in a few ways. But I think two exchanges make up for the difference in perception between the poll results and the way it looked to those outside Massachusetts.

As I wrote on Wednesday, one major advantage Brown has over Warren is the fact that voters consider him to have a much stronger connection to the state than Warren, who is from Oklahoma. That discrepancy is magnified in a debate, where Brown’s accent, and Warren’s lack of one, drive the point home. But there are other ways to reinforce the local-vs.-outsider dynamic, and I think the two candidates did so clearly during their answers to a question about whether climate change is real and what can be done about it. Here is how Brown ended his answer:

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A poll of Massachusetts voters gave Scott Brown the win over Elizabeth Warren in last night’s Senate debate by ten points. Though I think Brown probably did win the debate, I thought Warren kept it very close—much closer than that poll suggests—and helped herself in a few ways. But I think two exchanges make up for the difference in perception between the poll results and the way it looked to those outside Massachusetts.

As I wrote on Wednesday, one major advantage Brown has over Warren is the fact that voters consider him to have a much stronger connection to the state than Warren, who is from Oklahoma. That discrepancy is magnified in a debate, where Brown’s accent, and Warren’s lack of one, drive the point home. But there are other ways to reinforce the local-vs.-outsider dynamic, and I think the two candidates did so clearly during their answers to a question about whether climate change is real and what can be done about it. Here is how Brown ended his answer:

[Warren is] in favor of putting wind turbines in the middle of our greatest treasure–down in the Nantucket Sound. I, like Senator Kennedy before me, believe that’s not right.

And here’s how Warren closed her answer on the same question:

This race really may be for the control of the Senate. But what that would mean is, if the Republicans take over the Senate, [Oklahoma Senator] Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s a man who has called global warming a hoax. In fact, that’s the title of his book. A man like that should not be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, overseeing their work. And I just don’t understand how we could talk about going in that direction.

Brown’s rebuttal was a layup: “You’re not running against Jim Inhofe, you’re running against me, professor.”

And that was really Warren’s mistake, in a nutshell, because the other exchange I had in mind ended with Warren saying: “This really is about who you want as commander in chief,” explaining her support for President Obama over Mitt Romney as something the voters should consider.

The truth is, neither of Warren’s answers was bad, in and of itself. It’s that the responses explicitly nationalized a statewide election. And it only underlined the fact that Warren is, at heart, truly a national candidate. The Senate seat would be a consolation prize for her, since she really wanted to lead a new consumer protection bureaucracy in Washington. She has been focused on attacking Wall Street, and throughout the debate kept complaining about oil companies and a “rigged playing field.”

Her talking points are well rehearsed, but they’re mostly vague references worded for the Beltway press more than blue-collar Massachusetts voters. She seemed to be talking over her state, not to it–past the voters to the journalists who love catchy expressions of their own narratives.

Has Warren’s campaign even tested Jim Inhofe’s name recognition in Massachusetts? I’ll bet not—and I’d guess it wouldn’t be very high. That’s not because Massachusetts voters are disconnected from national issues. It’s just that name recognition of even high-ranking politicians is usually fairly low—lower, at least, than most people would think. So Warren’s decision to use her time in that answer to tie Brown to Inhofe may have been making a point her supporters would agree with, but it was probably a poor choice anyway.

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle for Warren: she is less familiar with Massachusetts issues than Brown, so she nationalizes the race, further seeming less familiar with Massachusetts issues. To break that cycle, she’d have to ditch Oklahoma politics for the Nantucket Sound.

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Polls Set the Stage for First Brown-Warren Senate Debate

Just a few hours after I wrote about Elizabeth Warren’s consistent lead in the polls over Scott Brown yesterday, the Boston Herald released its poll showing Brown back in the lead. The poll has Brown up by six among registered voters and four among likely voters. Mark Blumenthal suggests the sample sizes are partly to blame for the poll variation, and that the polls tell us one thing–the race is close:

The five other polls have shown Warren leading by margins varying from two to six percentage points. Relatively small sample sizes likely contribute to the variation. All but one of the new surveys sampled from 400 to 600 likely voters, for reported margins of error ranging from +/- 4 percent to +/- 5 percent.

When combined in the HuffPost Pollster Trend chart, designed to smooth out the random variation inherent in most polls, the new surveys show a virtual dead heat, with Warren just a half percentage point ahead of Brown (46.2 percent to 45.7 percent).

That will account for the attention the two candidates’ first debate will attract tonight. It will also be a good test for the question I mentioned yesterday: Warren’s populism is the only polling advantage she seems to have over Brown, who voters say is running the more positive campaign, has closer ties to the state than Warren, and has a high approval rating. So if Warren’s only advantage is her middle-class focused, soak-the-rich message, will that be sufficient to win enough public support?

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Just a few hours after I wrote about Elizabeth Warren’s consistent lead in the polls over Scott Brown yesterday, the Boston Herald released its poll showing Brown back in the lead. The poll has Brown up by six among registered voters and four among likely voters. Mark Blumenthal suggests the sample sizes are partly to blame for the poll variation, and that the polls tell us one thing–the race is close:

The five other polls have shown Warren leading by margins varying from two to six percentage points. Relatively small sample sizes likely contribute to the variation. All but one of the new surveys sampled from 400 to 600 likely voters, for reported margins of error ranging from +/- 4 percent to +/- 5 percent.

When combined in the HuffPost Pollster Trend chart, designed to smooth out the random variation inherent in most polls, the new surveys show a virtual dead heat, with Warren just a half percentage point ahead of Brown (46.2 percent to 45.7 percent).

That will account for the attention the two candidates’ first debate will attract tonight. It will also be a good test for the question I mentioned yesterday: Warren’s populism is the only polling advantage she seems to have over Brown, who voters say is running the more positive campaign, has closer ties to the state than Warren, and has a high approval rating. So if Warren’s only advantage is her middle-class focused, soak-the-rich message, will that be sufficient to win enough public support?

As Jonathan wrote this afternoon, both Brown and Connecticut Republican challenger Linda McMahon will have to rely on ticket-splitting Democrats, since there simply aren’t enough Republican voters to put them over the top in their two states (in Brown’s case, as I wrote yesterday, Republicans make up only about one in ten voters). The Herald talked to some Democratic and independent Massachusetts voters about Brown, and heard exactly what Brown needs to hear to win this election:

“I wasn’t too sure of him at first, but he’s been very independent,” said Jo Ann Dunnigan, a longtime Democrat and President Obama supporter from Fall River who participated in the poll, conducted Sept. 13-17….

“I like the fact he grew up poor and knows what it means to have problems in your family,” said Valerica Stanta, a self-described independent from Haverhill who supports Obama and took part in the poll.

That will make it more difficult for Warren to paint Brown as the corporate candidate, which she is trying to do. Because Warren does not have Brown’s charisma, she’ll be at something of a disadvantage at the debate. She’ll have to rely on hammering home her campaign message, but it turns out there’s more bad news for Warren’s prospects at convincing the electorate:

Warren is viewed favorably by 48 percent of voters — a 14-point increase from nine months ago — but her unfavorable rating has also increased seven points to 34 percent. And three of 10 registered voters say Warren’s views are “too liberal.”

Stanta said she has a “trust” problem with Warren because of her differing explanations for why she listed herself as an American Indian minority in law school directories. “When they avoid explaining exactly what is going on, I don’t feel comfortable,” Stanta said.

Apologies for stating the obvious, but if Warren has a “trust problem,” she’s in trouble–all the more so because of her weaknesses in other areas. Additionally, Warren is too liberal for nearly a third of Massachusetts? Her class warfare may have helped her some, but perhaps even her deep blue state can only take so much bashing of business owners during an economic downturn.

If voters already find her untrustworthy and overzealous, tonight’s debate, which will be on C-Span at 7 p.m. eastern, will be her best chance to improve voters’ perception of her communication style just as much as her substance. But if her Democratic National Convention speech is any indication, that will be no easy task.

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Is Warren’s Class Warfare Working?

The disconnect between the polls that show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a dead heat and the media conventional wisdom desperately pronouncing Obama the easy victor is being turned on its head in the Massachusetts Senate race. There, it is Republican Scott Brown that seems to be running the better campaign, yet the polls are starting to show a consistent lead by his challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Though Brown’s approval rating is no longer the stratospheric 73 percent it was only last year according to a Democratic committee poll, he is still above water at 55 percent among registered voters and 57 percent among likely voters. A new poll shows Massachusetts voters think Brown is running the more positive campaign, 35 percent to 21 for Warren. And Brown’s strong ties to the state are not lost on voters, nor is Warren’s lack of same; only 13 percent of voters think she has a strong connection to the state. Brown’s approval rating among independents is 67 percent and 30 percent among Democrats. So what’s causing Brown’s poll slide?

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The disconnect between the polls that show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a dead heat and the media conventional wisdom desperately pronouncing Obama the easy victor is being turned on its head in the Massachusetts Senate race. There, it is Republican Scott Brown that seems to be running the better campaign, yet the polls are starting to show a consistent lead by his challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Though Brown’s approval rating is no longer the stratospheric 73 percent it was only last year according to a Democratic committee poll, he is still above water at 55 percent among registered voters and 57 percent among likely voters. A new poll shows Massachusetts voters think Brown is running the more positive campaign, 35 percent to 21 for Warren. And Brown’s strong ties to the state are not lost on voters, nor is Warren’s lack of same; only 13 percent of voters think she has a strong connection to the state. Brown’s approval rating among independents is 67 percent and 30 percent among Democrats. So what’s causing Brown’s poll slide?

Alex Burns thinks it’s the natural outgrowth of running as a Republican in a deep blue state: “It’s a state so strongly Democratic that the 2010 GOP wave had little impact there, and where Brown’s 14-point lead among independents in the WBUR still leaves him trailing by 5 points overall,” he writes. That’s true: the MassLive.com report on Brown’s approval notes that he gets 92 percent support from his own party, but that only represents about one in every ten Massachusetts voters.

There’s another possibility, however, and it’s one that should concern the Brown campaign. Warren is this campaign season’s original class warrior. It was her pro-government rant that laid the ground work for Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech, and she is only running for the Senate because the GOP blocked Democrats’ original plan for her: as the head of a new consumer watchdog bureaucracy. And true to form, her current advertising campaign attacks Brown for sticking up for private industry and business owners while Brown ties Warren to Occupy Wall Street.

But that may play right into Warren’s hands. The Boston Globe reports that Warren’s populism may be working:

In the survey, 39 percent of likely voters believed Warren “will stand up for regular people when in the Senate,” an improvement from 30 percent from a poll in February.

On the same question, Brown’s support dropped to 29 percent from 33 percent.

In what the station described as a sign that Warren’s campaign themes seem to be resonating with voters, the poll found that 35 percent of voters view Warren as the candidate who best “understands the needs of middle-class families.” Only 27 percent said that phrase described Brown.

That “regular people” question showed a 13-point swing. The fallout from Romney’s fundraiser remarks may be overstated by the media, but if the GOP gets successfully tagged as the party for the rich, Brown will be put in the uncomfortable position of having to either distance himself from his party’s presidential ticket or struggle to fight Warren’s class warfare. Brown probably never expected to be in this situation; he’s the pickup-driving local guy and Warren is the tenured Harvard professor from out of state. In almost every way, Brown is running the superior campaign. But if Warren has the right message, that might be all the overwhelmingly liberal electorate there is looking for.

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On the Warpath Against Warren

In a Democratic Convention that featured a seemingly endless stream of speakers throwing red meat to the liberal base of the party in attendance at Charlotte, no one tilted farther to the left than Elizabeth Warren. The Harvard Law professor and Democratic Senate candidate was greeted enthusiastically by the delegates, who ate up her rant about the system being rigged against working people. However, as many have already pointed out, her speech seemed slightly out of place at a gathering in support of the party in power, rather than the opposition. Her hostility to the business world was also exactly what the Charlotte Democrats wanted to hear but the party’s corporate sponsors and major donors also could not have enjoyed it.

However, we should assume that Democratic donors are used to being abused by their party’s professional rabble-rousers and take the spectacle of a Harvard elitist masquerading as one of the hoi polloi with the bucket of salt that perhaps we should all employ when listening to Warren. Nevertheless, there was one group at the Democratic Convention that was not very happy with Professor Warren: Native Americans who still think she is a big phony for her bogus claim of Cherokee ancestry. As the New York Times reports today, Warren was the subject of some scathing comments by Native American delegates.

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In a Democratic Convention that featured a seemingly endless stream of speakers throwing red meat to the liberal base of the party in attendance at Charlotte, no one tilted farther to the left than Elizabeth Warren. The Harvard Law professor and Democratic Senate candidate was greeted enthusiastically by the delegates, who ate up her rant about the system being rigged against working people. However, as many have already pointed out, her speech seemed slightly out of place at a gathering in support of the party in power, rather than the opposition. Her hostility to the business world was also exactly what the Charlotte Democrats wanted to hear but the party’s corporate sponsors and major donors also could not have enjoyed it.

However, we should assume that Democratic donors are used to being abused by their party’s professional rabble-rousers and take the spectacle of a Harvard elitist masquerading as one of the hoi polloi with the bucket of salt that perhaps we should all employ when listening to Warren. Nevertheless, there was one group at the Democratic Convention that was not very happy with Professor Warren: Native Americans who still think she is a big phony for her bogus claim of Cherokee ancestry. As the New York Times reports today, Warren was the subject of some scathing comments by Native American delegates.

Karen Geronimo, the wife of the great-grandson of the Apache chief of the same name, said, “Someone needs to make her take a DNA test.” Echoing many of Warren’s critics, her husband said Warren only claimed Indian ancestry in order to “further her career.”

Jim LaPoint, a Sioux who is the great-grandnephew of Crazy Horse, suggested that Warren should be asked if she could speak her native language.

A member of the Nebraska delegation who is a member of the Winnebago tribe expressed similar cynicism about Warren’s claims and complained the candidate had no history of actually doing anything to help real Native Americans.

Warren blew off questions from the Times about the subject, but appears to be still clueless about why the story still has legs. The problem with Warren is not that her left-wing ideological approach is too liberal for Massachusetts. It’s that people sense she is a fake while her opponent, Senator Scott Brown, is authentic. It’s hard enough for a Harvard professor to pretend to be a member of the working class. For Warran to get caught posing as a Native American is still too juicy a story for even the liberal Times to pass up.

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Convention Lineups: More Upside for GOP?

The Republican Party has released the first round of names for the national convention speaking slots in Tampa later this month, and the response has been mostly yawns from the conservative media. That’s understandable: unlike the Obama campaign, which (presumably) doesn’t have a vice presidential announcement to make, and thus nothing to hide in its convention schedule, the Romney campaign has yet to announce Mitt Romney’s choice for running mate. So the big names will have to wait.

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are among seven headline speakers announced today for the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The first look at featured speakers also includes South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

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The Republican Party has released the first round of names for the national convention speaking slots in Tampa later this month, and the response has been mostly yawns from the conservative media. That’s understandable: unlike the Obama campaign, which (presumably) doesn’t have a vice presidential announcement to make, and thus nothing to hide in its convention schedule, the Romney campaign has yet to announce Mitt Romney’s choice for running mate. So the big names will have to wait.

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are among seven headline speakers announced today for the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The first look at featured speakers also includes South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

This is a mix of rising stars (Martinez, Haley), popular party figures (Rice, McCain, Kasich), and the obvious home-stater (Scott). These are not the names conservatives are lining up to hear, though Huckabee should be considered an exception. The former Arkansas governor’s great talent has always been communication–just contrast the tone of coverage Huckabee tends to receive from the notoriously socially liberal press with that of Rick Santorum. As important as evangelicals are to GOP get-out-the-vote efforts, Huckabee could be an important campaign surrogate for a candidate many social conservatives are still unsure about.

Otherwise, the Democratic convention is the subject of far more chatter, and appropriately so. In addition to the high-profile role Bill Clinton will play, Politico has a story today examining the risk of giving Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren a prime-time speech. Warren’s candidacy has been mired in controversy since news broke that Warren apparently listed herself as a minority to exploit quota hiring in academia by claiming Native American heritage she has been unable–and unwilling–to confirm.

Perhaps even more damaging, however, is that Warren popularized the “you didn’t build that” line of argument that was picked up by President Obama in an attempt to praise government that seemed to sneer at business owners. (Obama has said that his words were taken out of context, but arguably the worst part of his remarks were what came before the infamous lines, when he said, in a mocking tone: “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.”)

Republicans will also luck out by the prominence–or lack thereof–given to potential Democratic presidential candidates for the 2016 cycle. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, expected to be a serious contender in four years, is practically avoiding the entire convention rather than use the free media as a launching pad. But it gets even better for Republicans: In what has to have GOP 2016 contenders practically giddy, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is still, amazingly enough, talking about running for president in 2016. He will have a speaking role at the convention, and is also chairing the rules committee.

O’Malley’s sensational inability to govern is by now legendary. He seems to have accepted his failures as well; he has pretty much stopped spending time in the state he governs. O’Malley (or O’Taxey, as Marylanders have taken to calling him) seems to be following California’s model of governing but, like Jon Corzine in New Jersey, hopes to be out of office when the state finally goes careening off the fiscal cliff (Corzine was defeated in time to save the state’s finances). The Republican convention will likely feature a prime-time speech from Chris Christie. If so, the contrast between the two parties’ ability to govern will be starkly in the GOP’s favor.

If O’Malley, Warren, and an impeached former president are the best the Democratic convention will have to offer, expect a lot more enthusiasm from conservatives when the GOP’s big names are finally announced this month.

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Brown Camp Hits Warren’s Own “You Didn’t Build That” Moment

Politico’s James Hohmann points readers of his “Morning Score” to a two-and-a-half minute web ad the Scott Brown campaign will deploy against Elizabeth Warren. It capitalizes on President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line by tying it to Warren, who made similar comments earlier in the campaign. It’s a powerful ad, using audio and video of Democratic presidents–Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton–as well as a few Republicans to drive home the extent to which the current Democratic Party has veered leftward, away from historically bipartisan agreement on the virtue of private industry.

The video then shows Obama delivering his infamous line, and closes with Warren’s–a much harsher version. Warren is frowning, raising her voice, and pointing fingers; as a demagogue, she puts Obama to shame (and that’s saying something). The contention that the Democratic Party has moved left is rather obvious; no one believes that Harry Truman, with his overt religiosity and lack of a college education, could earn the modern Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Equally out of place would be John Kennedy, simultaneously cutting taxes across the board–including for the rich–while promising that we would “pay any price, bear any burden” for the cause of liberty and to ensure the survival of “those human rights to which this nation has always been committed.”

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Politico’s James Hohmann points readers of his “Morning Score” to a two-and-a-half minute web ad the Scott Brown campaign will deploy against Elizabeth Warren. It capitalizes on President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line by tying it to Warren, who made similar comments earlier in the campaign. It’s a powerful ad, using audio and video of Democratic presidents–Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton–as well as a few Republicans to drive home the extent to which the current Democratic Party has veered leftward, away from historically bipartisan agreement on the virtue of private industry.

The video then shows Obama delivering his infamous line, and closes with Warren’s–a much harsher version. Warren is frowning, raising her voice, and pointing fingers; as a demagogue, she puts Obama to shame (and that’s saying something). The contention that the Democratic Party has moved left is rather obvious; no one believes that Harry Truman, with his overt religiosity and lack of a college education, could earn the modern Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Equally out of place would be John Kennedy, simultaneously cutting taxes across the board–including for the rich–while promising that we would “pay any price, bear any burden” for the cause of liberty and to ensure the survival of “those human rights to which this nation has always been committed.”

But everyone knows the end of Johnson’s administration was the end of an era for the Democrats. It’s the consistent appearance of a living ex-president, Bill Clinton, that marks current GOP messaging strategy. The sudden appreciation for the opposing party’s past standard-bearers is common to both the Democrats and Republicans. Once they were pinko commies and neo-fascists, now they are centrist Democrats and compassionate Republicans. Even Bush saw the need for comprehensive immigration reform, says one. Even Clinton signed welfare reform, says the other.

But Clinton polls better among the nation and his own party than Bush, so he will find a place for himself in this campaign on both sides. Democrats will ask him to campaign for them, preferring him to Obama. Republicans will remind Democrats at every turn just how “reasonable” Clinton was compared to Obama. Mitt Romney hit this theme after Obama’s heavy-handed attempt to gut welfare reform by executive fiat:

“President Obama now wants to strip the established work requirements from welfare,” Romney said.  “The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work. The president’s action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.”

The Brown campaign’s video is only the latest, but almost surely not the last, time voters will see the GOP attempt to plant a flag on centrist territory abandoned by Obama. Because of Obama’s lack of private-sector experience, and Warren’s apparent attempt to claim minority status–paired with an inability to substantiate that claim–to get ahead in the academic world, the two make easy targets for such ads. Their opponents can criticize them not only for saying such nonsense, but for believing it too.

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Mitt Romney, Take Notes

John and others have skewered President Obama for his knockoff of Elizabeth Warren’s “pay it forward” speech (which Obama managed to make even more insulting by explicitly bashing small business owners). Romney pushed back on the speech yesterday, but the best rebuttal from a politician so far has come from Rep. Paul Ryan. The congressman spoke to Jim Pethokoukis yesterday, and here are some of the key excerpts:

Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures. …

How does building roads and bridge justify Obamacare? If you like the GI Bill therefore we must go along with socialized medicine. It’s a strange leap that he takes. … To me it’s the laziest form of a debate to affix views to your opponent that they do not have so you can demonize them and defeat them and win the debate by default.

I think he believes America was on the right path until Reagan came along, and Reagan got us going in the wrong direction. And  he wants to be as transformational as Reagan by undoing the entire Reagan revolution. … I think he sees himself as bringing about this wave of progressivism, and the only thing stopping him are these meddling conservatives who believe in these founding principles so he has to caricature them in the ugliest light possible to win the argument.

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John and others have skewered President Obama for his knockoff of Elizabeth Warren’s “pay it forward” speech (which Obama managed to make even more insulting by explicitly bashing small business owners). Romney pushed back on the speech yesterday, but the best rebuttal from a politician so far has come from Rep. Paul Ryan. The congressman spoke to Jim Pethokoukis yesterday, and here are some of the key excerpts:

Every now and then, he pierces the veil. He’s usually pretty coy about his ideology, but he lets the veil slip from time to time. … His straw man argument is this ridiculous caricature where he’s trying to say if you want any security in life, you stick with me. If you go with these Republicans, they’re going to feed you to the wolves because they believe in some Hobbesian state of nature, and it’s one or the other which is complete bunk, absolutely ridiculous. But it seems to be the only way he thinks he can make his case. He’s deluded himself into thinking that his so-called enemies are these crazy individualists who believe in some dog-eat-dog society when what he’s really doing is basically attacking people like entrepreneurs and stacking up a list of scapegoats to blame for his failures. …

How does building roads and bridge justify Obamacare? If you like the GI Bill therefore we must go along with socialized medicine. It’s a strange leap that he takes. … To me it’s the laziest form of a debate to affix views to your opponent that they do not have so you can demonize them and defeat them and win the debate by default.

I think he believes America was on the right path until Reagan came along, and Reagan got us going in the wrong direction. And  he wants to be as transformational as Reagan by undoing the entire Reagan revolution. … I think he sees himself as bringing about this wave of progressivism, and the only thing stopping him are these meddling conservatives who believe in these founding principles so he has to caricature them in the ugliest light possible to win the argument.

Obama’s “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that” comment was a serious, unforced blunder. Unlike Romney’s “I’m not worried about the very poor” gaffe, the context doesn’t change the meaning. Obama’s argument was identical to Warren’s (though to her credit she worded it a bit more delicately): the government, not the individual, deserves the bulk of the credit for successful private enterprise. Moreover, it implies that successful individuals aren’t already paying the lion’s share of the taxes.

As Ryan so eloquently points out, this is a fundamental distortion of the conservative argument. Which Republicans are advocating we get the government out of the road-building or firefighting business? Why does Obama equate opposition to massive federal intrusion in health care with opposition to government in general?

It’s because he doesn’t want to argue against his actual critics. He wants to argue against the unreasonable, easily-defeated critics he invents in his own speeches.

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Warren’s Troubles Extend Beyond Cherokee Problem

Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren have been locked in a dead-heat for months, despite the national attention on Warren’s Cherokee heritage controversy. But that doesn’t mean Warren is in the clear. Even if the Cherokee issue fades, Public Policy Polling found deeper problems for her in its latest poll today:

 The ever close Massachusetts Senate race has drawn closer in the last three months. Elizabeth Warren remains at 46 percent, but incumbent Republican Scott Brown has drawn up five points to tie Warren because of resurgent support from independent voters.

In fact, Brown has doubled his margin with independents. He led by 12 points with them the last time PPP polled the state in March, and he is up 24 now. The candidates’ shares of the respective two-party vote remain essentially unchanged, with Brown still drawing nearly 20 percent of Warren’s party and Warren pulling less than 10 percent of Brown’s. The problem for Warren is that 13 percent of current Obama voters and 18 percent of those who say they voted for him in 2008 are with Brown right now.

 

Brown’s support has doubled with independents since March, and while PPP didn’t ask about Warren’s ancestry issue, it’s hard to imagine that hasn’t played at least a minor role. But again, the problem goes deeper than that when you dig into the full polling data. Just 34 percent of voters say Brown is “too conservative,” compared to 42 percent who say Warren is “too liberal.” That’s remarkable for a state as deep-blue as Massachusetts.

Brown and Warren both have similarly high favorable ratings, but Brown’s job performance is at the 51 percent mark. Nearly half of respondents said he was an “independent vote for Massachusetts” compared to 39 percent who said he spoke primarily for the Republican Party. The bottom line is, voters are more likely to view Brown favorably and see him as more in-tune with their own opinions than Warren. This contradicts the entire premise of running Warren — the idea was that a Republican was only able to win in the liberal state because voters didn’t have an exciting, competent, likable choice in the Democratic Party. But even though respondents view Warren favorably — her Cherokee problem apparently didn’t hurt her too much in that regard — they are less likely to agree with her politically. And that’s a huge concern for any Massachusetts Democrat.

Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren have been locked in a dead-heat for months, despite the national attention on Warren’s Cherokee heritage controversy. But that doesn’t mean Warren is in the clear. Even if the Cherokee issue fades, Public Policy Polling found deeper problems for her in its latest poll today:

 The ever close Massachusetts Senate race has drawn closer in the last three months. Elizabeth Warren remains at 46 percent, but incumbent Republican Scott Brown has drawn up five points to tie Warren because of resurgent support from independent voters.

In fact, Brown has doubled his margin with independents. He led by 12 points with them the last time PPP polled the state in March, and he is up 24 now. The candidates’ shares of the respective two-party vote remain essentially unchanged, with Brown still drawing nearly 20 percent of Warren’s party and Warren pulling less than 10 percent of Brown’s. The problem for Warren is that 13 percent of current Obama voters and 18 percent of those who say they voted for him in 2008 are with Brown right now.

 

Brown’s support has doubled with independents since March, and while PPP didn’t ask about Warren’s ancestry issue, it’s hard to imagine that hasn’t played at least a minor role. But again, the problem goes deeper than that when you dig into the full polling data. Just 34 percent of voters say Brown is “too conservative,” compared to 42 percent who say Warren is “too liberal.” That’s remarkable for a state as deep-blue as Massachusetts.

Brown and Warren both have similarly high favorable ratings, but Brown’s job performance is at the 51 percent mark. Nearly half of respondents said he was an “independent vote for Massachusetts” compared to 39 percent who said he spoke primarily for the Republican Party. The bottom line is, voters are more likely to view Brown favorably and see him as more in-tune with their own opinions than Warren. This contradicts the entire premise of running Warren — the idea was that a Republican was only able to win in the liberal state because voters didn’t have an exciting, competent, likable choice in the Democratic Party. But even though respondents view Warren favorably — her Cherokee problem apparently didn’t hurt her too much in that regard — they are less likely to agree with her politically. And that’s a huge concern for any Massachusetts Democrat.

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Elizabeth Warren in 2016?

This is why the Democratic Party won’t abandon Elizabeth Warren, no matter how much embarrassment the Fauxcahontas controversy rains down on them. Warren isn’t just a Democratic rising star — she’s one of the few Democratic rising stars who can also rally the activist left. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball reports:

I went to a conference of liberal activists this week hoping to find out who the party’s activist base sees as its up-and-coming stars. But the exercise turned out to be revealing largely for how unprepared people were to answer the question. Nearly every answer I got began with a blank stare or incredulous laugh, followed by some fumbling around, followed by “Elizabeth Warren.”

Confirming the impression I’d gleaned from my conversations with activists and organizers, Warren ran away with the 2016 straw poll conducted at the Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington, winning 32 percent of the vote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 27 percent. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who spoke at the conference and whose brand of gravelly-voiced populism is a perpetual hit with this crowd, was third with 16 percent; the other names on the ballot, all polling in single digits, were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vice President Joe Biden, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.

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This is why the Democratic Party won’t abandon Elizabeth Warren, no matter how much embarrassment the Fauxcahontas controversy rains down on them. Warren isn’t just a Democratic rising star — she’s one of the few Democratic rising stars who can also rally the activist left. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball reports:

I went to a conference of liberal activists this week hoping to find out who the party’s activist base sees as its up-and-coming stars. But the exercise turned out to be revealing largely for how unprepared people were to answer the question. Nearly every answer I got began with a blank stare or incredulous laugh, followed by some fumbling around, followed by “Elizabeth Warren.”

Confirming the impression I’d gleaned from my conversations with activists and organizers, Warren ran away with the 2016 straw poll conducted at the Take Back the American Dream conference in Washington, winning 32 percent of the vote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 27 percent. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who spoke at the conference and whose brand of gravelly-voiced populism is a perpetual hit with this crowd, was third with 16 percent; the other names on the ballot, all polling in single digits, were New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Vice President Joe Biden, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.

That national enthusiasm explains why Massachusetts Democrats are particularly forgiving when it comes to Warren (that, and her ability to raise money at twice the rate of Sen. Scott Brown). While the GOP has a crop of new favorites like Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan, the Democratic Party lacks fresh talent, which is what makes people like Warren so valuable.

The Warren campaign hopes that by cutting off oxygen to the Cherokee controversy, the media will eventually get tired of it and drop the issue. Polls showing Warren tied with Brown seem to suggest the damage from the scandal has been minimal, though it’s hard to know how much higher Warren would have been in the polls otherwise. Even if she doesn’t win in Massachusetts, it seems unlikely that she’ll go away for long. She’s a precious commodity in the Democratic Party, and they won’t want to lose her.

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Cherokees Head to MA to Confront Warren

The Boston Herald reports on the looming showdown between angry Cherokee activists and Elizabeth Warren (h/t Legal Insurrection):

Four outraged Cherokee activists who say Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has ignored their emails and phone calls will trek to Boston this week in hopes they can force a meeting with the Democratic Senate candidate over her “offensive” Native American heritage claims.

“It’s almost becoming extremely offensive to us,” said Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist who has researched Warren’s family tree. “We’re trying to get in contact and explain why her behavior hurts us and is offensive, and she totally ignores that. Like we don’t exist.”

Late last night, a Warren campaign official told the Herald that staffers will “connect” and “offer to have staff meet with them.”

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The Boston Herald reports on the looming showdown between angry Cherokee activists and Elizabeth Warren (h/t Legal Insurrection):

Four outraged Cherokee activists who say Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has ignored their emails and phone calls will trek to Boston this week in hopes they can force a meeting with the Democratic Senate candidate over her “offensive” Native American heritage claims.

“It’s almost becoming extremely offensive to us,” said Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist who has researched Warren’s family tree. “We’re trying to get in contact and explain why her behavior hurts us and is offensive, and she totally ignores that. Like we don’t exist.”

Late last night, a Warren campaign official told the Herald that staffers will “connect” and “offer to have staff meet with them.”

Warren isn’t doing herself any favors by playing aloof and refusing to meet with them, though she might feel she has no other choice. These are actual tribe members with experience researching genealogy. How can she look them in the eye and claim to have a family ancestry that is not backed up by the facts?

You might be wondering whether the Cherokee activists in this showdown are politically motivated, as this seems like too much of a gift to Sen. Brown’s campaign to be a coincidence. But it actually looks like the woman leading the group, amateur genealogist Twila Barnes, has been an active critic of false Cherokee ancestry claims for years. Her blog, “Thoughts From Polly’s Granddaughter,” has focused on the issue of “wannabe” Cherokees since 2009. One post from December 2010 explains the fake Cherokee phenomenon, and it sounds remarkably familiar if you’ve been following the Elizabeth Warren controversy:

These are the people who refuse to accept evidence that flies in the face of their family story. You can show them documentation from where their “Cherokee ancestor” arrived on the boat from England, yet they still insist this ancestor was Cherokee. You can show them that their ancestors were always listed as white in the records, but they insist the records were wrong, citing they were “whitewashed” or their full blood ancestor “passed for white”. …

Hopefully you are getting the point. A wannabe is someone who just won’t give up the family story, no matter how absurd. They claim to be Cherokee no matter what and no one will ever be able to convince them otherwise because they so desperately “wannabe” Cherokee.

Please don’t be a wannabe. Adhere to the Standards for Sound Genealogical Practices and only claim the things you can verify with supporting evidence.

That’s good advice for anyone, particularly wannabe senators.

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Timing of Warren Statement is Shady

Elizabeth Warren finally acknowledged to the Boston Globe that she told Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania she was Native American when she served on their faculties, but she continues to insist it had no influence on her hiring:

“At some point after I was hired by them, I . . . provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard,’’ [Warren] said in a statement issued by her campaign. “My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it and I have been open about it.’’

Warren’s admission comes after the Boston Globe reported that Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania cited a Native American faculty member in federal diversity statistics during Warren’s tenure at the schools. Obviously Harvard and Penn didn’t both list her as Native American based on a wild hunch, so the only real explanation was that Warren told them about her alleged ancestry.

That’s what makes the timing of Warren’s statement to the Globe today so shady. If her self-proclaimed ancestry had nothing to do with her hiring, why did she only admit to telling Harvard and Penn about it after she was backed into a corner by the Globe?

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Elizabeth Warren finally acknowledged to the Boston Globe that she told Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania she was Native American when she served on their faculties, but she continues to insist it had no influence on her hiring:

“At some point after I was hired by them, I . . . provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard,’’ [Warren] said in a statement issued by her campaign. “My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it and I have been open about it.’’

Warren’s admission comes after the Boston Globe reported that Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania cited a Native American faculty member in federal diversity statistics during Warren’s tenure at the schools. Obviously Harvard and Penn didn’t both list her as Native American based on a wild hunch, so the only real explanation was that Warren told them about her alleged ancestry.

That’s what makes the timing of Warren’s statement to the Globe today so shady. If her self-proclaimed ancestry had nothing to do with her hiring, why did she only admit to telling Harvard and Penn about it after she was backed into a corner by the Globe?

Her story is that Harvard was unaware of her heritage until after she was hired and it came up casually at a faculty lunch. That’s not exactly scandalous, and failing to mention it earlier makes her look like she had something to hide. Add that to the fact that Harvard was reportedly under enormous pressure to hire minority faculty at the time, and plenty of questions remain.

So far, other Harvard faculty involved in Warren’s hiring have backed up her story to the Globe. But does anyone really want to admit to giving someone preferential treatment because of her (now questionable) minority status? First of all, it’s an uncomfortable thing to make public, particularly as it could damage both Harvard’s and Warren’s reputations. And second, no matter how you feel about affirmative action, it would be a major embarrassment if it actually helped someone like Warren cut in line.

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Warren’s Pattern of Dubious Claims

In addition to her unsubstantiated distinction as Harvard’s first woman of color, it turns out that Elizabeth Warren may have also participated in a landmark event for women’s liberation. I’m of course referring to her status as the first nursing mother to take the New Jersey bar exam.

Unfortunately, Warren’s place in history as a feminist icon is in limbo because, once again, her claims can’t be substantiated. The Boston Herald reports:

“I was the first nursing mother to take a bar exam in the state of New Jersey,” Warren told an audience at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2011, in a video posted on the CHF website. When asked how Warren knows that, her campaign said: “Elizabeth was making a point about the very serious challenges she faced as a working mom — from taking an all-day bar exam when she was still breast-feeding, to finding work as a lawyer that would accommodate a mom with two small children.”

Winnie Comfort of the New Jersey Judiciary, which administers that state’s bar exam, said there’s no way to verify Warren’s claim. Comfort said women have been taking the New Jersey bar exam since 1895, but she’s not aware their nursing habits were ever tracked.

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In addition to her unsubstantiated distinction as Harvard’s first woman of color, it turns out that Elizabeth Warren may have also participated in a landmark event for women’s liberation. I’m of course referring to her status as the first nursing mother to take the New Jersey bar exam.

Unfortunately, Warren’s place in history as a feminist icon is in limbo because, once again, her claims can’t be substantiated. The Boston Herald reports:

“I was the first nursing mother to take a bar exam in the state of New Jersey,” Warren told an audience at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2011, in a video posted on the CHF website. When asked how Warren knows that, her campaign said: “Elizabeth was making a point about the very serious challenges she faced as a working mom — from taking an all-day bar exam when she was still breast-feeding, to finding work as a lawyer that would accommodate a mom with two small children.”

Winnie Comfort of the New Jersey Judiciary, which administers that state’s bar exam, said there’s no way to verify Warren’s claim. Comfort said women have been taking the New Jersey bar exam since 1895, but she’s not aware their nursing habits were ever tracked.

Politicians are politicians because they self-promote and puff up their accomplishments shamelessly. Al Gore’s infamous claim that he created the Internet is one extreme example, and the same goes for most of the assertions that come out of Joe Biden’s mouth. The problem is when they cross the line into downright lies, like Richard Blumenthal’s false claim that he served in Vietnam. Was Warren’s assertion a lie, an exaggeration, or was she simply mistaken? We don’t know, and the issue is so minor and obscure that it’s probably not even worth investigating.

If the Cherokee controversy didn’t hurt Warren in the polls, it’s possible the nursing mother story won’t have an impact either. In fact, the nursing mother story probably wouldn’t even be an issue if not for the ancestry claims. On its face, Warren’s comments seem to be silly but harmless self-congratulation, and that’s how a lot of voters will probably see it. But it does speak to a pattern of exaggerating and stretching biographical details. It’s not just the substance of Warren’s claims that’s troubling, but the habit.

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Warren May Face Primary Challenge

Massachusetts Democratic Party leaders had hoped Elizabeth Warren could train her focus on Sen. Scott Brown after the state Democratic convention, but now it looks like anxious delegates may force Warren to face a primary challenger this summer:

But Warren’s advisers and some seasoned political hands say she will have a difficult time blocking Marisa DeFranco, a North Shore immigration lawyer, from getting the 15 percent of delegate votes she needs to qualify for the primary ballot. Since the 15-percent requirement was put in place in 1982, no leading Democratic candidate has eliminated an opponent by getting more than 85 percent of the delegate vote at a convention.

At the Boston Herald, Holly Robichaud wonders whether this is a case of rogue Democratic delegates going off the reservation, or if nervous party leaders are quietly plotting to keep DeFranco around as a Plan B:

By allowing DeFranco on the ballot, does that mean Democrats think that Lieawatha is a flawed candidate? Have Democratic leaders lost control of their party? Or is this their backup plan in case October’s hot Halloween costume is a Democratic Senate candidate, complete with Indian headdress?

Certainly, delegates defecting to DeFranco would be thumbing their collective noses at Democratic party leaders, who have been plotting for months to give Lizzy a direct shot at our hometown hero, Brown.

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Massachusetts Democratic Party leaders had hoped Elizabeth Warren could train her focus on Sen. Scott Brown after the state Democratic convention, but now it looks like anxious delegates may force Warren to face a primary challenger this summer:

But Warren’s advisers and some seasoned political hands say she will have a difficult time blocking Marisa DeFranco, a North Shore immigration lawyer, from getting the 15 percent of delegate votes she needs to qualify for the primary ballot. Since the 15-percent requirement was put in place in 1982, no leading Democratic candidate has eliminated an opponent by getting more than 85 percent of the delegate vote at a convention.

At the Boston Herald, Holly Robichaud wonders whether this is a case of rogue Democratic delegates going off the reservation, or if nervous party leaders are quietly plotting to keep DeFranco around as a Plan B:

By allowing DeFranco on the ballot, does that mean Democrats think that Lieawatha is a flawed candidate? Have Democratic leaders lost control of their party? Or is this their backup plan in case October’s hot Halloween costume is a Democratic Senate candidate, complete with Indian headdress?

Certainly, delegates defecting to DeFranco would be thumbing their collective noses at Democratic party leaders, who have been plotting for months to give Lizzy a direct shot at our hometown hero, Brown.

Some Massachusetts Democrats may want DeFranco available as a fallback, but they’re also opening the party up to risk if she gets on the ballot. Warren will have to fight attacks from both the right and left, and face criticism about her Native American ancestry claims from both sides. DeFranco isn’t anywhere near a serious threat at this point, as her fundraising, name-recognition, and organization are miniscule compared to Warren’s. And Democrats have no real reason to shift support from Warren’s campaign to DeFranco’s, as the ancestry controversy doesn’t seem to be hurting the presumed Democratic frontrunner in the polls yet. But DeFranco can still end up being a drain on Warren’s resources and a distraction.

Case in point: DeFranco has already challenged Warren to four debates during the summer, and it sounds like Warren is actually considering it:

Thomas Whalen, a political historian at Boston University, said of DeFranco’s debate demand, “It’s a Hail Mary pass, but I suppose if I were in her shoes, I would do the same. If you want a really strong showing in the primary, you need to have a serious debate to puncture holes in her arguments. If Elizabeth Warren turns down the debates, it looks bad, like she is shirking. … She’s caught in a tough situation. The state Democratic Party looks bad, like how can they allow this to happen?”

The Warren campaign has to avoid blatantly disrespecting DeFranco, because the Brown campaign – and the Massachusetts media – will likely be watching closely for any perceived arrogance on Warren’s part. It was that sort of self-entitled attitude that undermined Martha Coakley’s bid in 2010.

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Cherokee Controversy Not Hurting Warren

Suffolk University finds that Elizabeth Warren’s support is actually holding steady in Massachusetts, despite the ongoing controversy about her dubious Cherokee ancestry claims. Sen. Scott Brown and Warren still appear to be in a dead heat:

Republican incumbent Scott Brown (48 percent) clings to a one-point lead over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren (47 percent) in the Massachusetts race for the U.S. Senate, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH-Boston) poll of likely general-election voters in Massachusetts.

The poll result is well within the margin of error. Five percent of voters were undecided in a race that has drawn interest from across the country, even though the primaries are months away. The race has closed since a February Suffolk University/7NEWS poll showed Brown leading Warren 49 percent to 40 percent, with 11 percent either undecided or choosing someone else.

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Suffolk University finds that Elizabeth Warren’s support is actually holding steady in Massachusetts, despite the ongoing controversy about her dubious Cherokee ancestry claims. Sen. Scott Brown and Warren still appear to be in a dead heat:

Republican incumbent Scott Brown (48 percent) clings to a one-point lead over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren (47 percent) in the Massachusetts race for the U.S. Senate, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH-Boston) poll of likely general-election voters in Massachusetts.

The poll result is well within the margin of error. Five percent of voters were undecided in a race that has drawn interest from across the country, even though the primaries are months away. The race has closed since a February Suffolk University/7NEWS poll showed Brown leading Warren 49 percent to 40 percent, with 11 percent either undecided or choosing someone else.

As you can see, Warren has gained significant ground since Suffolk’s last poll in February, while Brown’s support has stagnated just below 50 percent. While the Cherokee story makes for delicious headlines and entertaining blog fodder, Massachusetts voters don’t seem to view it as a negative reflection on Warren’s personal ethics. On that point, Allahpundit points out perhaps the most telling finding in the entire poll: when asked which candidate respondents trusted more to tell the truth, 40 percent said Elizabeth Warren as opposed to 37 percent who said Scott Brown.

As AmSpec’s Aaron Goldstein writes: “If voters in Connecticut didn’t care about Richard Blumenthal misrepresenting his military service, is it really a stretch to imagine that Massachusetts voters won’t care if Elizabeth Warren lied about being Native American to advance her career?” Good point. If the state GOP is able to tie the ancestry issue to an angle Massachusetts voters do care about, maybe they can get some more mileage out of the scandal. Otherwise, it looks like Warren may be in the clear.

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Warren’s Indian Problem Isn’t Going Away

Genealogy has become a popular American pastime, but it’s not one that Elizabeth Warren seems to be enjoying. The law professor turned Democratic Senate candidate has discovered to her displeasure that more attention is being paid to her somewhat tenuous claim to Native American ancestry and the use her academic employers made of this fiction than her attempt to defeat Massachusetts incumbent Scott Brown. The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta has compiled all the available evidence on the matter and found some facts that will comfort Warren and others that her critics will promote. But even after we have gotten to the bottom of this — and Franke-Ruta appears to have done so — that won’t solve her problem. Warren’s dilemma is more pressing than merely the irony of a “progressive” hoisted on the petard fashioned by the left.

Warren is vulnerable on this score not just because it is amusing to see a liberal squirm after being called out for masquerading as a minority. Rather it is the fact that she’s a relative newcomer to politics and this controversy is helping to define her. Though she’s right that this is a distraction from the issues, having entered the public imagination as the object of popular scorn in this fashion, it’s going to be difficult for her to shake this image of faux Indian in the next six months.

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Genealogy has become a popular American pastime, but it’s not one that Elizabeth Warren seems to be enjoying. The law professor turned Democratic Senate candidate has discovered to her displeasure that more attention is being paid to her somewhat tenuous claim to Native American ancestry and the use her academic employers made of this fiction than her attempt to defeat Massachusetts incumbent Scott Brown. The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta has compiled all the available evidence on the matter and found some facts that will comfort Warren and others that her critics will promote. But even after we have gotten to the bottom of this — and Franke-Ruta appears to have done so — that won’t solve her problem. Warren’s dilemma is more pressing than merely the irony of a “progressive” hoisted on the petard fashioned by the left.

Warren is vulnerable on this score not just because it is amusing to see a liberal squirm after being called out for masquerading as a minority. Rather it is the fact that she’s a relative newcomer to politics and this controversy is helping to define her. Though she’s right that this is a distraction from the issues, having entered the public imagination as the object of popular scorn in this fashion, it’s going to be difficult for her to shake this image of faux Indian in the next six months.

A fraudulent item in a biography can be a devastating blow to a political career, but it doesn’t have to be fatal, as one prominent example shows.

Just two years ago, a U.S. Senate race in neighboring Connecticut might well have been defined by such an issue. Democratic nominee Richard Blumenthal was caught on something far worse than Warren’s belief that she was 1/32 Cherokee based on family lore and her grandfather’s high cheekbones. Blumenthal was caught on tape lying about having served in Vietnam. That’s more than just fibbing on a resume or treating family myths as fact. It’s about as low as you can get. Yet Blumenthal still breezed to victory and today sits in the U.S. Senate alongside a few members who actually did serve in Vietnam and does so without blushing.

Blumenthal was lucky to run in a blue state like Connecticut and he was even more fortunate that his opponent, pro wrestling mogul Linda McMahon (who is having another crack at the Senate this year as she seeks to replace the retiring Joe Lieberman) was widely seen as disreputable. But even with those favorable circumstances, the lie might have ended Blumenthal’s hopes but for one factor: he was a familiar and well-liked figure in the state. Having spent the previous 20 years running for and winning state-wide office as the longtime attorney general, it was easy for him to ask forgiveness from those who had already gotten to know and respect him. As a political novice, Warren can’t fall back on that same sense of trust.

As Franke-Ruta writes, there’s no evidence she used her fake Indian ancestry to gain entrance to schools or to win professorial posts. But her foolish determination to stick to her claim about having Native American heritage — even after, as Franke-Ruta also determines  — it became clear there is virtually no likelihood of it being true has given the story legs. And because the story solidified her public identity as the product of the academy rather than as an activist, it has helped turn this election into a town versus gown affair that is very much to her disadvantage.

Entering the public consciousness as a fraud, even a penny-ante fraud such as her mythical Cherokee forebears, may be a far greater burden for a politician to carry than even the revelation of a lie that is a case of moral turpitude as was true of Blumenthal. Unless Warren can fundamentally redefine the way voters think about her in the coming months, it appears the Democrats’ hope of retaking Ted Kennedy’s old seat was lost on the “Trail of Tears,” and not in Massachusetts.

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