Commentary Magazine


Topic: Elizabeth Warren

Scott Brown, ObamaCare, and Regionalism

Scott Brown’s career on the national stage has been a study in contradictions. He is a Northeast Republican with a working class, rather than coastal elite, political identity. He won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat when the late senator passed away by running against the health-care reform effort that was associated with Kennedy perhaps more than any other politician aside from President Obama. He then accrued broad popularity and high approval ratings, yet lost his reelection bid anyway.

Out of office, the contradictions continued: he declined to run for Massachusetts’s other Senate seat when it opened up, and so he was a popular and skilled politician without office–a gifted campaigner without a campaign to run. Yet passing on the other Senate seat still made some sense, because he could run for governor of Massachusetts instead. That election would likely pit him against less formidable competition for an office to which Bay State Republicans get elected routinely, unlike the Senate. And it would offer him a chance to raise his national profile, in the event that he, like most politicians, was looking downfield.

But then he passed up the gubernatorial election as well. What gives? Perhaps, some wondered, he was actually considering running for the Senate from neighboring New Hampshire. The Granite State is more hospitable for Republicans than Massachusetts, and it would be a boon to any national aspirations he had because Republican support in New Hampshire is not the anomaly it is in Massachusetts. Now, it seems, Brown has taken another step in that direction:

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Scott Brown’s career on the national stage has been a study in contradictions. He is a Northeast Republican with a working class, rather than coastal elite, political identity. He won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat when the late senator passed away by running against the health-care reform effort that was associated with Kennedy perhaps more than any other politician aside from President Obama. He then accrued broad popularity and high approval ratings, yet lost his reelection bid anyway.

Out of office, the contradictions continued: he declined to run for Massachusetts’s other Senate seat when it opened up, and so he was a popular and skilled politician without office–a gifted campaigner without a campaign to run. Yet passing on the other Senate seat still made some sense, because he could run for governor of Massachusetts instead. That election would likely pit him against less formidable competition for an office to which Bay State Republicans get elected routinely, unlike the Senate. And it would offer him a chance to raise his national profile, in the event that he, like most politicians, was looking downfield.

But then he passed up the gubernatorial election as well. What gives? Perhaps, some wondered, he was actually considering running for the Senate from neighboring New Hampshire. The Granite State is more hospitable for Republicans than Massachusetts, and it would be a boon to any national aspirations he had because Republican support in New Hampshire is not the anomaly it is in Massachusetts. Now, it seems, Brown has taken another step in that direction:

Former US senator Scott Brown will headline the New Hampshire GOP holiday dinner this month, furthering speculation that he is considering a run for the Senate in that state. …

Brown himself has remained coy about his plans. He has changed his Twitter handle from @ScottBrownMA to @SenScottBrown.

Would Brown be viewed too much as a carpetbagger to win in New Hampshire? It’s an interesting question, because it would test the extent to which regionalism can trump localism in Northeastern politics. By that I mean: we are constantly being told that Northeast Republican candidates for national office (usually the presidency) can offset their lack of ideological bona fides by competing for states Republicans don’t usually win during presidential elections.

Mitt Romney was an example of this. No, the thinking went, he can’t win Massachusetts, but maybe he can win New Hampshire. In the end, he could not win New Hampshire, but the idea was only on the table because he hailed from a nearby state. Rarely do we speak of regionalism this way for other areas of the country. It’s true that there is something to being a southerner, but much of that is tangled up in liberals’ evergreen amateurish smears that Republican success in the South means they must be racist. And anyway “the South” is a bit amorphous and far more diverse than it is given credit for, making regionalism a tough sell.

At other times, race and ethnicity do play into regional assessments, but in a more positive way. Republicans may speak of success in the Southwest, for example, in terms of outreach to Hispanic voters instead of, say, being from Phoenix. But the Northeast continues, against all odds, to play this siren song on a loop. In many ways, a Scott Brown Senate run from New Hampshire would be an even better test of this theory than a presidential contest, because it would put state issues front and center and really assess their portability.

But it turns out that were Brown to run in New Hampshire, he might preempt this test by injecting national issues into the race, indicating the limitations of Northeast regionalism. The issue Brown is most likely to raise would be the one that played a role in his initial Massachusetts win: ObamaCare. As the Washington Post reports:

In the FoxNews.com op-ed, Brown focuses on the effects of the federal health-care law in New Hampshire — not Massachusetts, notably — and appears to take a shot at his would-be opponent, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

“Many other Americans are experiencing fewer medical options as insurers restrict their choice of doctors and hospitals in order to keep costs low,” Brown writes, adding: “For example, in New Hampshire, only 16 of the state’s 26 hospitals are available on the federal exchange, meaning patients must either pay more to keep their current doctor or seek inferior care elsewhere.”

Brown then mentions New Hampshire a second time: “New Hampshire is not alone. Across the country, some of the best hospitals are not available on plans on the exchange, leaving patients with difficult choices and unwanted sometimes, life threatening decisions.”

The irony here is that nationalizing issues was something his Massachusetts opponent, Elizabeth Warren, used against him in her successful bid to turn him out of office. Warren herself was a transplant to Massachusetts, though she arrived in the state long before she had senatorial ambitions. If New Hampshire’s voters dislike ObamaCare enough, they’d probably be open to an out-of-stater who promises to help unburden them. That appears to be Brown’s bet–if he runs, something he has made a steady habit of avoiding so far.

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Is Obama an Obstacle to Clinton’s ’16 Plans?

Politico provides a late entry into the understatement-of-the-year competition for straight news, reporting that Hillary Clinton “is not actively trying to suppress” the speculation that she will run for president in 2016. It’s true enough, but it might be more accurate to note that she is throwing brushback pitches even at non-candidates who have insisted they’re not considering running but have supporters who want them to run, like Elizabeth Warren.

In other words, she is pretty much already running. As Jonathan Martin and Amy Chozick reported over the weekend, the Clintons are working to repair ties with black voters after the 2008 primary competition against Barack Obama. (Though the press would have you think otherwise, it was the Clinton duo, not John McCain, who tried to use Obama’s race against him that year.) In their story, Martin and Chozick–who keep finding genuinely interesting angles to the looming 2016 race–write that the Clintons see black voters as their hedge against any other challenger (though they seem to have Warren in mind) since they won’t be running against Obama again:

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Politico provides a late entry into the understatement-of-the-year competition for straight news, reporting that Hillary Clinton “is not actively trying to suppress” the speculation that she will run for president in 2016. It’s true enough, but it might be more accurate to note that she is throwing brushback pitches even at non-candidates who have insisted they’re not considering running but have supporters who want them to run, like Elizabeth Warren.

In other words, she is pretty much already running. As Jonathan Martin and Amy Chozick reported over the weekend, the Clintons are working to repair ties with black voters after the 2008 primary competition against Barack Obama. (Though the press would have you think otherwise, it was the Clinton duo, not John McCain, who tried to use Obama’s race against him that year.) In their story, Martin and Chozick–who keep finding genuinely interesting angles to the looming 2016 race–write that the Clintons see black voters as their hedge against any other challenger (though they seem to have Warren in mind) since they won’t be running against Obama again:

This task has taken on new urgency given the Democratic Party’s push to the left, away from the centrist politics with which the Clintons are identified. Strong support from black voters could serve as a bulwark for Mrs. Clinton against a liberal primary challenge should she decide to run for president in 2016. It would be difficult for a progressive candidate, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, to rise if the former first lady takes back the black voters she lost to Mr. Obama and retains the blue-collar white voters who flocked to her.

Because she is already off to the races, she has a challenge: she was a poor secretary of state, and though her term recently ended the only thing many people can remember about it is that aside from her disastrous handling of Benghazi there was nothing worth remembering. And Clinton seems to be well aware of this. In anther Chozick dispatch headlined “Clinton Seeks State Dept. Legacy Beyond That of Globe-Trotter,” Clinton’s supporters fret that the public will correctly remember that all she really did was fly around the world on the taxpayer’s dime:

The struggle to define Mrs. Clinton’s accomplishments at the State Department has intensified in recent days as Mr. Kerry and his latest assertive diplomatic effort — a successful push for an agreement with Iran that would temporarily curb the country’s nuclear program — have drawn tough comparisons with Mrs. Clinton.

Freed of any presidential ambitions, Mr. Kerry appears willing to wade into political minefields. He has taken whirlwind trips to the Middle East, revived peace talks with Israel and Palestine and struck a deal with Russia to remove chemical weapons from Syria. All the activity seemed to provide fresh evidence for those who viewed Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as overly cautious.

In contrast, even when members of Mrs. Clinton’s own party describe her achievements, they tend to point to a lot of miles traveled (956,733 to be exact).

The best part of that story is when Chozick paraphrases Clintonites as follows: “What about her 13 trips to Libya in 2011 to build the coalition that led to the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, they ask.” If Hillary Clinton really wants to talk about her legacy in Libya, I’m guessing her opponents will be more than happy to oblige.

But all this–contrasting her record with the sitting secretary of state, taking credit for current administration “successes” while deflecting blame for the many failures, trying to rebuild ties with Obama’s voter base–brings up another rather obvious obstacle: we’re less than a year into Obama’s second term. Some toes, then, are being stepped on, as Politico reports today:

Obama needs his party’s attention devoted to helping him salvage the final three years of his administration. But Democratic donors and activists say the growing anticipation around a possible Clinton administration three years out could accelerate the president’s arrival at lame duck status. The more Obama is viewed as a has-been, they say, the harder it could be for him to rally the party to fight for his agenda.

This is quite a reasonable concern from Obama’s side of the issue. He is currently at something of a low point in his presidency, with his signature achievement cratering amid revelations that he’s been purposefully misleading the public on his intention to kick them off their health insurance plans, among other false promises and disastrous effects of ObamaCare. Obama may or may not be able to regain enough political capital to right the ship, but if the Democrats start treating someone with political star power as the new leader of the party, it won’t give the president the space and credibility he needs to rally his administration.

And even worse for Obama, Clinton has some incentive to portray him as a failure. ObamaCare has his name on it, and she was already out of the Senate by the time it was voted on. And distracting the political world from the Obama White House means neutralizing the one advantage Vice President Joe Biden would have over Clinton: incumbency. In truth, she will also lose out if ObamaCare continues to be a total disaster, because it will further erode the public’s trust in the Democratic Party’s big-government world view. But a lame-duck presidency gives her a head start. A resuscitated presidency takes the air out of her tires for a few more years.

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Mythologizing Elizabeth Warren

Noam Scheiber’s story on Elizabeth Warren’s prospects for the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries has touched off this week’s non-Chris Christie related 2016 speculation. Politico followed, with an interesting story on how Warren could push Hillary Clinton to the left even if she couldn’t defeat Clinton for the nomination. Further, if a Tea Party populist like Rand Paul were running a serious campaign on the Republican side, the election would turn up the heat on Wall Street.

But it’s doubtful Wall Streeters are worried yet; Warren is unlikely to run, and any rhetorical shifts Clinton made during the campaign would of course be meaningless, and everyone would know it. The truth is, if you want to understand why the Democratic Party is far more likely to support Clinton (if she runs, of course) than someone like Warren, there are two recent stories that are better indicators of where the “soul” of the party, as Scheiber terms it, are. First, from the L.A. Times:

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Noam Scheiber’s story on Elizabeth Warren’s prospects for the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries has touched off this week’s non-Chris Christie related 2016 speculation. Politico followed, with an interesting story on how Warren could push Hillary Clinton to the left even if she couldn’t defeat Clinton for the nomination. Further, if a Tea Party populist like Rand Paul were running a serious campaign on the Republican side, the election would turn up the heat on Wall Street.

But it’s doubtful Wall Streeters are worried yet; Warren is unlikely to run, and any rhetorical shifts Clinton made during the campaign would of course be meaningless, and everyone would know it. The truth is, if you want to understand why the Democratic Party is far more likely to support Clinton (if she runs, of course) than someone like Warren, there are two recent stories that are better indicators of where the “soul” of the party, as Scheiber terms it, are. First, from the L.A. Times:

Under the chandeliers at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, guests sipped white wine and sampled Vietnamese spring rolls as Hollywood’s power players gathered for yet another fete celebrating Hillary Rodham Clinton, this time for her work with women and girls in Third World countries.

President Clinton, a surprise guest, had popped into Friday night’s VIP reception upstairs to greet industry heavyweights including Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone and Rob Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate’s motion picture group. Hillary Clinton was greeted at the gala with a standing ovation and seated elbow to elbow with Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose fundraising network could help lay the groundwork for her presidential campaign.

I’ll leave aside any jokes about the fact that Hillary’s husband was a “surprise guest” at Hillary’s party, according to the Times. The “soul” of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party can be found wherever the Hollywood elite have the champagne flowing and the checkbooks feeling heavy.

The other story demonstrating why it’s difficult for someone like Warren in the current Democratic Party is from Politico, and it’s a rather amazingly honest depiction of modern liberalism’s “soul”:

A look at the politics also helps explain why the momentum has stalled on New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal to remove the chain of command from the prosecution of sexual assault cases, considered the most controversial proposal to curb the problem. Women’s and victim advocacy groups want to use the vote as a litmus test that would tie any senator who opposes it to Chambliss’s remark and create a damaging political narrative in the same vein as Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment in the 2012 Missouri Senate race.

But so far, that strategy has produced few results.

Crafting legislation that is ostensibly to help victims of sexual violence but is designed to get politicians talking about rape just so they can be drummed out of office is a perfect example of the utter cynicism that characterizes today’s Democratic Party. Then there’s this:

Some Democrats have even portrayed the vote as one for or against rape victims.

“Especially with some of the Republicans seeing what happened to Todd Akin, people will be running scared on this,” said one Senate Democratic aide who works on defense issues.

This is the kind of campaign Democrats want to run. They want to collect money from special interests to fund advertising campaigns portraying their opponents as “pro-rape.” For that, they have turned to the Clintons. Theirs is the politics of grievance and the ideology of power.

But the larger mistake that hopeful liberals make is assuming that Warren would run an issues-based, reformist campaign. But that’s not her style either. Indeed, that was the tragedy of her Senate campaign, as I wrote in May 2012. Warren is whip-smart with a strong handle on the particulars of the issues and, as a former Harvard Law professor, a gift for crafting a crisp argument. But she doesn’t use any of this in political campaigns.

When she ran for the Senate against Scott Brown, it was revealed she claimed dubious minority status to get ahead in her career–egregious enough for a rich white woman already. But then when called on it she claimed it was sexist to hold her accountable. Why rely on an argument when you can tar your opponent as a sexist? Why engage in a debate when you can disqualify your opponent? That’s the liberal way.

So she pressed the “war on women” narrative, threw in some quite garbled arguments about “Big Oil,” pronounced herself a victim, and called it a day. So when Scheiber says the Democratic Party’s “Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren,” as the headline of his article announces, he’s right. But it’s not because the left’s soul is the champion of the downtrodden. It’s too busy collecting checks from the One Percent and trying to get the opposition to mutter the word “rape” on camera.

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Christie’s Red Hot But Not in GOP

Chris Christie raised some eyebrows, as well as the expectations of potential supporters, in the last couple of weeks as he traded barbs with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in a clash of potential Republican presidential contenders. But while a new Quinnipiac poll should encourage those who think the New Jersey governor is the ideal Republican candidate in 2016, it also illustrates his biggest problem: fellow Republicans.

The poll measures the popularity of leading members of both parties in which voters were asked to measure their feelings toward them on a scale of 0 (ice cold) to 100 (red hot). Out of a field of 22 Democrats and Republicans, Christie placed first with a 53.1 percent rating, beating out second-place finisher Hillary Clinton, who had 52.1 percent approval. That’s the good news for Christie. The bad news is that when narrowed down to the 23 percent of the sample that identified themselves as Republicans, he slipped from first to eighth, finishing behind most of his leading rivals for the presidency–even a dark horse like Rick Santorum. While those figures don’t doom Christie’s hopes for the GOP nomination—he still scores a 59.8 percent rating among Republicans and also can point to his first-place standing among independents—it does illustrate the problem of being perceived as the most moderate contender in the field in a party with a base that takes a dim view of such a stance.

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Chris Christie raised some eyebrows, as well as the expectations of potential supporters, in the last couple of weeks as he traded barbs with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in a clash of potential Republican presidential contenders. But while a new Quinnipiac poll should encourage those who think the New Jersey governor is the ideal Republican candidate in 2016, it also illustrates his biggest problem: fellow Republicans.

The poll measures the popularity of leading members of both parties in which voters were asked to measure their feelings toward them on a scale of 0 (ice cold) to 100 (red hot). Out of a field of 22 Democrats and Republicans, Christie placed first with a 53.1 percent rating, beating out second-place finisher Hillary Clinton, who had 52.1 percent approval. That’s the good news for Christie. The bad news is that when narrowed down to the 23 percent of the sample that identified themselves as Republicans, he slipped from first to eighth, finishing behind most of his leading rivals for the presidency–even a dark horse like Rick Santorum. While those figures don’t doom Christie’s hopes for the GOP nomination—he still scores a 59.8 percent rating among Republicans and also can point to his first-place standing among independents—it does illustrate the problem of being perceived as the most moderate contender in the field in a party with a base that takes a dim view of such a stance.

The survey supplies Christie’s supporters with a powerful argument about electability. The New Jersey governor has a unique appeal that transcends the fans he originally won on the right for his YouTube videos in which he berates liberals and unions and plays the kind of tough-guy blunt politician that voters can’t get enough of. Many on the right may never completely forgive him for hugging President Obama in the week before the election last fall during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but Christie’s ability to appeal to centrists, independents, and even some Democrats could make him a formidable general election candidate. But the fact that he has a 53.2 percent rating among Democrats while no other GOP figure scores higher than 32.9 percent (Marco Rubio) is exactly why a lot of Republicans can’t stand him.

The contrast between Christie’s overall numbers and his also-ran finish among Republicans is not the only interesting tidbit from this poll. The fact that Rep. Paul Ryan is the top-rated figure among Republicans with 68.7 percent might help fuel interest in a presidential run by the party’s 2012 veep candidate. Senator Ted Cruz’s second-place rank (65.6 percent) will also give him a boost. But with that pair and Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Senator Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Rick Santorum also scoring 60 percent or higher, it’s clear that there is no single front runner even if it is obvious that Christie might struggle to win in primaries or caucuses where only Republicans are allowed to vote.

Should Hillary Clinton run, there isn’t much doubt that she will be the Democratic nominee in 2016 and her first-place standing in her party with 77.7 percent exceeds even that of President Obama. What is interesting is that freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts actually ranks third in popularity with all voters at 49.2, beating out Obama with 47.6 percent. Warren trails only Clinton, Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden among Democrats. Should Clinton not run for some unknown reason, Warren’s ability to galvanize the party’s left-wing base could make her an interesting possibility for a long shot upset.

These numbers give us only the broadest possible view of the battle for 2016, two years before the real battle for the nominations will begin. But they do demonstrate that trying to maintain a balance between general election and primary popularity will be even more difficult for Republicans in 2016 than it was in 2012 and 2008 when the GOP wound up nominating a relative moderate to the dismay of much of their base. Conservatives may be wrong to think that Mitt Romney and John McCain’s relative moderation was the reason Barack Obama beat them both and that 2016 is the year to nominate someone who will appeal to their party’s grass roots. But that conviction is not going to be an easy obstacle for someone like Christie to overcome. If, as I wrote last week, the battle between Christie and some of his rivals on foreign and defense policy issues is a fight for the soul of the party, his apparent ability to win in November may still not persuade many in his party to drop their objections to him.

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Scott Brown’s Poll Numbers and the Lessons of 2012

Over the weekend, the MassInc Polling Group released the results of a poll on a hypothetical matchup for John Kerry’s soon-to-be-open Senate seat in Massachusetts. The poll contains some very good news for the possible Republican candidate, Scott Brown, but also offers a reminder of why his support and high approval numbers don’t by any means guarantee him true frontrunner status.

Brown learned that the hard way, of course, in November. He went into his election against liberal class warrior Elizabeth Warren with numbers any incumbent member of Congress, especially a senator, would feel good about. His approval rating was at 57 percent. He was viewed as bipartisan as well–essential to his success as a Republican in Massachusetts. That would normally insulate most senators in a general election (a primary would be another story). But Brown lost, and the good news/bad news disparity in this poll is a good summary of why:

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Over the weekend, the MassInc Polling Group released the results of a poll on a hypothetical matchup for John Kerry’s soon-to-be-open Senate seat in Massachusetts. The poll contains some very good news for the possible Republican candidate, Scott Brown, but also offers a reminder of why his support and high approval numbers don’t by any means guarantee him true frontrunner status.

Brown learned that the hard way, of course, in November. He went into his election against liberal class warrior Elizabeth Warren with numbers any incumbent member of Congress, especially a senator, would feel good about. His approval rating was at 57 percent. He was viewed as bipartisan as well–essential to his success as a Republican in Massachusetts. That would normally insulate most senators in a general election (a primary would be another story). But Brown lost, and the good news/bad news disparity in this poll is a good summary of why:

Brown takes 53 percent support in the poll, over [Representative Edward] Markey at 31 percent. A match-up of Brown against a generic Democratic ballot is considerably closer, but Brown still leads, 44-36 percent….

His decision comes even as Markey has racked up numerous big-name endorsements from prominent Massachusetts and national Democrats, notably Kerry himself and the National Democratic Senatorial Committee. 


Brown has a strong favorability rating with Massachusetts voters, at 55 percent positive, but his numbers in head-to-head match-ups against the Democrats are possibly inflated because voters are unfamiliar with the Democratic candidates.

On the one hand, Brown’s numbers against a sitting Democratic congressman with high-profile endorsements (including from the man relinquishing the seat) are high. On the other, the numbers are much closer against a “generic” Democrat, since so many of the state’s voters are Democrats who would prefer an acceptable Democrat to a “good” Republican.

There are some conditions working in Brown’s favor. First of all, he won the last Senate special election and lost the full election, which took place in a presidential year, with President Obama on the ballot and the high turnout associated with presidential elections. The conditions of this special election, to take place later this year, would obviously resemble the conditions of the election he won more than the one he lost. Additionally, Brown ran against a weaker opponent in the first special election in Martha Coakley; if Markey begins the race with low numbers, it may signal that he is a weaker candidate than others who might want to run against Brown for the seat (hence “generic” Democrat’s lead over Markey).

And paradoxically, his recent election loss could help him find his way back to the Senate. One of the issues that Warren worked effectively during the race was the idea that re-electing Brown could tip control of the Senate to the Republican Party, so that even if Massachusetts voters liked Brown, they should think strategically about who they would empower in the nation at large with their votes. This year, since the Democrats have 55 seats in the Senate (including the two independents who caucus with the Democrats), Brown could not make a noticeable difference–or at least not a significant enough difference to worry Massachusetts voters. One takeaway from November’s election was that the state’s voters seemed to want both Brown and Warren in the Senate if they could so choose; they would–if Brown runs in this election–now have their chance.

However, Brown surely understands that his high approval numbers didn’t save him in November and they might fail to do so again if he runs. Further, Kerry’s seat is up in 2014. That means Brown would only have a year in the Senate to prepare for a general election again. But it also means he won’t have to run for re-election this time in a presidential year. Brown also has a choice: he can run for governor instead. If he chooses that path, he may get to run against Coakley again, and in general it would be easier under normal circumstances for Republicans to win the governorship in Massachusetts–as they have often done–than to win a Senate seat there.

The poll, then, is being reported as the kind of news that would encourage Brown to run for the seat, while instead it contains a reminder of why he may have an easier path back to political office by passing on the Senate seat. The national Republican Party would surely want Brown to choose the Senate seat over the governorship, but they may also underestimate the electoral strength of “Generic Democrat” in Massachusetts. It’s doubtful Brown would make the same mistake.

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Scott Brown’s Choice

Last season, as the Knicks approached their return to the NBA playoffs, they faced a strange dilemma: If they kept winning, they would improve their playoff seed but draw a far tougher opponent in the first round: the eventual champion Miami Heat. In the end, they drew the Heat and lost in the first round. In sports, you generally cannot choose your opponent.

But every so often, in politics you can. And that is what may be tempting Scott Brown to pass on running in the upcoming Massachusetts Senate election to replace John Kerry in favor of running for Massachusetts governor instead. Massachusetts Democrats, according to the Boston Herald, fear Brown is considering doing what the Knicks could not: picking which opponent he’d rather run against. Joe Battenfeld encourages him to do exactly that:

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Last season, as the Knicks approached their return to the NBA playoffs, they faced a strange dilemma: If they kept winning, they would improve their playoff seed but draw a far tougher opponent in the first round: the eventual champion Miami Heat. In the end, they drew the Heat and lost in the first round. In sports, you generally cannot choose your opponent.

But every so often, in politics you can. And that is what may be tempting Scott Brown to pass on running in the upcoming Massachusetts Senate election to replace John Kerry in favor of running for Massachusetts governor instead. Massachusetts Democrats, according to the Boston Herald, fear Brown is considering doing what the Knicks could not: picking which opponent he’d rather run against. Joe Battenfeld encourages him to do exactly that:

Republicans close to the departing U.S. senator said he’s itching to go back to Washington to replace John Kerry, but Democrats are buzzing more about a potential Brown gubernatorial campaign in 2014. It may be tempting for Brown to run in a special election against a vulnerable Rep. Edward J. Markey, but he should reject the easy play and go for the job that really matters — running the state of Massachusetts….

But if you were Scott Brown, who would you rather run against, Ed Markey and the entire Democratic Party, or state Treasurer Steve Grossman or Attorney General Martha Coakley?

Markey already has the backing of Kerry, and as a congressman has acquired campaign experience and connections across the state. Coakley, meanwhile, was the Democrat Brown defeated in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy.

Additionally, the state is no stranger to Republican governors. Mitt Romney was governor of the state before running for president, and he was preceded by a Republican governor as well, Paul Cellucci, who himself was preceded by a Republican governor, Bill Weld. (Who is reportedly considering running for the Kerry seat as well.) That makes the current Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick, the state’s first Democratic governor since Michael Dukakis.

Brown would be considered a formidable candidate in either election. But his high-profile promise to be a vote against Obamacare in the special election in 2010 helped contribute to his victory and also helped rally the state’s Republican voters. And that issue is, obviously, off the table. The difficulty of winning a Senate seat in Massachusetts as a Republican was demonstrated by Brown’s loss to liberal class warfare icon Elizabeth Warren in November. Brown entered the race with high approval ratings and a moderate, bipartisan voting record to complement his blue-collar appeal and local roots. He lost anyway to Warren, an Oklahoma-born Harvard Law professor with scant knowledge of local issues and no experience running for office.

Democrats are far from confident they’d beat Brown again, even with Markey. As Slate’s Dave Weigel noted, this is a pessimistic, but not irrational, fear:

They beat Brown this year with a huge turnout, which allowed Elizabeth Warren to run 15 points behind Barack Obama and still win. Brown won 1.17 million votes in the 2010 special election. That rose to 1.45 million in 2012. Martha Coakley won 1.06 million in the special, and Warren won 1.68 million votes in the general. Republicans, somewhat cynically, hope that a special election with lower turnout will mean a proportionately bigger fall-off in Democratic votes. November’s exit polls found that the same electorate that was kicking Brown out gave him a 60 percent favorable rating.

That’s where the trauma comes in. Democrats remember a smooth, likeable Brown running over Martha Coakley, gathering momentum as she stumbled all over the place. The final polls before the 2010 special put Brown’s favorables in the high 50s. In the Senate, where he voted the Democrats’ way on some popular bills (DADT repeal, for example), he only got more popular. In June 2011, Brown led any potential Democratic opponent by nine to 25 points. He led Warren by 15 points.

The Democrats’ “trauma,” as Weigel characterizes it, is quite the opposite for Brown, and it’s hard to imagine he’d rather run against Markey than Coakley. The national Republican Party would almost surely prefer the opposite. They don’t gain much with a moderate Republican governorship, but would love another Senate seat heading into the 2014 midterms. Brown, however, would give his career (and any national ambitions he might have) quite a boost by winning the governor’s seat. And he is only too aware of the temporary nature of Massachusetts voters’ desire to see a Republican represent their state in the Senate.

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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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