In late March, Salon’s Steve Kornacki wrote an article called “The unbeatable Republican?” It may still come as a surprise that Kornacki was referring to Scott Brown, the GOP’s rising star and current occupant of Ted Kennedy’s old Massachusetts Senate seat.
Democrats would love to have the seat back, but had commissioned a poll and found that Brown’s approval was at 73 percent and that he would beat Democratic challengers without breaking a sweat. Then Democrats got some good news—sort of. Congressional Republicans had successfully blocked Harvard professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from being appointed to run the new federal bureaucracy she crafted, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Though a personal setback for Warren, it left her with an opportunity to challenge Brown—something that at first seemed to be wishful thinking on the part of liberal groups, but which now may be taking shape.
Warren posted a blog on the liberal website Blue Mass Group that hinted at her interest in the seat. She hired advisors, contacted party officials, and now a liberal advocacy group has announced it raised $100,000 for her campaign:
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Monday more than 53,000 people have joined its online effort to draft Warren and pledged tens of thousands of volunteer hours.
Of the money raised, $75,000 would go directly to Warren’s campaign, while $25,000 would pay for online ads in Massachusetts promoting the draft effort.
Brown has shown some concern about facing Warren; his office commissioned an internal poll that showed him winning a landslide against her. The timing of the poll seems clearly intended to nudge her away from a run by making it look like she’ll have to climb a political mountain to get there. Some Democrats scoffed at the poll, but it reflects what Kornacki has been saying: the Democratic primary field for that seat is crowded and Brown is polling well and has $10 million in the bank. “It’s hard to see a Senate race being anything but frustrating for her,” he wrote in May.
Ezra Klein’s instincts were the opposite of Kornacki’s, but both were writing while there was still some chance Warren would head the CFPB—perhaps, at last resort, through a recess appointment. That is no longer on the table. Plus, as one Democratic strategist told the Boston Herald, “She can raise money nationally. If she gets in, the money that will come into the race on the Scott Brown side will be astounding.”
My sense, though, is that Massachusetts Republican chairwoman Jennifer Nassour’s line of attack is probably on the money: “If the Massachusetts Democratic primary were decided by Washington insiders and policy wonks in ivory towers, Professor Warren would likely be the front-runner.”
A Harvard professor-turned-political activist doesn’t make the strongest candidate anywhere, even Massachusetts. There were many reasons for Scott Brown’s victory in 2010, but his pickup truck campaign appeared infinitely more in touch with the state’s voters than his opponent’s grumbling entitlement. Warren may learn from Martha Coakley’s mistakes, but perhaps the best lesson she could learn is not to challenge Scott Brown.