Warren for Senate?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  July 29, 2011

Another veteran of many campaigns says that 75 percent of the buzz is coming from the DSCC and others in the Washington beltway. Yet another says that, aside from a small niche of Cambridge progressives, few active state Democrats are enthusiastic about Warren. "None of these people [at the DSCC] get Massachusetts politics."

The notion that the party is eager to rally around Warren seems to be a myth, at least at this stage.


WAITING FOR SOMEONE

On the plus side, there are still lots of operatives and activists — and donors — available for Warren, and if she can persuade them she can win.

The widespread lack of commitment to any candidate — including Elizabeth Warren — stems in part from the "Waiting for Godot" atmosphere surrounding the race. Many speculate that some big-name candidate will eventually enter the race — especially as polls suggest Brown's popularity has been declining. Some think one of the state's current congressmen will ultimately jump into the Senate race, after the newly drawn districts (currently in the hands of a state legislative committee) are revealed later this year. One Democratic consultant says the race is "in a holding pattern" until then.

There is also a nearly single-minded focus, among state Democratic insiders, on finding a candidate who can beat Brown. In the past, many of these Democrats have taken sides based on personal relationships, ideological checklists, or a sense of whose turn it is.

Even many who have championed the need to back women are not applying that test this time. "In a race this important, it is critical that we pick the best and strongest candidate against Scott Brown," says Deb Goldberg, former lieutenant governor candidate. "We can't just pick a woman because she is a woman, and the same is also true for the men."

This time, it's all about the general-election match-up. And that's where skeptical Bay State Democrats are yet to be sold on Warren.

For one thing, they simply don't know her. They don't know where she stands on a variety of issues, from immigrant rights to foreign policy, that could hurt her either in the primary or general-election campaign.

They also don't know, even though many local Democratic activists have seen her speak, whether she will be a good campaigner. The learning curve can be awfully steep for a first-time candidate in a high-profile race. Deval Patrick benefitted from being virtually ignored early in his 2006 gubernatorial race as he honed those skills. By contrast, Khazei and Steve Pagliuca had no such ramp-up time in the brief special election, and it showed.

The hype around Warren virtually ensures that she'll be under a microscope from the moment she announces. And, judging by her feisty exchanges at congressional hearings, some wonder whether she has the temperament for a long Senate campaign — in which a candidate must gladly suffer any number of fools on a daily basis.


HOPING FOR ATTENTION

Then there's the much-cited problem of countering Brown's populist image with a candidate from the ivied halls of Cambridge. "I don't think a Harvard law professor will translate well" to the voters the Democrats must win back from Brown, says one activist.

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