When she returns from grandmother duty in Legoland, all eyes in Massachusetts will be on Elizabeth Warren.
Warren, a Harvard Law professor and former member of the Obama administration, is reportedly considering challenging Republican Senator Scott Brown in November 2012.
Democratic insiders are salivating at the prospect of a Warren candidacy. She has been called a “game-changer,” a “dream candidate” and the “Democrats’ last best hope” of winning back the seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy.
I like Elizabeth Warren a lot. She taught me Secured Transactions in law school — and anyone who can make that subject interesting is certainly worth a look. But although Warren is brilliant and engaging (and she really is), there are at least four reasons she can’t beat Brown.
1. People like Scott Brown. Recent polling data indicate that Brown maintains strong support among Massachusetts voters. He boasts a 62 percent favorability rating in the state — six points higher than when he was first elected. Significantly, in a state with more independents than members of either political party, 60 percent feel that he has been an independent voice for Massachusetts.
2. Massachusetts voters mistrust carpetbaggers. Brown is a Massachusetts native — a graduate of Wakefield High School, Tufts University and Boston College Law School. He represented Wrentham on Beacon Hill (in both the state House and Senate). There is a sense among voters that Brown is one of us — someone willing to stand outside in the cold before a Bruins [team stats] game.
Warren, on the other hand, will be perceived as an outsider. Although she touts her husband as a 13th generation Bay Stater (and an avid Sox fan), Warren herself was born in Oklahoma and educated in Washington, Texas, and New Jersey. Having moved here only in the mid-1990s when she joined the Harvard faculty, she has spent the last several years with Obama in Washington.
3. In Massachusetts, the “glass ceiling” remains. It is, of course, ironic, that this oh-so-progressive state has such a poor track record when it comes to electing female politicians. Only four women have represented Massachusetts in the U. S. House of Representatives. Today, Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) is the only female member of the Massachusetts delegation. (And one can’t help but wonder whether Tsongas would remain in Congress if she were not the widow of a much beloved former senator.)
When it comes to the big prizes — the governorship and the U.S. Senate — women have not fared well. Just ask Jane Swift (R), Shannon O’Brien (D), Kerry Healey (R) and Martha Coakley (D).
Women, of course, can get elected here. But to do so, they must be able to connect not only with academics and party insiders, but with union members at Sully’s, hockey moms in Tewksbury, Portuguese-Americans from Fall River, face-painters at Gillette, patrons of Millie’s Pierogi in Chicopee, and . . . well, you get the point.
Which brings me to the fourth (and perhaps most important) reason why Elizabeth Warren can’t win.
4. Voters mistrust “elites.” The late William F. Buckley once famously quipped that he’d rather be “governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than . . . by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University.”
Based on my experience there, I have to agree. My guess is that, outside of Cambridge and Northampton, most Massachusetts voters will too.
Of course, none of these issues is a deal-breaker for Warren. And in politics, God knows, all things are possible. But, in this matchup I’d put my money on Brown.