Is it possible that in a state as blue as Massachusetts, Senator Scott Brown would be able to repeat his 2010 feat and win a second race for Ted Kennedy’s seat? The conventional wisdom is that Brown might be able to prevail in a close election. The latest Kimball poll has Brown leading Elizabeth Warren among likely Massachusetts voters by 46 percent to 45 percent. The latest Intrade prediction gives Brown a 57 percent chance of winning.
Nevertheless, I think that the dynamics of the race still favor Warren.
Look, Brown is a formidable political opponent. He is an attractive 6’2″ ex-centerfold model who dons a colonel’s uniform, drives a GMC truck, and plays a good game of basketball. As Massachusetts Republicans go, you can’t get more moderate than Brown—he is pro-choice, accepts gay marriage, and has a centrist voting record. Neither does it hurt that Brown’s family speaks eloquently of his positive attributes.
In contrast, Warren’s campaign has lagged for months. She is a Harvard Law professor who struggles harder to identify with the average voter, unlike the basketball-bouncing Brown. Her TV commercials have been criticized for focusing on national issues rather than issues relevant to Massachusetts voters. Her animated speaking style, so useful in the classrooms of Austin Hall, has been labeled by many as overly strident. Political analyst Dan Payne even criticizes Warren for her “Page Boy haircut” and “granny glasses” that “add about 10 years to her age on TV.” And controversy over Warren’s Cherokee heritage has distracted from her campaign’s message.
Yet, despite Brown’s positive attributes and Warren’s apparent shortcomings, the race still stands at 50-50. Basically, Brown’s ceiling is Warren’s floor. Even back in 2010, when Brown was facing Martha Coakley’s lackluster campaign, Coakley still managed to win 47 percent of the vote. And Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is far better-funded than Coakley’s ever was.
Surely all this must be cause for optimism in the Warren camp.
Most of Brown’s political challenges are deep-rooted, systemic, and difficult to overcome. He is a Republican in a deep-blue state. He needs the support of at least 15 percent of Obama voters just to maintain the 50-50 balance. He depends on winning a large majority of independent voters if he hopes to squeeze out a razor-thin victory.
In contrast, most of Warren’s perceived problems are easy to fix. Within a week, her campaign could adjust its focus from national to local issues. With a little voice coaching, Warren can easily recalibrate her speaking style. For two dozen dollars, Warren could temporarily trade her glasses for a month’s supply of contact lenses. And should Warren so choose to inch her rhetoric further towards the political center, she could eat into Brown’s vital centrist constituency. None of these steps appear difficult.
Scott Brown is a fine senator, and it would be a pity if he loses in November. Nevertheless, the fundamentals seem to favor Warren. She is holding her own at 50-50 despite her campaign’s shortcomings. And as an accomplished, ambitious law professor, she surely has the pragmatism to take the steps necessary to build a majority.
Chris Seck is a 3L. His column runs on Wednesdays.
The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Record