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In a race that could decide control of the Senate this fall, the two very different contenders for the seat once held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy are selling themselves with essentially the same story.
Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren (D) both want to be seen as regular, plainspoken folks — outsiders who will make their voice heard battling against entrenched interests. And each wants his or her opponent to be seen as part of those entrenched interests.
"They're both trying to climb the same side of the hill," said one influential Bay State Republican, discussing the candidates' messaging. "And the independents are the ones they're both going after."
The election is still eight months away. And while Brown has led in a series of recent polls, top strategists of both parties expect the race to be a margin-of-error contest by November. That's part of the reason the narrative will be so important and why, when their narratives are distilled, both candidates are telling the same story to swing voters.
It's a story that has worked for years: It helped Kennedy, the Democratic scion, hold the seat in his race against Mitt Romney (R) in 1994.
"I think that's what we want in a Senator," said Democratic consultant Scott Ferson, who served as Kennedy's press secretary from 1990 to 1995. "I always go back to the slogan of his campaign in 1994: 'His voice is always heard.' We want our Senators to stand out" from the establishment.
It's a story that appeals to a particular swath of independents — blue-collar, working-class and often in a union — in a state where a majority of registered voters aren't enrolled in either party.
Warren kicked off her campaign at a subway stop in South Boston and recently appeared in that blue-collar section of the city with members of the local pipefitters union. "My campaign is all about working people," she told the Boston Globe in February.
Brown, too, has been relentless in putting forth the image that he understands that group of voters so well because they're embedded in his own life story.
"Working-class people are a natural constituency for Scott Brown because he is one of them," Jim Barnett, his campaign manager, told Roll Call. "He speaks their language, he relates to their lifestyle, and he shares their values. He's a regular guy and that's an important part of his appeal."