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With Warren Comes Hope: Is That Enough?

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Elizabeth Warren (above left) faces a tough Senate race in a Democratic primary with at least seven other candidates.

Last year Brown won because voters related to him. “They could look at him and say, ‘This guy gets me,’” he said. “I don’t see how they are going to look at a Harvard professor from Cambridge and say, ‘Yes I relate to this woman. She gets me.’”

But other Democratic consultants, including Mary Anne Marsh, said Warren was the perfect candidate to appeal to independents by saying she went to Washington to “protect the little guy” — and did.

“The Elizabeth Warren who could beat Scott Brown is the one who is going to say that she went down there and fought against the Senate that he became a part of, fought against the Republicans in the Senate that he votes with more than 90 percent of the time, fought to protect people from all the things that have turned this economy upside down,” Marsh said.

Brown adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told Roll Call in a statement that his boss is popular “because he’s viewed as a hard-working regular guy who is willing to reach across the aisle to solve problems and get things done.”

Brown has joined with Democrats on several key issues, including the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the financial reform measure that established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Warren worked to create.

Women have had a notoriously difficult time running and winning statewide office in Massachusetts. In addition to women losing statewide races, only four women have represented the Bay State in the U.S. House.

“I’m the only woman to serve in Congress from Massachusetts in 30 years,” Rep. Niki Tsongas (D) recently told Roll Call.

Should Warren prevail in a Sept. 18, 2012, primary, she must emerge with the money, energy, momentum and right political identity to go up against Brown with less than two months to go. And Democrats fret that Brown has already proved he can win a short general election campaign with a relatively undefined opponent.

Warren’s appeal to national Democrats and liberal activists raises expectations for her fundraising potential.

Because there is not yet a candidate for the state party to coalesce behind — and might not be for some time — the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s focus is on defining Brown.

State Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh told Roll Call that Democrats “screwed up” in 2010 by allowing Brown to define his race with the message that “Washington is a mess and Scott Brown has got a truck and coat.”

Walsh said that if the race is defined by that narrative again, “Scott Brown’s got a chance to win this thing.”

Brown beat state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) 52 percent to 47 percent in the 2010 special election, riding a wave of dissatisfaction with the economy and the political status quo and promising to oppose the Democrats’ plan to reform health insurance.

Walsh believes Democrats will unseat Brown if they paint him as anything but an independent voice.

“He’s handsome and he still has the truck and the coat,” Walsh said. “But when he asked you to give him a shot for two years down in Washington, now he’s coming back and asking you for a six-year extension, you got to really look at what he’s been doing there.”

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