Politics

Elizabeth Warren Emerges as GOP Boogeyman

Republicans are eager to tie vulnerable Democrats to Massachusetts liberal

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been invoked in early GOP attacks so far against vulnerable Democratic senators even though she isn’t likely to face a competitive re-election. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A Massachusetts poll making the rounds this week implied that Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren may be in trouble in 2018. But without a declared challenger, it’s hard to see much danger on the horizon for Warren in a blue state. 

The bigger question is not whether Warren is well-liked in her own state, but whether she’s disliked enough in other states to be a liability for Democrats facing re-election in places President Donald Trump won last year.

It’s still early in what’s likely to be an unpredictable cycle. But so far, Republicans are trying hard to tie vulnerable Senate Democrats to Warren (and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders), with the National Republican Senatorial Committee calling them “two of the most fringe members of the Democratic Party.”

A lot could change by the time TV ads are cut. But if NRSC press releases are a preview of paid communications to come, Warren could assume the boogeyman role similar to the one House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has long held for Republicans trying to attack House Democrats as too liberal and out of touch with their districts. 

Those ads are usually intended to mobilize the GOP base, said Republican ad-maker Bob Kish. “I cannot imagine that the average/independent voter has a hard opinion on Elizabeth Warren and may not even know who she is,” he said in an email.

Pelosi had a 40 percent unfavorable rating (and 35 percent favorable rating), according to a mid-January national CNN/ORC poll. Warren had a 27 percent unfavorable rating (and 35 percent favorable rating) in a mid-December Bloomberg/Selzer poll. More than a third of adults surveyed didn’t have an opinion of her.

Multiple NRSC releases have branded Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin as “Wisconsin’s Elizabeth Warren.”

“Wisconsin’s own Elizabeth Warren clone, Tammy Baldwin, is an extreme partisan from Madison,” NRSC communications director Katie Martin said in a release earlier this month.

“The Wisconsin senator might need a reminder that she isn’t, in fact, Elizabeth Warren, and does not represent Massachusetts,” Martin said in another release. 

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, made a similar comparison when it attacked Montana Democrat Jon Tester for voting against a waiver to allow retired Gen. James Mattis to serve as secretary of Defense. 

Jon Tester is going to have to spend the next two years explaining to Montanans why he stood with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and a small minority of far left liberals,” fund spokesman Ian Prior said in a release. Tester later voted to confirm Mattis.

Republicans paint Warren as an “uber-liberal” leader in her party, whose politics don’t fit the red states where her Senate colleagues are expected to face competitive re-elections. And if those senators are siding with the Massachusetts liberal on confirmation votes, the GOP reasoning goes, they must not fit their red states either.

Longtime Warren adviser Mindy Myers is leading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this cycle, after directing its independent expenditure program for the 2016 election. 

As for Warren’s numbers at home, a WBUR survey found 51 percent viewed her favorably, while 37 percent viewed her unfavorably. Forty-four percent said Warren “deserves re-election,” while 46 percent said it’s “time to give someone else a chance.”

The poll surveyed 508 registered Massachusetts voters Jan. 15-17 by landline telephone and cellphone. The margin of error was 4.4 percentage points. 

Republicans seized on the numbers.

“The latest poll out of Massachusetts shows that Elizabeth Warren should focus less on becoming the leader of a national leftist movement and more on being a senator from Massachusetts. If she doesn’t, her stay in the Senate may be a short one,” the Senate Leadership Fund’s Prior said.

Without a declared challenger in a deep blue state, Warren’s seat is rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has talked about challenging Warren but has yet to announce his candidacy.

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