After months of speculation about her intentions, Elizabeth Warren is taking steps to challenge Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., next year.
President Obama’s first pick to helm the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month returned to Harvard Law School after Obama appointed someone else to be the agency's first director when her appointment prospects appeared doomed in the Senate. She has dropped numerous hints she's interested in joining the body that blocked her nomination, but now seems to be moving into action.
The latest came Thursday in a post to a progressive Massachusetts blog. While she has left Washington, she doesn't "plan to stop fighting for middle-class families," Warren wrote. "I spent years working against special interests and have the battle scars to show it—and I have no intention of stopping now.” She said that her Washington experience taught her “how much influence special interests have over our law-making” and that she wants to ensure “real accountability over Wall Street.” Multiple sources said Warren is working with Doug Rubin and Kyle Sullivan, two former top advisers to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
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A hero to the Democratic left, Warren has met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee officials and others. Four officials close to senior Senate Democrats involved in picking candidates, citing personal conversations or those relayed by their bosses, said Warren had informed them that after setting up the CFPB, she planned to return to Harvard and work to build up an organization for a run.
Until leaving Treasury in July, Warren was prohibited from soliciting electoral support. And while such spadework is not a litmus test for a prospective candidate’s intentions, Warren’s ties to Massachusetts are strongly rooted in Cambridge, not always a political upside in the state.
“Anybody who gets in this race—from a historical, strategic point of view—had better get the importance of being on the ground,” state Democratic Party chairman John Walsh said.
As of Wednesday, Walsh had not heard from Warren. “I have not spoken with her,” he told National Journal in an interview that day, adding, “If we go too much longer, it might be weird.” But officials said that Warren, after a vacation, has begun reaching out to Massachusetts politicos to assess support for a run. A spokesman for Walsh said the state Democratic chairman spoke to Warren on Thursday.
Press officials at Harvard Law School, where Warren is still scheduled to teach this fall, did not respond to inquiries.
Washington Democrats have not concealed their low esteem of the current field of contenders for the party's Senate nomination, which includes state Rep. Tom Conroy; immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco; City Year cofounder and 2010 Senate candidate Alan Khazei; attorney James Coyne King; activist and 1994 lieutenant governor nominee Bob Massie; software designer Herb Robinson; and Newton Mayor Setti Warren. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., has said he would decide “in the summer,” but during an interview that aired on Sunday on a Massachusetts television station, he noted that New England’s “Indian summers” extend into the fall months.
Gov. Deval Patrick, whose insurgent campaign in 2006 was managed by Walsh, swept in with a profile not dissimilar from Warren’s: national credentials, after high-ranking posts in the Clinton Justice Department and on corporate boards, and an appeal to progressives who had suffered a string of intraparty disappointments. His groundswell, though, started with assiduous courtship of the grassroots designed by Walsh and Rubin. Patrick laid the groundwork nearly two years before the election, floating a story in the Boston Globe about his interest and starting to court party activists at the neighborhood level.
Warren’s larger national profile and bona fides on financial-system policy would allow her to tap into progressive anger toward banks, but it also would produce Wall Street blowback.
Massachusetts Democrats say they believe Brown is vulnerable. Walsh pointed to a poll conducted by the nonpartisan MassINC think tank that showed the junior senator’s favorable/unfavorable split has slid from 57/24 last September to 48/30 in July. The poll of 500 Massachusetts adults was conducted July 27-30, and has a 4.4 percent margin of error.