Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren launched her campaign for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday morning with some old fashioned retail politics at the Broadway MBTA station in South Boston.
The choice of location was significant for Warren, who likely faces in uphill battle in connecting with ordinary voters and combatting her image as an out of touch Harvard professor.
But as a popular figure within the liberal establishment who has the ability to raise large sums of money, Warren could pose a strong challenge to Republican incumbent Scott Brown.
But if Warren wins the Democratic primary, she will have to contend with the strong populist headwinds that Brown rode to victory in 2010.
In one of his last ads released before the special 2010 election, U.S. Senator Scott Brown—donning a rugged brown coat and black gloves—walked around South Boston shaking hands with a man driving a minivan, with customers in a barber shop, with a woman on the street. By casting himself as an “ordinary Joe” with the ability to connect with voters and understand their concerns, Brown was able to win the Senate seat occupied by the late Ted Kennedy ’54-’56 for nearly five decades.
Warren’s choice to hold her first event in South Boston—and Brown’s choice to film his last campaign ad in the same location two years ago—is hardly a coincidence.
South Boston is a stronghold of the conservative Democrats that experts say will decide the election. Both sides will fight for the voters across the state “who are Democrats but like Scott Brown”—the same demographic that voted for the Kennedy three years before voting for Brown, according to Massachusetts Democratic strategist Scott Ferson.
Since Warren began laying the groundwork for her campaign this past summer, her message has been targeted almost exclusively toward this demographic.
Warren officially announced her candidacy in a video on her website Wednesday, saying the federal government’s neglect of the middle class compelled her to run.
“For a generation now, the middle class has been squeezed, slipped back, hammered,” Warren said in the video. “Washington is well-wired for big corporations that can hire armies of lobbyists. But it’s not working very well for middle-class families, and that’s what I care about.”
Brown and other Republicans have already launched efforts to discredit Warren’s zeal for working-class Americans, attempting to paint Warren as a product of the Northeast liberal elite by pointing to her status as a faculty member at Harvard.
“It’s clear Democrats in Washington are trying to pull the levers here, but it’s unclear whether Massachusetts voters believe an Oklahoma native and Harvard professor best represents their views and values,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brian Walsh in a statement last July.
—Staff writer Caroline M. McKay can be reached at email@example.com.