After months of searching for a top-tier candidate to take on Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) in 2012, national Democrats — finally — landed their pick in the form of former Obama Administration official Elizabeth Warren.
Now that Warren is in the race, the question is what kind of candidate will she be?
Democrats insist early returns are promising, noting that Warren was at a “T” stop in Boston at 7 am on the first day of her campaign and kept at it until late at night.
One day, of course, does not a campaign make. And Republicans will work very hard to paint Warren as an out-of-touch Harvard elitist — Warren is on staff at Harvard Law School — who can’t win over the blue-collar Democrats who will likely be the swing vote of this election.
What we know about Warren is that she will be a terrific fundraiser with national reach thanks to her status as hero of the liberal left. (Warren led a congressional committee that oversaw the bank bailouts of 2008 and went on to build the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a role for which she was lionized by Democrats and villainized by Republicans.)
That should make Warren a favorite in the Democratic primary next September over lesser knowns like Newton Mayor Setti Warren and 2010 special election candidate Alan Khazei.
Against Brown, however, Warren may find herself playing catch-up financially. Brown ended June with $9.6 million in the bank and Warren’s candidacy almost certainly will be a boost to his national fundraising.
Given the difficulties of the map facing Democrats in 2012 — 23 of their own seats are up as compared to just 10 for Republicans — making a major push in Massachusetts was an absolute necessity.
Warren gives them the sort of high-profile candidate they wanted. Whether she turns out to be a truly good candidate on the stump remains to be seen.
As always, the number one ranked race on the Line is considered the most likely to switch party control in 2012.
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10. Wisconsin (Democratic-controlled): If primaries matter (and they do), this race is looking better for Democrats. That’s because Rep. Ron Kind this week declined to run in the Democratic primary against Rep. Tammy Baldwin. On the Republican side, meanwhile, things are already getting crowded, with former congressman Mark Neumann and state House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald both jumping into a GOP primary that will likely match them against moderate former governor Tommy Thompson. The Club for Growth is already backing Neumann. Democrats aren’t without problems, though. Specifically, their now-presumptive nominee, Baldwin, will have to prove she’s not too liberal for the state. (Previous ranking: 8)
9. New Mexico (D): Rep. Martin Heinrich is still the favorite in the Democratic primary for retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s seat. State unions have pushed back on their local affiliates for backing state Auditor Hector Balderas, Heinrich’s primary opponent. That split is a sign of frustration among Latino leaders about a grim outlook for Hispanic representation in 2012, even in this 46 percent Latino state. On the GOP side, former Rep. Heather Wilson still seems like a safe frontrunner.
8. Ohio (D): While Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel has largely laid low since announcing his campaign against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), reports have questioned the large number of donations he received from a direct marketing firm. Democrats have hammered him on his political travel and failure to file his financial disclosure. Young Mandel has yet to show he can compete on something other than cash. (Previous ranking: 7)
7. Massachusetts (Republican controlled) : Is Elizabeth Warren a warrior for the middle class or a liberal elitist? And is Scott Brown a genuine moderate, man of the people or a lap dog of Republicans in Washington? Given the profiles of Brown and Warren, this will be one of — if not the — marquee race of 2012. (Previous ranking: 10)
6. Montana (D): The race in the Last Best Place is generally unchanged. And, it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Both Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) are well known and generally well liked in the state. The central question is whether the race is defined by local issues (advantage Tester) or national ones (advantage Rehberg). (Previous ranking: 5)
5. Nevada (R) : Republicans feel better about this race after now-Rep. Mark Amodei (R) dusted state Treasurer Kate Marshall (D) in the 2nd district special election by more than 20 points. If appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) can come close to duplicating that against Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), he’s in good shape. And Berkley has endured weeks of bad press from a New York Times front page story suggesting that she had acted in the interests of her husband’s business. Still, Nevada is a swing state and this race is likely to be quite close. (Previous ranking: 4)
4. Virginia (D): This race will be relatively stable (and close) through Election Day. A new Quinnipiac University poll confirmed that suspicion this week, yet again showing the race is within the margin of error. Former Sen. George Allen (R) is at 45 percent to former Gov. Tim Kaine’s (D) 44 percent. Both hold their bases well and independents are split down the middle. The poll shows more women (13 percent) are undecided than men (6 percent). Beyond that, not much to parse. (Previous ranking: 6)
3. Missouri (D): The best thing that could happen to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is a race to the right in the GOP primary, and that may be happening. The field on that side has already showed itself to be relatively undistinguished, and Rep. Todd Akin continues to push the envelope with his rhetoric. Most recently, he suggested that Medicare is unconstitutional – a position that primary opponent and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman has come out against. Steelman, though, has struggled to raise money, and this amateurish web video talking about Medicare and Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget bill isn’t exactly the work of a top-tier campaign. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Nebraska (D): We still don’t know if state Sen. Deb Fischer can raise enough money to compete with Attorney General Jon Bruning in the Republican primary. Sen. Ben Nelson (D) has taken some sharp jabs at Bruning — with some help from state Treasurer Don Stenberg, another GOP hopeful — but the odds are still against Democrats in this ever-more-Republican state. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. North Dakota (D) Rep. Rick Berg’s (R) campaign would have to run into an iceberg, literally, for him not to win this open Senate seat. (Previous ranking: 1)
With Aaron Blake and Rachel Weiner
The Washington Post