Warren's Slow And Steady Strategy Is To Tell Her Story

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Sen. Scott Brown's political playbook for his re-election race is in claiming the middle, as we reported last month. Leading Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren's strategy seems to be the same as when she entered the race: focus on her personal story.

Warren On The Trail

Warren had a very clear strategy on how to navigate the Dorchester Chili Cook-Off: like everything she tastes.

Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren serves chili at the recent Dorchester Chili Cook-Off. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)
Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren serves chili at the Dorchester Chili Cook-Off. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

"Yum, delicious, that is good!" Warren gushed with each bite.

Warren breezed through the booths of chili. She was comfortable engaging with strangers old and young — even when introduced to a shy 10-year-old.

"Victoria, this is Elizabeth Warren and she is running for a big political office," said the 10-year-old's mom.

"That's right, I am Elizabeth Warren and I’m running for the U.S. Senate because that’s what girls do," Warren quipped.

Polls show Warren is less well-known than Brown. So from the day she announced her candidacy to now, Warren officials say the strategy has been the same: let Warren tell her story, what she’s done and who she is. That’s why you probably have heard this line from her:

"I am the daughter of a maintenance man who ended up as a fancy-pants professor at Harvard Law School. America’s a great county!" Warren told a grassroots rally of 300 people at the Boston Teachers Union.

The campaign has been using this strategy for seven months and it still appears to be working. The latest Boston Globe poll shows her in a dead heat with incumbent Brown.

"I think things have gone pretty well and there’s good reason to be slow and steady in introducing her to people and, frankly, giving her the benefit of meeting people," said Maurice Cunningham, chair of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts Boston.


Cunningham says Warren has some well-known notes that she repeatedly strikes, such as being a consumer advocate and taking on economic powerhouses such as banks.

"What the lobbyists want, what Wall Street wants, is they want Etch-a-Sketch senators," Warren said at the rally. "They want ones who will clear the screen and change their minds to do whatever Big Money tells them to do, that’s what they want. But let me tell you, I’ve been fighting for middle-class families for years and nothing, nothing will shake that commitment."

Independents Will Be Key

Many independent voters are middle class. But in the latest poll Brown does better with independent voters by a 3-1 margin over Warren. This is something she should pay attention to, Cunningham says.

"She needs to think about how she’s going to cut into that margin," he said. "She doesn’t need to win independents, but she needs to run a bit more strongly with them."

Democratic political analysts say that what Warren has going in her favor now is what she had when she joined the race — momentum.

"It’s really stunning the amount of energy that we’ve seen this early on in the campaign cycle,"  said Arshad Hasan, executive director of Democracy for America, a national progressive political organization.

Hasan says the energy comes from Warren getting out to meet voters.

"When we talk to our activists and our members and supporters all over the state of Massachusetts, there’s energy, and people have seen Elizabeth Warren, she’s already out there on the campaign trail making visits, stopping and talking to people, going to events."

Political analysts say after Labor Day they expect the race between Warren and Brown to focus more sharply on issues and their distinctive positions. Then, Warren’s campaign says, the strategy may shift from a get-to-know-the-candidate approach to one that’s more issues-based.

This program aired on April 4, 2012.


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