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Life After The Convention

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Elizabeth Warren greets the audience accompanied by her husband, Prof. Bruce Mann, after Warren won the delegate's endorsement at the Democratic State Convention in Springfield on Saturday. (AP)
Elizabeth Warren greets the audience accompanied by her husband, Prof. Bruce Mann, after Warren won the delegate's endorsement at the Democratic State Convention in Springfield on Saturday. (AP)

At Last, Some Content.

After putting a 96 percent thumping on her weak Democratic opponent at Saturday’s state party convention, Elizabeth Warren laid a whipping on Scott Brown in her acceptance speech. Downplaying the empty, monotonous “fighting for working families,” mantra, she derisively declared that she didn't care what kind of pickup truck he drove. She and her handlers appeared to have awakened to the notion that she cannot win a popularity contest with Brown. Banal slogans won’t get it done. If likeability is off the table, try something else, like populism.

Taking Sides

In a speech that can best be called populist, she asked of Brown the old labor organizers’ question: Which side are you on? She argued forcefully that Brown sided with big oil and was “standing with big money and his Republican buddies.” She blasted him for voting against three jobs bills, voting to allow college loan rates to double, opposing summer jobs, personally negotiating on behalf of big banks. That was red meat for the 3,500 Democratic activists gathered in Springfield.

The Missing Warren

That speech exhibited the fiery Warren that so many hoped would run for Senate, not the programmed one who’s become a timid candidate. After she was called to Washington by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to find out how the trillions in bailout dollars had been spent by the Bush administration, she concluded angrily, no one knows. Not then-Treasurer Hank Paulson, not Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and certainly not George W. Bush.

Vanity Fair Calls Warren 'The Woman Who Knew Too Much'

Understanding how Wall Street and other financial giants game the system, she devised a consumer watchdog agency for finances, to protect the average investor, or those with credit card debt, mortgages or payday loans — in short, anyone who’s ever had an unfair experience with a financial institution. She set up the agency, hired its staff and structured its activities. It was obvious that she should run it.

President Obama’s treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, “hated her,” according to one ex-White House official. Maybe it was because she interrogated him at a widely watched congressional hearing titled on YouTube, “Elizabeth Warren makes Timmy Geithner squirm.” All she did was deign to ask him where $100 billion in bailout money went. He had no recognizable answer; he got even, however, when the White House, curiously enthralled by Geithner, refused to appoint her to the job she deserved, running the watchdog agency she had created.

Two Polls Show Tight Race

On the eve of the convention the Boston Globe published a poll showing Warren trailing Brown by just two points. More worrisome was that her unfavorable rating has jumped from 23 percent to 32. Brown’s popularity is still a desirable 2-1, at 60-31 percent.

Nevertheless, when asked directly about her Native American history and her explanation of it, almost three in four voters said it wouldn't influence their vote. However, one third of independents said it may them less likely to support her.

A second poll conducted for The Springfield Republican newspaper and also published Saturday showed Warren ahead of Brown by 47-45 percent. A previous poll by the same company had Brown up 49-41 percent.

It Ain't Over Til It’s Over

Although Warren supporters may think her convention victory will put an end to her ancestry as a story, as long as Brown adviser Eric Fehrnstrom draws breath, it will remain in the news. It isn't so much that it hurts Warren as it prevents her from mounting a sustained attack on Brown. Her campaign’s mishandling of her lineage has allowed Brown to play Good Guy. Finally, she declared that Brown is attacking her family, a nice escape line. She could’ve used it all last month.

This program aired on June 4, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Dan Payne Twitter Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.

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