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Washington Expert Says Blunders May Decide Brown v Warren Race

Saturday, June 23, 2012


As election season heats up, polls show the race for the US Senate seat in a tie. With the race this close, blunders made by both candidates could cost them dearly – some following them to the ballot box.

Jobs and the economy continue to be key debate topics for Senator Scott Brown (R) and his opponent, Elizabeth Warren (D), but political expert, Jennifer Duffy of The Cook Political Report says that these issues could affect the race until the election and have already touched voters’ minds.

Kings and Queens and Cherokees

The most recent of blunders in the Mass. senate race has been Scott Brown’s statement about meeting in secret with kings and queens as a senator. This came as a response on the Jim and Margery Show on WTTK-FM when Brown was asked about the lack of substance coming from his campaign.

“It was a silly statement, and I’m sure he regrets saying it. Democrats loved it, judging by my inbox,” said Duffy, Washington expert and Senior Editor for The Cook Political Report. “They happen in every campaign, but only one out of every five are deadly and live on.”

Duffy says that while Warren’s reaction to the discussion of her Native American heritage was poorly executed, she is curious to see how Brown kills “kings and queens.”

The Massachusetts Democratic Party has hammered Brown for his comments, releasing a mocking video of the Senator and various slip ups.

“If Scott Brown rests the substance of his campaign on meeting with royalty, he should tell the people of Massachusetts who he met with and what they talked about,” said MassDems chair John Walsh. “I had no idea Scott Brown was friends with so many kings and queens – I bet Massachusetts families didn’t know either. And they still don’t know his explanation for protecting Wall Street, Big Oil, and tax breaks for billionaires.”

Still, Duffy says, this blunder is nowhere near the impact of Warren’s heritage issue, which she says was mishandled and could follow her until the election.

Wrong Reaction

“She handled it so badly, and that didn’t help,” she said. “This is something that should have been a one or two day story that ended up being a six week story.”

Duffy said that Warren’s first mistake was not taking the issue seriously enough.

“I get the sense she didn’t take it seriously. I think she needed to get out there and address it right away,” she said. “Not with a cookbook, not with cheekbones… and she didn’t.”

When GoLocal last spoke with Warren about the issue, she said, “It was a source in our family of importance… When Scott Brown says my mother and father are not telling the truth, he’s gone too far. I think he does owe me an apology… Let me rephrase that. He owes me and my three brothers an apology.”

‘The press uncovered other things which simply raised more doubts about her credibility. It was one of those things she should have addressed pretty forthrightly in the same news cycle, but she couldn’t even say with a straight face that she had been forthcoming and done everything she needed to do,” Duffy said.

When asked whether she thought that this was a big enough blunder to follow Warren to the ballot box, Duffy said, “It wouldn’t surprise me, but I think it impacts her in a very subtle way that’s not necessarily going to show up in polls.”

“Democrats saying, ‘We don’t see any evidence of it affecting her,’ but I don’t think they know that,” she said. “In some ways I think it goes to trust. Does it raise doubt in people’s minds? In some ways I think it does.”

Voter’s Minds

Duffy said that blunders have the power to leave a lasting mark on a candidate.

“There’s this saying in politics, ‘Sometimes the cover-up is worse than the mistake,’ and this was one of those times, I think. It just made people doubt her and the story kept going,” she said. “(Brown’s comment) isn’t like the native American thing. It doesn’t carry that kind of punch. That really much more gets to her personal narrative and who she really is.

This type of mistake was one that shook voters’ thoughts about Warren, she said. “She had a very carefully scripted narrative about who she is and how she grew up and this cast some of those claims for some voters in doubt.”

Despite this blunder and an inability for Democrats to prove through polls whether or not it hurt Warren, Duffy says that voters ultimately have something else on their minds: jobs.

“I don’t think at the end of the day this is what voters truly care about. I don’t think it is truly going to decide their vote,” she said.

What to Expect in Upcoming Debates

Warren recently agreed to a debate in Worcester, but despite the arena, Duffy says the clear topics will revolve around a few key issues.

“They’re going to talk a lot about his record. That’s what Warren is going to go for,” she said. “I think they’re going to talk a lot about specific issues like the Financial Services Reform Bill, and depending on what happens with healthcare in the Supreme Court, they may talk about that.”

Duffy also added that “I’m sure they’ll talk about Native Americans and queens and kings, too, but when it comes down to it, the economy is what voters care most about right now – that’s really in every poll I look at in every state, this is what I see.”


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