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What To Expect From Warren At The DNC

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Democratic Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren is set to play a much larger role in her party's national convention this week than her opponent, Republican Senator Scott Brown, did last week in Tampa.

With recent poll numbers showing the consumer advocate trailing slightly in the Massachusetts Senate race, observers are keeping a close eye on the Democrat's appearance in Charlotte, which may serve as a turning point in this year's contest.

The Problem With Policy Speeches

Robert Boatright, a professor of Political Science at Clark University, said Warren's campaign seems to be focused on rallying the Democratic base in recent weeks, and the candidate's appearance at the national convention will go a long way to furthering that goal.

Warren is virtually the only primetime speaker at either party's convention who is currently involved in a competitive race.

The scheduling of her address for the DNC's "policy night" means Warren has an opportunity to lay out the kind of national Democratic policy agenda she has campaigned so strongly on in Massachusetts.

She is also positioned to avoid any blame for the past several years in Washington because she does not currently hold any elected office.

However, said Boatright, that might not turn out to be such a good thing.

"She also needs to show that she can connect to the sorts of blue collar white males who are providing Brown's margin of victory in the polls," he said.

"While a lot of people in Massachusetts might tune in to watch her, I'm not sure she can give an issue-heavy talk in a way that reaches out to the kinds of voters she needs."

Boatright compared Warren's issues with voters to those of 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Both Warren and Gore have struggled when faced with opponents who presented themselves as more likeable to the average voter.

By delivering a policy-heavy speech, Warren risks playing into the image of the out-of-touch academic Brown's campaign has worked to cement in the minds of voters.

"The party's giving her a tremendous gift in having her speak at the convention, but I'm not sure that her speech can change the dynamics of the race," Boatright said. 

Wielding the "War On Women"

Such a policy speech could still pay off, said UMass-Lowell's Morgan Marietta, if Warren continues to further the narrative of the Republican "War on Women."

Democrats will be focusing more on the social issues, resurrected through comments made by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin last month, in order to keep attention off the GOP's preferred topic of the weak economy.

While Warren can campaign effectively on women's issues, she can also capitalize on her anti-Wall Street rhetoric, hitting Mitt Romney for his time with Bain Capital.

"Expect a firebrand speech attacking conservative positions on abortion, contraception, stem-cell research, and equal pay for women, as well as a scathing critique of corporate greed," Marietta said.

The national party will benefit by making female voters uncomfortable with Romney, while at the same time buoying Warren back in Massachusetts.

Using the National Stage for Local Gains

Warren suffered earlier this campaign season for being seen as too focused on national-level issues and not paying enough attention to the state- and local-level concerns of her potential constituents.

Blue Mass Group's Charley Blandy said not to expect that to change this week in Charlotte, but Warren stands to gain more on the personality front than the policy front from her appearance on the national stage.

"She won't be talking about Worcester rail lines or Gloucester fishing regulations," he said.

"It is a chance for some folks to hear her at an extended clip, which is good for her."

Blandy said the recent poll numbers that show Warren trailing Brown are no cause for panic in a race that has been close right out of the gate.

And Warren's appearance at the DNC may buoy her campaign as it shifts gears and heads into the post-Labor Day leg of the election cycle.

"It's time to develop and elaborate her themes and show people what I think is a winning personality," said Blandy.

"The first will help the party as a whole; the second will help her in Mass versus Brown." 


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