Tomorrow’s Herald today: “Lizzie wonders what’s the matter with Monroe?”

Of course, the title of this post is just a jest – no hard feelings, Herald!  But seriously, folks, the fundraising numbers are starting to trickle in from the first quarter of 2012, and so far, they look awfully good for Elizabeth Warren.  Some highlights:

  • Over 30,000 donors from Massachusetts
  • Over $2.5 million raised from Massachusetts
  • Donations from 350 of the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts (Monroe, population 121, located just east of North Adams on the Vermont border, is the lone holdout)
  • 90% of donations were less than $200; nearly half (48%) were less than $25

I’d also like to chime in on a couple of bits of conventional wisdom that have been making the rounds lately.  In brief, they are wrong, at least in part.

  • Conventional wisdom: The Warren campaign is a disaster and doesn’t know what it’s doing

We’ve heard several variations on this theme recently, most strongly from the Springfield Republican (ironic, no?), but also from Joan Vennochi at the Globe.  But the easy and, at this stage of the game, sufficient rebuttal is the poll numbers: some weeks Brown is up a couple points and some weeks Warren is up, but basically, it’s a tie.  That is extraordinary for a first-time candidate, previously unknown to the vast majority of the state, who is trying to take on the guy who, when he won only two years ago, was the hottest political commodity in the entire country, and who until recently regularly registered as the most popular politician in the state (he was recently overtaken by Martha Coakley – talk about irony).  Rather than asking why Warren isn’t doing better, it seems to make more sense to ask why Brown is doing so badly.  Why is he having so much trouble keeping the independents who voted for him in 2010 in his column?  At this early stage, Brown should be polling well ahead of Warren.  The fact that he isn’t, well, that’s bad for Brown.

Now, don’t get me wrong: there are lots of things the Warren folks could be doing better.  The website, for one thing, is pretty bad.  Also, I have heard reports of people trying to volunteer and not getting called back for days, or even at all.  That is of course not acceptable, and one assumes that, as the campaign ramps up its field staff (which it is doing, according to a campaign email that went out today), that problem will go away.  But it’s hardly Warren’s fault that Scott Brown is good at using the power of incumbency to promote his candidacy, as the Republican editorial discusses (say, didn’t Tim Cahill just get indicted for something similar?), or that Brown has recently taken a series of moderate positions on issues of interest to women in an effort to burnish his moderate/independent image, as Vennochi notes.  Brown is a very good politician, as I’ve said over and over again, and he’ll be tough to beat.  But there’s no sense in blaming the Warren campaign for things that aren’t its fault.

  • Conventional wisdom: The “People’s Pledge” banning third-party advertising is an advantage for Brown

The theory is this: Warren won’t raise as much money as Brown, and she is less well-known, so she needs the help of outside groups to get her message out more than Brown does.  Therefore, Brown benefits from the parties’ agreement to keep those groups out of the Senate race.

I think that’s wrong, and here’s why.  The big opportunity with a relatively unknown candidate like Warren is to define that candidate negatively before she gets a chance to define herself.  That’s what third-party groups are really great at doing – witness the negative ad blitz from the Republican Governors Association that sent Tim Cahill into a tailspin from which he never recovered.  But the candidates themselves – especially candidates like Scott Brown who depend heavily on their positive image – don’t want to be running negative ads against their opponents this early in the cycle (or, really, ever).

So the People’s Pledge takes away a huge weapon from the Brown campaign.  We’re already seeing it in action.  The Mass. GOP has been hard at work producing negative attack videos that depict Elizabeth Warren as an illegal immigrant-loving, job-hating, Hollywood-courting, wealthy, out-of-touch Harvard professor.  But because of the Pledge, all Mass. GOP can do is post them on their website where … well, to put it charitably, nobody watches them.  The recorded views range from a few hundred to a few thousand, but they simply will never get anywhere close to the number of eyeballs that even a local cable TV ad would get, to say nothing of a network buy.  Plus, one has to imagine that the vast majority of people who are traveling to the Mass. GOP’s website to view an attack video are either media researching a story, or people who are already solidly in Brown’s camp.  Undecided voters … well, let’s just say I don’t expect them to be checking out either the Mass. Dems or the Mass. GOP website for insight into the candidates.

Instead, the candidates are getting to define themselves in this race.  And, according to the numbers in the Globe’s recent poll, it’s working: both candidates are in very positive fav/unfav territory (+25 for Brown, +24 for Warren), both candidates have good numbers in the “understands the needs of people like me” category, Warren beats Brown in the “will help working people” and “will reduce the power of corporations” categories, and Brown is ahead in the “cutting spending on social programs” and “balancing the budget” categories.

In my view, this is a very good thing.  I want the people of Massachusetts to get to choose between “the real Scott Brown” and “the real Elizabeth Warren.”  I don’t see any reason why the pro-Warren side needs slick negative ads from some DC-based interest group to try to demonize Scott Brown as some sort of Mitch McConnell clone (also, as I’ve said before, it won’t work), and I certainly think it’s a good thing that no third-party anti-Warren ads from the Karl Rove gang will run.  If the Warren campaign gets its message out effectively, I think we win.  They have work to do, but there is time.



Discuss

21 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I believe it's "Lizzy"

    As in the recent “Team Lizzy in a a Tizzy,” which I have to admit was pretty funny.

  2. Still little press

    The Warren campaign is still not tapping the press. Scott Brown continues to get story after story in a positive light in the Springfield Republican. For example, did you know that President Obama just “signed Scott Brown’s STOCK act into law”? The story comes complete with Scott standing next to the president as he signs the bill.

    We also learned from the article that we will be seeing a similar photo tomorrow as President Obama sign’s Scott Brown’s “Crowdfunding” legislation into law.

    Gee, isn’t Scott Brown so bipartisan? And hasn’t he accomplished quite a bit lately? That’s what the average voter will be thinking come Friday.

    Lately we have been hearing how Scott Brown is donating lots of money to charities. We haven’t been hearing the reasons why very loudly though – because the stories are written from Brown press releases which frame the events as positive things for Brown. We actually got two stories about the donation to the autism foundation – one announcing that Brown would donate the money, and one when he actually did it a day later.

    Brown is still mopping the floor with Warren when it comes to the press.

    • Then maybe he isn't getting

      much bang for his buck.

      Maybe Brown has established his presence and laid a foundation with charitable donations or newspaper articles, but he’s not building an argument with voters by doing so. Exposure is not enough to get re-elected. Neither is being a moderate Republican.

      From a campaign point of view, Brown’s negatives need to be increased and solidified. To avoid the People’s Pledge, I would associate him with the crazy GOP and explain that a 6 year term will give him free rein to do what he and GOP want.

      Warren needs to keep defining herself. I have to admit I don’t understand what her campaign is doing, but I suspect it has to do with building up a strong, dedicated organization. I don’t know if what they’re doing will work, but I hope their is a method to it.

      • THE REPUBLICAN SUCKS!!!!!

        It is an embarrassing useless vestige from a time gone by…..it has neither wisdom nor convention at the helm. It is a metaphor and a mouthpiece for archaic Springfield politics/politicians and the ignorant who have been divorced by the academic, medical, technology, manufacturing and service businesses in the region. It is a market starving for a major intelligent media source. Hampshire County (UMass, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, etc) and Berkshire County just ignore the Republican and read the Valley Advocate, Hamp. Gazette or Berk. Eagle. Tom Vannah should get some backers and buy the bums out.

        • Casual voters

          Yes, the Republican is a shadow of its former award-winning self. However Scott Brown has figured out that all you need to do with them is to pre-write a story in the form of a press release and it appears on Masslive.com.

          Their reporters mostly regurgitate press releases. And that is why so many pro-Brown stories are appearing, because his team is writing Brown’s news stories for them.

          The Warren stories I’ve seen have primarily been about who has endorsed her. Casual voters don’t cares about that. They read the headlines, they get a general impression of the candidate, and they pull the lever based on that. She isn’t going to turn ever voter into a die-hard follower. She needs to give the casual voters some reasons to vote for her in the form of positive press headlines.

        • The Republican has become

          a joke. I only read the Sunday paper and there’s almost nothing there, mostly I just check out Masslive and its Forums multiple times a day. As a selectman, I respond to constituent questions, even though it can a hostile environment.

          In the old days, they used to assign a reporter to a beat. Reporters always moved on from my small town beat, but they stayed a few years to learn the job. Now the same reporters cover my small town and larger towns. At one point, we shared a reporter with South Hadley when they were going through the Phoebe Prince tragedy. The Gazette has good writing, but not much news either.

          I read The Reminder, which covers East Longmeadow, which is where I work, and that weekly does a good job with local news.

        • Hampden County deserves a better paper

          But I do read MassLive to follow local stories. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the Valley Advocate.

  3. I agree nopolitician

    Brown just showed up on Norton patch, speaking to the local chamber of commerce at the Franklin Country Club (some things never change) where he said these amazing things

    “I’m proud to be pro-business and pro-jobs legislation,” -always on both sides of every issue;

    “If it’s moving the country forward, I’m going to vote for it,” he added. “If it doesn’t, I won’t.” – except when he is moving back to the early 1950′s.

    “the country needs to put aside partisan politics to solve its problems.” Another brandy please!

  4. I've been to Monroe...

    …twice (OK whitewater rafting). And I’m surprised that all 121 residents are not Warren contributors. OK, there is a strong pick up contingent and they don’t fit the profile, but this is the land where Happy Valley types move to to REALLY get away from things.

    • No offense David this is flawed

      Instead, the candidates are getting to define themselves in this race. And, according to the numbers in the Globe’s recent poll, it’s working: both candidates are in very positive fav/unfav territory (+25 for Brown, +24 for Warren), both candidates have good numbers in the “understands the needs of people like me” category, Warren beats Brown in the “will help working people” and “will reduce the power of corporations” categories, and Brown is ahead in the “cutting spending on social programs” and “balancing the budget” categories.

      This is completely wrong. Any re-election effort is a referendum on the incumbent, even if people like the opponent they will then stick with the quantity they like and know than the quantity they like and do not know. Plus we know the advantages of incumbency in terms of constituent services, getting your name in the press, exposure, name recognition, etc. It is not enough for Warren to be liked, she must take Brown down. Even in a presidential year, and arguably especially in a presidential year, the more stories we here about Brown the moderate, Brown working with the President and Kerry, etc. that are not rebutted by Warren, the more the impression that he is a ‘Republican I can live’ with gets reinforced the more likely it is independents will split tickets. Warren does not have to take the low road, be dishonest, be negative or be ‘another politician’: simply reciting the real Brown record which shows he is a Romneyesque lightweight and chameleon on social issues and foreign policy and a hardcore Reaganite conservative on economics should suffice.

      Ask Senator Weld how running a positive campaign worked out against an incumbent Senator (hint: it didnt!). Warren has done a great job selling us that she is committed to our concerns and cares about us, now she needs to sell us on why the incumbent needs to be replaced by her, and she is underselling that considerably right now. In many ways it is starting to show that the DSCC is stage managing her far too much and running a national race focusing on the national party war on women, protect Obamacare talking points that arent working in this race. I want her to run an ad attacking him for voting against the fishermens relief, voting against local jobs, local construction projects and economic stimulus, and voting against local values. Thats where we need to go to make the sale. I am also starting to regret we got a clean slate and not a primary, its too bad a putz like Khazei didn’t stay in for her to beat up on the way to the general and get experience points.

      • I'm not saying that she should never point out Brown's weaknesses.

        And I agree that she’ll have to. But there’s time for that, and right now she needs to focus on making sure voters know who she is. And I think it’s to her advantage that Karl Rove doesn’t get to play a role in that process, which is the major point I was making.

  5. Thrice Flawed

    All last summer I was talking to people about Warren and hoping she would run. Returning home from a 3-week trip in September to the news that she had announced, I immediately emailed Doug Rubin saying I wanted to work on her campaign — messaging, speeches, PR. I feared that Brown would be able to define Warren much as he was able to define Coakley before she did. (It still makes me shake my head to remember her tagline, “A Different Kind of Leader,” whatever that meant.
    FLAW 1 – Lack of organization: Rubin sent me Matt Patton’s email and I contacted him immediately. Twice. No response. I’ve responded to every request for volunteers from the campaign — no response. I ran for delegate to the convention, was elected alternate and sent the campaign my one-minute talk with another offer to volunteer. No response. Finally, a friend called me last week to say she had been asked to collect signatures for Warren so I called the campaign and did collect on Saturday. The person from the campaign didn’t have the materials for us to start and didn’t really know what to tell other volunteers who hadn’t collected signature before.
    Flaw 2 – Crappy messaging. Before collecting signature we got some campaign tri-fold brochures. The front says, “Before you hear a bunch of ridiculous attack ads, I want to tell you who I really am.” — Elizabeth Warren. So, the campaign is reminding people about the attacks for a first impression. You see her photo ( a really nice one) and the words attack ads and think “Oh yeah, she’s the elitist.” I asked about 8 friends what came to mind when they saw this brochure and that was pretty much the first and strongest impression. Who is the campaign’s PR company and why are they reminding us of Brown’s ads?
    Flaw 3 – It’s already been talked about here. We don’t read about her except in negative or questionable light. Why wasn’t the campaign reading the online page-1 Sunday Globe story and doing something to make it less like an ad for Brown? What the heck are they doing.
    My last $.02 for now. Another reason I believe Coakley lost is that the men in the Mass Congressional district didn’t lift a finger to help her, especially the sore loser Capuano. I called his campaign then and will do so again asking that he actively support Warren. But unless they the others do, she’ll be hung out to dry by them, by the press and by a weak campaign.
    All this even though she’s the best, most qualified Democratic candidate I’ve seen in years.

    • I've had a similar experience

      Emailed Rubin right after the announcement volunteering to do press tracking/response, PR, oppo research, etc, making it clear that I had done this type of work for both Patrick’s and Obama’s campaigns (as well as various local Boston campaigns). All I ever heard was crickets.

    • We already know the Southie pols

      are in Brown’s corner.

  6. Coakley's loss was why?

    Another reason I believe Coakley lost is that the men in the Mass Congressional district didn’t lift a finger to help her, especially the sore loser Capuano.

    I thought the story was that the Coakley campaign never contacted anyone for help, and those that called offering help were unable to get through.

    I only bring it up because you paint this as a male-female thing, and I don’t think the news post-mortems presented it that way.

  7. Not sure why the difficulty with volunteering

    My experience is very much the opposite. There are people working with the staff in my neck of the woods and the campaign initiated contact with me (though I probably checked off an “I’d like to volunteer” box at some point) to plug me into their volunteer structure.

    • Probably the Specifics of the Ask.

      My experience working (paid and volunteer) with campaigns is that most volunteer opportunities are to canvas, phone bank or stuff envelopes.

      Higher level volunteers, known by the campaign staff, sometimes do other work (“body” the candidate or assist with technological matters, etc) but very rarely is the structure in place to have volunteers do the type of things the previous posters are suggesting they’d like to do. “Messaging, speeches, PR” is generally done by highly paid staffers and consultants. As is “press tracking/response, PR, oppo research, etc.”

      I recognize that this is frustrating and results in many potential volunteers – many of whom actually are able to perform the more sophisticated campaign work that they claim – who are turned-off and reject opportunities to canvass, phone bank or stuff envelopes.

      But that’s the way most campaigns work (particularly for state-wide or Congressional seats). There simply isn’t enough time in the day for the campaign staff to accept, train and supervise volunteers who wish only to work on “issues”, “policy” and the like. And the help isn’t worth the very real risk that that the volunteer will screw up something important and hurt the campaign effort.

      What’s your experience, Christopher. What does being plugged into the Warren campaign’s volunteer structure actually entail?

  8. To clarify...

    “I only bring it up because you paint this as a male-female thing, and I don’t think the news post-mortems presented it that way.”
    I didn’t mean to paint it as a gender thing — but I do remeber Nikki Tsongas on the stump for Coakley.

    Also, although I emailed Rubin about speeches, etc., I volunteered by just checking the Volunteer box online but didn’t specify anything else. As I mentioned, I was out collecting signatures and happily so.
    BTW, almost every door I knocked on thanked me for coming.

    demeter11 @ Thu 5 Apr 7:22 PM

  9. Answer to theloquaciousliberal

    My volunteering hasn’t really started yet. I attended an organizing meeting in Lowell several weeks ago. The services I offered are primarily to cut turf in VAN and secondarily to enter data. I made clear that I am NOT comfortable directly contacting voters myself. The staff organizer contacted me to be the Lowell Data Leader to which I agreed and mentioned I would help with surrounding communities in that regard as needed. There will be a training on 4/22 which incidently I can’t attend, but I’ve been promised the information therefrom. I expect actual activity will pick up in the summer.

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