All indications are that Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and the Democrats challenging Elizabeth Warren in the Senate primary will adopt the same playbook against her.
The plan: define her as a high-and-mighty academic whose tactics are overbearing and whose loyalty is to Washington’s elites.
Now that the former Obama administration official is officially in the race, primary challenger Alan Khazei (D) is calling on her to reject PAC money and Brown is doing his best to paint her as an out-of-touch elitist.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already sent out a half-dozen releases calling her “Professor Warren,” and a Brown aide purchased the domain name QueenElizabethWarren.com, but has not yet launched a site.
A poll by WBUR radio conducted in the days before Warren announced showed her 9 points behind Brown, who remains popular in the state despite its Democratic leanings.
But before Warren can challenge Brown she has to win the Democratic nomination.
Her primary opponents include Newton Mayor Setti Warren, state Rep. Thomas Conroy (D), former candidate for lieutenant governor Bob Massie, engineer Herb Robinson, attorney Marisa DeFranco and Khazei, an entrepreneur who also ran for Senate in 2010 but lost in the primary to state Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Khazei placed third in the WBUR poll after Brown and Warren. A Democratic strategist in Massachusetts with knowledge of his campaign said they recognize Warren is the candidate to beat, pointing to the same weaknesses Brown’s campaign has tried to exploit.
“She's the handpicked candidate of the Washington establishment, and she has a top-down approach,” the strategist said. “You’re going to see the contrast of whether people are looking for a senator who’s just going to fight the Republicans, or someone who’s going to put the country first to get results.”
Warren is the favorite of the national party. Democrats eagerly courted her for months and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reportedly spoke to her several times about entering the race.
She starts off her primary contest with front-runner status due to that support and her presumed ability to raise huge amounts of money. Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a Washington-based PAC, had raised more than $100,000 for her before she ever stepped foot in the race.
That number has now topped $300,000, PCCC co-founder Adam Green told The Hill.
Two days after Warren announced, Khazei called on her to reject PAC contributions such as those from PCCC, calling them inconsistent with her reputation as Wall Street’s biggest enemy. But Green said the more than $300,000 PCCC has already raised came from almost 15,000 individual donors averaging just $20 per donation.
Republicans have also hit Warren on immigration and tried to paint her as too liberal even for Massachusetts because she opposed a program to deport criminals who are in the country illegally that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano supports.
Brown appears to be taking Warren’s challenge seriously, announcing Friday he was bringing his congressional press secretary back to Boston to head communications for the campaign. Colin Reed is a veteran of the presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Warren’s campaign said her early weeks would be focused on introducing her to voters throughout the state and building grassroots momentum.
The race is on track to become one of the most closely watched of 2012, both because Warren and Brown are big-league players and because Democrats are thirsting to take back the seat former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) held for almost half a century until he died in office in 2009.
Warren, who teaches at Harvard University, rose to prominence as the cerebral yet eloquent advisor to President Obama who championed and then built the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.