Former Obama official and consumer protection advocate Elizabeth Warren is now leading Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), 46 percent to 44 percent, and has jumped 24 percentage points in name recognition over the last three months, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling.
In the last PPP poll, in early June, Brown was 15 points ahead of Warren, and only 38 percent of voters knew who she was. Now 62 percent recognize her. And she’s making a strong first impression: Almost four-fifths of those who have developed an opinion of her since early June view her positively.
The poll included 791 Massachusetts voters between Sept. 16-18 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. PPP is a Democratic polling firm and uses automated telephone surveys, but has a strong track record.
Tom Jenson, PPP’s director, said part of Warren’s surge might be due to the fact that the voters were polled days after Warren declared her Senate candidacy, when the media spotlight was on her and not Brown.
“I think people maybe need to look at this a little like they would a convention bounce that candidates get from time to time,” Jenson said. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say Elizabeth Warren is the favorite now, but I do think it shows it is clearly going to be a very competitive race.”
Brown’s campaign looked for the silver lining in the poll results, portraying him as working to overcome tough obstacles in a heavily Democratic state — even though he’s the sitting incumbent.
“We have always known that Scott would be the underdog against whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary next September,” Brown campaign spokesman Colin Reed said. “But Scott has been an underdog his entire life, and has always come back to win against all odds. This campaign will be no different.”
Warren will have to face a half-dozen other Democrats in the primary before taking on Brown, but is considered the front-runner in the primary due to her national standing and support from major Democratic groups.
Both Republicans and her Democratic opponents have already started working to portray Warren as an out-of-touch elitist best suited for Harvard University, where she is a professor.
The Massachusetts Republican Party sent a letter Tuesday to Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust asking the university to take Warren off the payroll while she runs for Senate. The state party's executive director, Nate Little, wrote that keeping Warren on faculty leads people to believe that Harvard is supporting her candidacy and sets a bad precedent for academic appointments.
"Of equal concern is that Harvard runs the risk of jeopardizing its tax-exempt status," Little wrote. "As a non-profit charitable institution, Harvard is prohibited from taking a position on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate."
Brown won a special election in 2010 to replace the late Sen. Edward M. “Teddy” Kennedy (D-Mass.).
This story was updated at 1:35 p.m and 3:08 p.m.