Much has happened over the past few weeks since I last blogged about the Massachusetts senate race.
During the Massachusetts state Democratic convention in Springfield on June 2, the party faithful rallied around Elizabeth Warren who officially captured the Democratic nomination for November’s high stakes senate race against incumbent Republican freshman Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).
Warren’s popularity with the liberal and more populist activist elements of the party base was on clear display when she won the nomination with the backing of 95.7% of delegates, more backing than any state Democratic candidate for any office received in thirty years of the convention system. The former Harvard Law Professor and Obama administration special assistant trounced her last remaining rival for the nomination, long shot candidate and Milton immigration Attorney Marissa DeFranco who failed to muster the necessary 15 percent support from delegates to challenge Warren in the Sept 6 Democratic primary election.
On June 5 DeFranco released this statement on her campaign’s Facebook page to her supporters:
I want to thank everyone for all of your support and enthusiasm over the last year and a half of this campaign. I could not have been more proud of our team of wonderful volunteers than I was at Saturday’s convention. Against long odds and much hostility and circulation of untruths on the floor, you never wavered and you soldiered on, working until the last moments. Kai and I are grateful to all of you for your dedication to our attempts to change the calculus of money and politics and our efforts to talk about solutions and substance and make politics about more than just polls and talking points. You are all the real heroes and the real people who make a difference. Though we did not win our percentage this time, we did win by running a positive, energetic, grassroots and substantive campaign.
According to the Boston Globe, DeFranco left the event just before the final vote and has not indicated that she will endorse Warren.
Outside the Mass Mutual Center where the event was held and volunteers for Democratic candidates and causes lined the sidewalks, former Congressman and Deputy Chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party Peter Blute (R- MA-03) tried to sow some discontent among the small De Franco supporters and make Warren’s nomination look like a backroom deal by party insiders calling the vote a ‘slap down’ and attributing the outcome to the influence of out-of-state special interests. Given the margin of victory for Warren, Blute’s claims seem unlikely to sway many Democrats who see regaining the seat once held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy(D-MA) as crucial to maintaining their slim majority in the Senate and given the commanding margin by which she captured it, however in what is sure to be a tight election every vote counts.
Speaking of which two polls were taken going into the June 2 convention. One of those a survey of 504 registered Massachusetts voters was conducted by the Western New England University Polling Institute in concert with the Springfield Republican and the online arm of its news operations Masslive.com, showed Warren edging out Brown 45% to 43%, among registered voters well within the poll’s margin of error of +/- 4.4%. However, when those who are merely leaning towards one candidate or another are taken out of the equation: Brown has a narrow two point lead over Warren 42-40%).
When broken down by party, not surprisingly, Warren does best among Democrats (84-10%) and with Republicans ( 91-4%). Six percent of Democrats, five percent of Republicans, 13 percent of Independents, and 11% of all registered voters either said they were undecided. Having cultivated an image as a moderate who is unbound by the constraints of partisanship, Brown also has a smaller but nonetheless commanding lead among independents who favor him 50%- 36% (and by the way form a majority of the state’s registered voters).
The poll also shows a gender gap between the two candidates with Brown taking the Male vote 50-38 percent, while a similar majority of women go for Warren 52%-37%. By age Warren’s most ardent support comes from baby boomers, with those between the ages of 50 and 64 going for her 53- 36%, while Brown does best among Generation X (those between 30 and 49) though by a much more narrow margin of 47-44 percent. Just one point separates the two candidates among the 65 and older crowd who break for Brown 48-47 percent.
Surprisingly given her background in academia, Warren does best with those who either have a High School Diploma or less when it comes to education, winning them by 46-37 percent, while Brown holds a three-point lead (45-42%) among those who have some college. College graduates are more pro-Warren than Pro-Brown, but by a smaller margin of 47-45%).
Support across four regions of Massachusetts shows Brown ahead in Central Massachusetts (54-40 percent) and in both the North and south shore area (44-40 percent), while the bulk of Warren’s support comes from the more college centered areas of Boston and its surrounding suburbs (51-42 percent) and Western Massachusetts (44-41%).
Overall 72 percent of all registered voters surveyed say they have made up their minds, while 26 percent said their preference could change and an additional 2 percent don’t know).
A Boston Globe poll was also released around that time showing Brown defeating Warren by just one point, 48-47 percent.
Despite polls showing the Commonwealth’s electorate cares little about the issue, the story about the authenticity of Warren’s heritage and what if any role it played in helping her secure teaching positions at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School has not died down. Warren at first denied she ever informed the faculties at either school of the fact that she is 1/32nd Cherokee but after the fact appeared in law school directories the Warren camp seemed to fumble in finding a response. Later Warren admitted she did tell faculty of her Cherokee ancestry, but only after she was hired; explaining that she noted her Cherokee background in the hopes she could get together with people of similar background.
The allegations have become fodder for many conservatives. The Warren campaign has ignored questions on the subject, and skepticism verging in some cases on resentment has festered among many Native American journalists and activists, due to the fact Warren has not provided documentation substantiating her claims. One group, reportedly consisting of about 150 members from the three civilized Cherokee nations have started a blog called’ Cherokees Demand Truth from Elizabeth Warren’, alleging that Warren is not in fact Cherokee. Three women from the group even traveled to Boston in trying to meet Warren, only to be turned away by the campaign who say they view the group and issue as an attempt by conservatives to distract from the issues of the election and Brown’s record as a Senator.
The Brown campaign has also done their part to keep the controversy alive, pressuring the Warren camp to produce documented evidence that she is in fact Native American and did not simply game the system to get preference over other non-minority candidates for the teaching position she obtained.
Brown’s challenge in winning over female voters may have been made harder when on June 5 he and the other 46 Republicans in the Senate voted to block the Pay Check Fairness Act, legislation that would have made the Equal pay act stronger for women who get paid less than men who do the same job. Warren slammed the vote. Brown claims that the Equal pay act and other laws now in place already effectively address the issue. Fellow New England Republican senators: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, as well as Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe released a statement defending Brown.
Seeking to close the gender gap, the Brown campaign released two ads featuring Brown’s wife Gail Huff, a former reporter for WCVB TV talking about Brown’s role as a father and husband who encouraged her to have her own career, and the active role Brown played in raising their two daughters. The campaign says the ads which began airing on June 02 are being broadcast in the Boston, Albany, and Springfield television markets as well as on cable across the commonwealth.
Warren has also released an ad further amplifying her own message emphasizing the economic challenges facing middle class families.