Yesterday’s flap over Scott Brown’s comment about Elizabeth Warren’s looks highlighted what will be a major storyline in the Massachusetts Senate race: The effort to use Warren’s Harvard tenure to define her as just another snooty, pointy-headed coastal liberal who thinks she knows what’s good for you and how government should spend your money.
In the radio interview that went viral yesterday, Brown pointedly noted that he hadn’t gone to Harvard, suggesting that unlike Warren, he had been educated in the “school of hard knocks.” National Republicans constantly refer to her in statements and releases as “Professor Warren.”
But according to a new poll from the Western New England University Polling Institute, Massachusetts residents just don’t care about this line of attack:
Elizabeth Warren currently teaches at Harvard Law School. Does Warren’s employment as a Harvard professor make you more likely to vote for her for the Senate, less likely to vote for her for the Senate, or does it make no difference?
More likely to vote for Warren: 21
Less likely to vote for Warren: 13
Makes no difference: 63
Among independents, who are expected to be decisive in this race, 60 percent say her Harvard tenure makes no difference, with 19 percent in the “more likely” category and only 17 percent in the “less likely” category. As the analysis of the polling noted, if anything her Harvard affiliation helps more than it hurts.
The poll also finds Brown only edging Warren by five points, 47-42, with Brown below the 50 percent mark, though he does enjoy an approval rating of 54 percent.
The effort to define Warren has only just gotten underway, of course, and Republicans have historically had great success in defining Dems and liberals as effete cultural snobs who have nothing but contempt for regular folks and their solid American values. But Warren has shown herself to be good at parrying this line of attack, and her unapologetic and plain-spoken populism may complicate GOP efforts at making this case stick. The early returns suggest that it isn’t.