“They attacked collective bargaining. Over 30 years, they’ve attacked pensions. They’ve attacked wages. They’ve attacked health care. They have attacked unions. They have attacked working families, and now we find ourselves in a very different world,” the Harvard law professor and consumer advocate told about 120 people at a Merrimack Valley AFL-CIO breakfast. “ We find ourselves in a world when we are recovering from the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, and yet those who brought us the crisis have not been held accountable.”
That kind of us-vs.-them passion quickens the pulse and opens the checkbooks of liberals around the country. Massachusetts has become their marquee Senate race of 2012, a referendum on the state of liberalism itself. Many on the left, disillusioned and disappointed with the Obama administration, have turned to Warren as their new champion.
Now Warren is trying to win over a broader audience, particularly those registered as independents, who make up more than half the electorate in Massachusetts, and more conservative Democrats, who her critics say may be turned off by her stridence.
A hard-fought race
Republicans have just as much at stake in Massachusetts. They are struggling to hold on to a seat that for decades was held by a liberal lion, Edward M. Kennedy — until an appealing but unknown GOP state senator named Scott Brown surprisingly won in a January 2010 special election after Kennedy’s death.
Independent voters went for Brown by a ratio of better than 2-to-1. To be reelected, GOP strategists say, Brown will have to win them again by a double-digit margin and pick up the votes of about one in five Democrats, presumably more conservative blue-collar ones in places such as South Boston.
Unlike the special election, which took place in the dead of winter, this is a presidential year. Stalwart Democrats are likely to come out heavily to vote for President Obama at the top of the ticket.
And Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John E. Walsh promises that “we’re not asleep at the switch, like we were” in 2010, when the party didn’t see Brown’s surge against the Democratic candidate, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, until it was too late.
Warren’s campaign has also stepped up its grass-roots operation. On Wednesday night, more than two dozen volunteers ate potluck fare and worked the phones at her headquarters in a nondescript office building alongside a freeway in Somerville. A tote board on the wall noted they had made 14,918 calls and identified 1,315 supporters in April.