Former Obama administration official Elizabeth Warren has announced her candidacy for the Massachusetts Senate seat currently held by Republican Scott Brown. As the Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman and Rachel Weiner reported:

Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor and former Obama administration official who became a hero to liberals with her sharp critique of the nation’s financial institutions, will announce Wednesday that she is challenging Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts for his seat in 2012.

Warren, 62, had been widely expected to run and had been conducting a campaign-style listening tour. She will formally announce her intentions with an online video statement as she travels the state.

“The pressures on middle-class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington,” she said. “I want to change that. I will work my heart out to earn the trust of the people of Massachusetts.”

Her candidacy will set up one of the nation’s most high-profile Senate races. Democrats, who are trying to hold control of the Senate, hunger for a win in one of the nation’s most liberal states, particularly if it would mean snatching back the seat once held by the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Brown (R) won the seat in a 2010 special election after Kennedy’s death.

But, with an eye toward winning a full six-year term in 2012, he has pursued a shrewd, moderate course in the Senate and has remained popular in the state.

Warren announced her candidacy in a video released on Wednesday morning, appealing to the middle class that she said had been “squeezed and hammered for a generation now.” As Rachel Weiner and Ylan Mui explained :

The video is conversational. “I’m going to do this,” she says at the outset, sitting by herself near a window in a blue suit jacket. “I’m going to run for the United States Senate.”

Brown himself is never named; neither is Warren herself. The video is obviously aimed at her supporters. The focus is the middle class, which she says has been “chipped at, hacked at, squeezed and hammered for a generation now, and I don’t think Washington gets it.”

While she has never run for office before, Warren has built up a national group of liberal fans for her work on Capitol Hill. She was chosen by Democrats to chair Congress’s panel overseeing bailout spending, and was tapped by President Obama to help create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Warren was expected to lead the consumer bureau, which was created last summer. But Republicans in the Senate blocked her nomination.

In Boston, Warren often invoked her controversial role at the congressional oversight panel and the CFPB as a badge of honor.

“I’m willing to throw my body in front of the bus to stop bad ideas” in Washington, she told passerby.

Warren said her tenure in Washington was short compared to the nearly two decades she has lived in Massachusetts and pointed out that her husband is a native.

“I have to prove myself to everybody,” she said.

Several residents said they would support her campaign. One commuter yelled out “We love you! I’m going to volunteer for you, whoo!” Boston resident Sam Chandler said he would vote for Warren because of her history fighting the banks.

While Warren’s announcement has generated national media attention because of her work on consumer protection issues for the Obama administration, many are asking if she can actually win in Massachusetts. As The Fix’s Chris Cillizza reported :

The entrance of Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren(D) into the race to face Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown(R) has already drawn huge amounts of media attention thanks to her high profile role in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for President Obama.

There’s little question that Warren is a media sensation beloved by liberals and detested by conservatives — largely for her work to create the controversial agency that is tasked with overseeing the practices of the financial industry.

The more relevant question, however, is can she actually win?

The answer to that question is entirely dependent on how Warren is ultimately defined in the eyes of Massachusetts voters.

Is she a reflexive liberal with positions out of step with the many Democratic but conservative minded voters in the Bay State? Or is she a populist firebrand, fighting for the average working family in Massachusetts? On one side is (potential) victory. On the other near-certain defeat.

Warren clearly grasps the need to cast her admittedly in-your-face approach to politics as the sort of fighting spirit that Massachusetts voters have shown an affinity for in the past — most notably in Ted Kennedy, the man who held the seat Warren is seeking for the better part of five decades.

According to the Post’s Ylan Mui, Warren began her first day as an official candidate with a stop in South Boston (at a Dunkin Donuts no less!). Southie — think “Good Will Hunting” — is the home to many of the conservative Democrats that Warren must win in order to claim the party’s nomination and best Brown.


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