Q&A #2: Dem Senate Hopefuls

"DeepThinker" asks:

Should Elizabeth Warren run for U.S. Senate?  The popularity of Bob Massie is greatly under-reported, Setti Warren is gaining ground, and Alan Khazei's past supporters are back.  Scott Brown is proving to be very thin-skinned (where did those baseball cards go, anyway?) and unprepared for the heat he's about to get.  Wouldn't Elizabeth Warren be a lightning rod for Citizens United money?  Let the Repubs think the Dems don't have a strong candidate.  Brown is vulnerable, and don't count out Tom Conroy.

And "Boston Bertie" asks:

What are the expectations for the "major" Democratic US Senate candidates for the reporting period just passed? And how much do they need to report to be taken seriously?

Here's where I agree with DeepThinker: sometimes you can beat somebody with nobody; in fact, sometimes nobody is exactly what you need.

By that I mean that when the election is a referendum on the incumbent, and there is reason to believe the numbers work against the incumbent in that referendum, a 'blank slate' candidate can win by, in essence, not giving back any of those anti-incumbent votes. A 'somebody' candidate comes with both strengths and baggage.

That might very well be the case in this race, with the expected 2012 Presidential turnout likely giving the Democrats enough of a boost to make it a close race against Scotto, if not actually beat him. It's possible that a solid nobody candidate might take advantage, while a somebody candidate might not.

One reason I think Elizabeth Warren is a risky bet is that, not being a nobody, she would be treated as a frontrunner and major player from day one -- giving her no time to become a good candidate. Becoming a good candidate, at the level of a US Senate race, is tough, and we have no idea how much practice she'll need to get there -- if she can at all.

That said, the declared candidates are, with all due respect, nobodies. To answer Bertie, if any of them tosses out seven figures for their second-quarter haul it would be a big victory. But showing a tiny trickle at this point doesn't necessarily hurt any of them -- although I would say that Setti Warren wants to separate himself from Massie et al, and Khazei could be embarrassed if he has less support than he had the first time (when his first filing showed over a million.)

But I want to caution that the money race only matters for the primary. Whoever ends up as the candidate will A) become a big Dem hero and national fundraiser, and B) become a big Republican enemy and national target. In other words, the transition from "nobody" to "lightning rod" will take exactly as long as it takes to count the ballots on primary night.

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