Warren Gets Her Spotlight

I have to hand it to the Elizabeth Warren team, and their partners Deval Patrick and John Walsh, for convincing the gullible press -- including me -- that an obscure candidate with no funding, no staff, little organization, and no noticable presence at the vast majority of caucuses had gained the support of 15 percent of Democratic Party delegates to the state convention to be the party's candidate for US Senate against incumbent Scott Brown.

In retrospect, that myth seems pretty obviously implausible. Marisa DeFranco, although an impressive and passionate advocate of liberal principles, actually received just under 5% of the delegate vote, and I picked up no sense on the convention floor, or in conversations prior to Saturday, of hundreds of previously committed DeFranco supporters changing their tune under extreme duress. (To the contrary, there were some who were tempted to vote for DeFranco because of what they saw as an attempt to bully her out.)

It's not as if anyone in the media came up with the idea on their own -- the only people who had any idea of a delegate whip count were the Warren and Dem party people, and DeFranco, who wasn't about to tell the suddenly-interested media that oh, no, I'm pretty sure I'm a dead duck. (Days before the convention she told me she was "optimistic" about getting 15%, which could mean anything.)

Now, I don't know for a fact that the Warren camp knew there was no chance of DeFranco getting the 15% she needed to force a primary. But come on.

Think about this: what would have happened if there had not been reports about the drama of Warren trying to deny DeFranco the 15% she seemed sure to get? Would the convention have received as much media attention? Would as many Boston-area journos have made the trip to Springfield? Would as many outlets have aired clips of Warren's speech?

Perhaps even more importantly, how many delegates would have made that trip to western Massachusetts (many for the first time in their lives!) without something at stake?

Four years ago, when the only question for the Democratic state convention delegates was whether Ed O'Reilly would get 15% against John Kerry. That was in relatively accessible Lowell, but an awful lot of delegates couldn't be bothered to make the trip.

That day, the roll call was 2573 voters. Yesterday in Springfield, the roll call was 3554. Yes, there's more interest in this Senate election than that one, but that's an enormous difference, despite the enormous distance for most of them.

A thousand fewer in the MassMutual arena would have made for bad optics, bad media, bad everything. The dissenting DeFranco supporters would have been far more visible, and would also have been a higher percentage of the vote -- if Kerry had gotten an extra thousand to Lowell in '08, he would have been very close to keeping O'Reilly off the ballot.

So yes, I think that it's possible that the Warren camp may have played up a drama over DeFranco making the ballot, to give delegates and media a reason to haul themselves out to Springfield on a Saturday in early June. 

And, well done.


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