Narrowing the Field

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  October 12, 2011

Many Democrats would prefer that Khazei step aside, so that Warren can begin taking full aim at Brown. But more than one Massachusetts Democratic insider notes that the party establishment has not had a great record of choosing stellar candidates — and they're better off finding out they've got a dud through a primary fight (like with Reilly) than after (as with Coakley).


One key question is whether the other candidates, their supporters, and other activists are sufficiently annoyed with the Warren coronation that they rally around Khazei.

Massie was clearly agitated about the rush to anoint Warren when I interviewed him two weeks ago. He was still simmering after the Democrats' debate in Lowell. "Some groups have rushed to judgment," he said, "without even taking the time to learn about the candidate."

He has a point. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) began raising money for Warren before she even indicated she would run, let alone where she stood on some of that group's key issues. EMILY's List likewise endorsed her before she ever declared her positions on their central issue, reproductive rights. and Howard Dean's Democracy for America have also fundraised for her. Influential national Democratic figures like Senator Patty Murray (chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee) and Barack Obama political advisor David Axelrod have spoken of Warren as if she is already the nominee against Brown.

Even more frustrating to the other candidates has been the state's own labor organizations. The Massachusetts Nurses Association, one of the state's largest unions, endorsed Warren before she declared herself a candidate, and even skipped the union's usual questionnaire and interview process.

The Greater Boston Labor Council extended a last-minute invitation for Warren to give the keynote speech at its Labor Day Breakfast — an extraordinary stamp of approval days before her formal announcement. To some, it appeared coordinated to circumvent the no-candidates rule that the council had cited to deny the others a speaking role.

By design or not, the timing of Warren's entry could not have been worse for the other candidates. As is typical in Massachusetts politics, they had planned major fundraising blitzes in September, when the summer doldrums end. Several campaign insiders tell the Phoenix that anticipated contributions and fundraising events vanished as Warren stole the media spotlight.

Of course, sympathy for candidates like Massie and Setti Warren can only go so far; they all entered the race knowing full well that some well-known, well-funded candidate might jump in and swamp them.

Now that it's happened, neither one has joined the rush by endorsing Warren — but neither has bucked the trend by endorsing Khazei, either.


Thus far, Warren has lived up to her own hype. Her "listening tour" with activists bowled over many participants, and produced no significant gaffes or awkward policy positions. Her Labor Day Breakfast speech was well received. Private meetings with interest-group leaders have made converts, according to some who have attended the powwows.

Her first major public test, at the Lowell debate (not televised, but Webcast and replayed on radio), was a general success, though hardly a standout performance. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald praised Warren's coming out and barely discussed the other candidates.

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