Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I don't know if this is a good idea:

Officials in the Democratic Party are wooing Elizabeth Warren to run for the Senate against the Massachusetts Republican Scott P. Brown rather than have her continue to set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau....

In seeking to enlist Ms. Warren for a different campaign, Democrats are taking aim at two birds. They can lay the groundwork for a potential compromise over a different candidate to lead the new agency and, they hope, they can increase their chances of reclaiming Mr. Brown's seat by sending against him a woman who has won considerable acclaim and popularity among liberals for taking on the financial industry.

Ms. Warren, 61, a law professor at Harvard, has lived in Massachusetts since the early 1990s....

Here's the problem: Scott Brown is ridiculously popular in Massachusetts -- according to one recent poll, his job approval/disapproval is 57%/24%. He soundly defeats every potential challenger named in a couple of recent polls. And while no poll has pitted him head-to-head with Warren, I'll note that, according to a recent Western New England College poll (PDF) -- the one in which Brown's approval rating is sky-high -- 59% of Massachusetts voters haven't even heard of Warren. So it's not clear that she'd be all that formidable a challenger.

(The story quoted above says she'd be a good challenger in part because she "would be able to attract high-dollar donors." Really? Don't high-dollar types hate her? Would she really attract a lot of high rollers?)

Meanwhile, Brown clearly has better-than-average self-preservation instincts, as we learned yesterday when he came out against the Paul Ryan Medicare plan. He knows how to win as a Republican in a New England state.

I can imagine Warren being a good campaigner against him -- I've watched her on TV, and I bet her combination of intelligence, empathy, niceness, and old-fashioned help-the-little-guy liberalism would play really well in Massachusetts. So maybe I'm fretting needlessly.

But I worry about what happens if she's scared away from the CFPB job by GOP senators and then she loses a Senate race. At that point, in the world of politics, she'll be a two-time loser -- and it would be good if she could seem like a person with at least some clout in the political world. (She only 61 -- she has the potential to be influential for a long time, so it would be good if the Beltway saw her as retaining at least some aura of power.)

I say give her a recess appointment to the CFPB job. She'll do the job for a year. Yeah, she'll never get the job for real unless Democrats have 60 senators -- no, they'd probably need 70 to guarantee 60 votes to overcome an anti-Warren filibuster -- but she can step down graciously having at least done the job. She can bring a little progressivism to the government and then move on.

And then, maybe, she can run for something. But not against Brown, I think. If she runs as a marquee name and loses, she'll be the new Janet Reno. And we need her.

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