COMMENTARY | LAWRENCE, Mass., Aug. 23 — Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who is in a tight race with U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) as she seeks to reclaim Ted Kennedy’s old seat for the Democratic Party, pressed the flesh and gave a short speech to the state Democratic Steering Committee (DSC) meeting. The DSC convened to go over regular business and select the electors who will represent the Bay State in the Electoral College.
There were more than 300 people, including approximately 200 DSC members, crowding the basement of a middle school. The smoke-filled room of yesteryear had been replaced with a study hall lacking air conditioning.
As the 24 men and women who vied to be electors buttonholed the DSC delegates for votes, Warren swept in and buoyed the spirits of those stuck in the hot place. I had heard Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, describe U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) as “the rock star of the Republican Party” at the Saint Anselm College Town Hall, but to the gathered Democrats, Elizabeth Warren truly was a star.
I first saw Professor Warren outside, as she got out of her car. I was expecting a professorial type, as would befit this brilliant woman, famed for her scholarship. The TV commercials I’ve seen seem to play up this side of her persona, the book-bound educator who dazzled you back in college and with whom you struggled to keep up with in those pre-laptop days when you had to write your notes in hand on a spiral notebook.
Elizabeth Warren in person was quite different, and a revelation. She was buoyant, chipper, and may I say, slightly goofy, like one of those beloved screen divas of the 1930s, a Carole Lombard or Myrna Loy. All she lacked was William Powell. (She was accompanied by a young, serious, poker-faced assistant who later shooed me away from asking a question, but I didn’t mind as I had been dazzled by her too!)
Although it was not on the agenda, the DSC Chair allowed her to address the delegates and she gave a short, punchy speech laying out her fight with Brown as a battle for control of the Senate and the soul of America. When the boisterous Warren told the adoring delegates how much she loved campaigning, I believed her. This woman who I thought of as a wonkish don from Harvard Law was enjoying her face time with the DSC members.
The DSC members and the candidates vying for election to the Electoral College were a very diverse group, white and black and brown, Hispanic and South Asian. There was even an election for a French-speaking woman delegate, a throwback to when Lawrence and the fellow milltowns of Lowell and my native Manchester, N.H., had large French Canadian populations. (Jack Kerouac came from Lawrence’s sister milltown of Lowell.)
They flocked to Warren, basking in the numinosity of her star power. I was floored by the real Elizabeth Warren. She was delightful.
I have met and interviewed Kelly Ayotte twice and seen her numerous times on the campaign trail, and she not only is attractive but a gracious person. But a rock star? Methinks Mr. Ryan doth proffer too much. Ayotte benefited from a savvy TV ad campaign that introduced her to New Hampshirites as an upbeat and accessible human being, a real mensch.
If the media consultants handling her TV ad campaign could portray the Elizabeth Warren I saw, Senator Scott Brown — he of the thin pre-Senate résumé and even thinner legislative accomplishments — will be back to nude modeling and appearing in underwear ads come November.