The Senate race between Republican Sen. Scott Brown and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts will probably be the most closely watched in the nation, and for good reason. The contest has already proved to be a testing ground for themes expected to play out nationally, and in several cases, where Warren has pioneered successfully, the Obama campaign has followed. (A recent poll puts Warren up by seven points over Brown).
So it was interesting that last week, Karl Rove’s Crossroads operation started running the following ad in Massachusetts:
Warren is probably the woman most despised by Wall Street, in part because of her toughness with the banks in overseeing the TARP program. As The New York Times recently reported, Wall Street firms have already donated more than $1 million to Brown’s campaign in hopes of defeating her.
“Of the 20 companies that accounted for the most campaign donations to Mr. Brown, about half were prominent investment or securities firms like Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments and Bain Capital. His donors include such blue-chip names as Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs, and the hedge fund kings John Paulson and Kenneth Griffin….
“It’s not even about Scott Brown,” said one Wall Street executive, who asked for anonymity to discuss private discussions with his colleagues about the race. “It’s about: Do you want Elizabeth Warren in the Senate?”
Given that background, it’s instructive to see Rove trying to link Warren to “bailouts that helped pay big bonuses to bank executives while middle-class Americans lost out.” A little class warfare there, Karl? The GOP maestro has apparently concluded that voters will reject candidates who are seen as taking the side of Wall Street and rich bankers against the middle class, and he wants to get in on the winning side of the game.
I don’t think it’s going to work, but it does offer strong evidence that the GOP knows it has gotten the politics wrong.
It also feeds nicely into a piece published this morning in The Hill, pointing out that “the political winds have shifted to the Democrats’ backs over the last month.”
“President Obama is in better shape at the prospect of a prolonged GOP primary battle between former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Mitt Romney. Democrats in the House have been buoyed by a series of court decisions on redistricting and Senate Democrats have recently landed potentially strong recruits in conservative-leaning states.
Democrats on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have seized on the payroll tax extension, which has divided the GOP… A couple months ago, Republicans were optimistic that they had a good chance of running the White House and both chambers of Congress in January, 2013. But since then, that optimism has waned.”
The 2012 elections are still 11 months away, which is forever in political terms. Things can and will change, and Democrats would be fools to think that they can just ride the trends of the last couple of months all the way to November. However, indicators such as Rove’s lame attempt at economic populism and President Obama’s full-throated speech last week in Osawatomie suggest that they have found defensible ground.
– Jay Bookman