Yesterday, I noted the conspicuous absence of national Democrats rushing to defend Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the growing controversy surrounding her claims of Native American ancestry. One year ago this week, Democrats rallied around Anthony Weiner after we broke the news that the then Congressman had tweeted lewd photos of himself. Warren hasn’t enjoyed such support.
Indeed, not only have few rallied to her defense, there are signs that the Democrat establishment may be moving to withdraw their support from her wounded campaign. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, arguably one of the more left-wing newspapers in the country, ran a blistering column skewering Warren over the controversy.
Who knew Warren was Native American?
Warren reacted by telling reporters that she didn’t even know Harvard was touting her as a minority until she read about it in the Herald. That’s not credible: Warren listed herself as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools directory from 1986 to 1995.
Is she a Native American? Warren belongs to no tribe. The New England Historic Genealogical Society says that it has no proof of Warren’s Native American heritage. Warren says that, according to “family lore,” she is part Cherokee. Make that 1/32 Cherokee, thanks to her great-great-great-grandmother.
The columnist, though, is just warming up:
Why would a blonde blue-eyed woman who looks very white, who belongs to no tribe (but who can only claim a great-great-great-grandmother Cherokee ancestor) nonetheless designate herself as Native American? Warren bristles at any suggestion that she did so to enhance her employment prospects. She says she did so to “meet more people who had grown up like I had grown up.”
Why did she stop designating herself as Native American after she won tenure at Harvard? She had wanted to meet “people who are like I am,” Warren told the Herald. But: “Nothing like that ever happened, that was clearly not the use for it, and so I stopped checking it off.”
Warren’s campaign now is working overtime to pooh-pooh any notion that she was hired for any reason other than that she was a great law professor. I believe that.
I also believe that Warren was too smart to not know that she was 31 times more white than Native American. She’s too smart to not know that the designation could help her career, while taking pressure off Harvard Law to hire a real minority. But she was not so liberal that she cared.
If the story has reached the point that a major liberal newspaper on the other side of the country feels the story is relevant enough to weigh in, its a major sign that Warren’s candidacy is in serious trouble. That the columnist, Debra Saunders, is more moderate than liberal, is little comfort to Warren. Her audience is the very leftist political elite that have long adored and promoted Warren. If Warren loses their support, her campaign is finished.
This comes close on the heels of another troubling development for Warren; The New York Times just ran a long profile piece on her possible primary challenger Marisa DeFranco.
But for the moment, Ms. DeFranco, an immigration lawyer with high energy and a scrappy band of volunteers, is enjoying a burst of momentum. She surprised party insiders by collecting enough valid signatures by the May 1 deadline — more than 10,000, gathered everywhere from town meetings to town dumps — to qualify for the Democratic primary on Sept. 6.
If Ms. DeFranco clears one more hurdle — winning 15 percent of the delegate vote at the state Democratic convention in Springfield next Saturday — she will secure a spot on the primary ballot, giving Ms. Warren, a nationally known consumer advocate, an unwanted distraction from her anticipated showdown with Senator Scott P. Brown, the Republican incumbent.
“I’m sick and tired of party bosses or machines telling us who’s going to be the candidate,” said Ms. DeFranco, who is 41. “The democratic process should be messy; it’s a test, it’s a gauntlet.”
It can not comfort the Warren campaign that the liberal “paper of record” chose this moment to report on her primary challenger’s “burst of momentum.” Moreover, it looks like the state Democrat party is hedging its bets:
John Walsh, the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said Ms. DeFranco would almost certainly get enough delegate votes at the convention to make the ballot. The front-runner would have to get more than 85 percent of the delegate vote to knock primary challengers out of the race, something that has not happened since 1982, he said.
“My own belief is that competition is good and healthy and makes us stronger,” Mr. Walsh said. “I hear there are a lot of people who have a different opinion, and what’s going to happen on the floor of the convention hall is you will have 4,000, 5,000 delegates weighing that question.”
Last week, Suffolk University released its latest poll of the Massachusetts race. Interestingly, in addition to testing a head-to-head match-up between Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, the poll tested a Brown-DeFranco match-up. Brown had the same level of support against either candidate, suggesting the Democrats could do equally as well with another candidate.
There is a reason behind every question in a poll. Its very likely Democrats are starting to think about a post-Warren campaign this fall.