Loosen up, Lizzie by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

When Elizabeth Warren walked out on the convention stage last night, smiling and waving, ebullient, she seemed to radiate personality and warmth.  That sparkle dissipated when she got into her stump speech, slightly expanded for the occasion.  Except for some references to small business owners in Malden, Franklin and Worcester, it was nevertheless a perfect speech for national consumption, and attendees gave her a standing ovation.

But Warren’s more important audience is here at home.  Her race against Scott Brown, still margin-of-error close, is entering a critical phase.  She’s been slipping with independents, who make up the plurality of Massachusetts voters.

Too often she seems lacking in retail political skills, something at which Scott Brown excels.  Massachusetts voters need to see more of the Elizabeth Warren who initially walked out on the stage last night, someone they can warm to.  All too often she comes across as intense, even angry, and especially preachy. The challenge is to keep the passion and the substance, but still lighten up.  Bill Clinton did this, leavening his wonky messages with humor. It’s a fine line, especially for women, and so far her campaign advisers have let her down. As I understand it, there are several factions at odds with each other, and some advisors are blaming the candidate herself for missteps.

At this point, Brown is a positive image with a weak core.  Warren has a positive core and an image that doesn’t project well. Voters could end up favoring likability over substance, even it it isn’t in their interest to do so.  There’s no shortage of advice for her.  A local barber suggested that softening her hairstyle would make her delivery of hard messages more palatable. Others say she should tell better stories, reveal more about herself, reinforce her personal connection to voters and talk more about “roads and bridges” rather than “infrastructure.”  Why not all of the above?

From here to the election, she not only needs to loosen up, she needs to talk more about Scott Brown. He has been very shrewd in distancing himself from his Republican Party and projecting himself as bi-partisan. It’s time to make clear the case that the aw-shucks everyman is a largely willing participant in the Mitch McConnell agenda. Brown’s ads have cleverly provided a smoke screen.

One of Warren’s ads reminds women that we’re one Supreme Court vote away from disaster, but she neglects to point out that Brown’s partisanship translated into opposing highly qualified Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan (despite his acknowledging that she is “brilliant” with an “impressive resume”) for Supreme Court.  How many independent voters, enchanted by his loving relationship with his wonderful wife and daughters, know that he voted that way?  Would a Clarence Thomas clone have been his preferred choice?

People need to know that Warren will take on entrenched powers even in her own party. (Case in point: her challenging Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner about his handling of TARP monies and the banking crisis). She also needs third party testimonials, providing examples of her working across the aisle.

Scott Brown can be expected to keep characterizing Warren as a bomb-thrower not a problem solver.  After going after his record, she needs to talk about how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, her baby,  this summer announced a $210 million settlement with Capitol One for tricking people into purchasing unwanted and unneeded services.

She needs to ratchet up the message of her campaign and remind people that the balance in the Senate, and thus in the nation, is at stake in this election. We’re not voting for prom king or queen. And despite the seriousness of the election, she needs enhance her message by relaxing and relating to people in a less studied, more natural way.