Airing the dirty laundry: Walsh blunder shows Warren camp angst

Convention week was supposed to be Elizabeth Warren’s moment in the sun, a chance to fire up the base and deliver her populist economic pitch on a national stage. Instead, the Warren campaign is recovering from a round of friendly fire that underscores how steep a climb it has ahead of it.

Yesterday, state Democratic Party boss John Walsh tried walking back comments calling Sen. Scott Brown “an honorary girl.”

Speaking at a DNC breakfast in Charlotte, Walsh tried to draw a contrast between Warren, whom Walsh cast as a candidate of substance, and Brown, who “believes he can go back to the Senate based on a set of images.”

Some of those images are burned into the electorate, like Brown’s barn coat and his omnipresent truck. And then there are the new ones the Brown campaign has been pushing — Brown as a father and family man, a different breed of Republican than the kind they make out in Missouri.

“I mean,” Walsh said, “he spent a couple million dollars folding towels on TV to prove he’s an honorary girl. We appreciate that.” Walsh quickly doubled back on that comment, apologizing for getting caught up “in the excitement of getting the convention underway and getting the message out about how important it is to re-elect President Obama and elect Elizabeth Warren.”

The Herald lines up local DNC delegates and gives them the chance to knock Walsh’s girl comment. Howie Carr piles on, noting that he “folds all the kitchen towels in my house,” and asking, “does that make me an honorary girl, too?”

Warren’s campaign has been wobbly from the start. The DNC was supposed to be the beginning of a period where Warren would reset an election about nothing, define her Senate campaign, make up the ground she’s been losing to Brown, and put her in a position to draft off Massachusetts voters turning out for President Obama in November.

Walsh’s “honorary girl” comments are more than a riff on some old Brian McGrory columns; they reveal a deep sense of insecurity about where the Senate race is heading.

Warren is attempting to nationalize the Senate race. She is trying to make it, in part, a referendum on national Republicans’ regressive stances on equal pay and birth control and abortion. She’s doing this because she needs to win Massachusetts women handily to have any shot of toppling Brown. And right now, she’s not doing nearly enough to win.

Women and independent voters spelled the difference between Scott Brown seizing the People’s Seat, and Charlie Baker failing to replicate Brown’s feat several months later. Brown won big with men, stayed within a few points of Martha Coakley with women, and rolled up huge numbers with independents; Baker underperformed Brown with independents, lost with women by 24 points, and as a consequence, he’s not sitting in the Corner Office right now.

Warren’s task is posting returns that look a lot more like Gov. Deval Patrick’s than Coakley’s. Brown knows this, which is why he was so quick to knife Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, why he has pushed wife Gail Huff out onto the campaign trail, and why he poured millions into a TV commercial in which he folds the laundry and gazes lovingly at the female members of his family.

It’s working, and it’s driving Wash nuts right now. Brown has opened up a five-point lead on Warren, in part, because he’s rolling up monster numbers with men and independents, and because he’s been able to blunt Warren’s edge with women. That’s where the anger behind Brown acting like “an honorary girl” comes from. But it’s going to take more than ham-handed complaints to overcome.

                                                                                                                                                    –PAUL MCMORROW


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