Elizabeth Warren, the presidency, and perils of a first-term senator

First-term senators are getting quite a bit of media attention, courtesy of the latest parlor game, “Is Elizabeth Warren running for president?” All the senior senator from Massachusetts had to do was publish a folksy memoir to generate loads of speculation about her designs, or lack of them, on the 2016 presidential race.

Politicians have a long history of downplaying their presidential ambitions, so Warren’s denials have done exactly nothing to quell the talk about her “real” intentions.  Wednesday’s Bay State visit by Hillary Clinton, the putative Democratic nominee, will only intensify the chatter about which of the two women is more likely to run and win.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza has vowed to keep tabs on Warren’s answers to the 2016 queries as she winds her way across the country on a media tour to promote her new book, A Fighting Chance. Plus, the newspaper is already asking how she could become the Barack Obama of 2016.

  

Yet Warren, who has reached iconic status within the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in a very short space of time, suffers by comparison with Obama. The president’s inability to make Capitol Hill’s legislative machinery work for him has been chalked up, in part, to his political inexperience, with less than one full term in the Senate before landing on the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Like Obama, Warren can fire up a crowd and get progressives turning cartwheels. But, like the president, her Senate resume thus far is thin.* Democrats will also be leery of another liberal senator from Massachusetts atop a presidential ticket since that didn’t turn out so well for the party the last time around.

Republicans have their own bench of itching-to-get-in-the-game senators. GOP elders aren’t too crazy about them either. Former senator Robert Dole cautioned three of them, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio, earlier this week.  “I don’t think they’ve got enough experience yet,” Dole said.

(Rand countered that one could have “too much” experience, before noting that he wasn’t taking a jab at Dole, who served in the Senate for nearly 30 years before unsuccessfully running for president in 1996.)

Conservative commentator Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution has bashed Cruz for his Obama-like traits. “Freshman Senator Ted Cruz says many things that need to be said and says them well. Moreover, some of these things are what many, if not most, Americans believe wholeheartedly,” Sowell said in a February column. “Yet we need to remember that the same was true of another freshman Senator, just a relatively few years ago, who parlayed his ability to say things that resonated with the voters into two terms in the White House.”

First-term senators with designs on the White House won’t relish comparisons to a president whose popularity is currently at an all-time low. But those comparisons are inevitable. After eight years of a Washington outsider, it may be difficult for first-term senators to make the case that being new to the ways of Washington is a trait voters should look for in future presidents.

Arguably, the most successful president in the domestic legislative sphere was a man who spent his first term in the Senate making his way up, not to the presidency, but to the position of Democratic minority leader. His name? Lyndon Johnson, the “Master of the Senate.”

*Correction: Due to an earlier technical issue, “Sponsored Legislation” page on Sen. Warren’s Senate website appeared blank. There are 12 bills listed on the website.

–GABRIELLE GURLEY  

BEACON HILL

WGBH traces Beacon Hill dysfunction to the concentration of power in just a couple hands.

Gov. Deval Patrick tells a business group he is in talks with two airlines in a bid to launch a direct flight from Boston to Mexico City, State House News reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera easily wins City Council approval for his planning director over the objections of Council President Modesto Maldonado, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Rev. Bruce Wall has called a community meeting in Dorchester for tomorrow night to clear the air regarding a “quasi-sensational” story designed to “embarrass the black community.” The author of that story, Globe columnist Adrian Walker, poses some questions today that he says he’d like to hear Wall answer at the forum.

Mayor Sue Kay of Weymouth and the lead developer of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station are at odds over plans to revive the stalled development, the Patriot Ledger reports.

The Essex Probate & Family Court moves to a new location as a $55 million renovation of the courthouse in Salem begins, the Salem News reports.

Attleboro Mayor Kevin Dumas wants to adopt local hotel and meals taxes, and earmark the funds for the city’s schools.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The US Supreme Court upholds Michigan’s ban on racial preferences in university admissions, the Washington Post reports.

Scot Lehigh likes some of the ideas put forward by former Oklahoma congressman Mickey Edwards in his new book aimed at breaking the hyperpartisan ways of Washington.

As Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia learns that HBO isn’t broadcast over the air, New York magazine rounds up the court’s most recent bouts of technological befuddlement, like that time when Chief Justice John Roberts asked about the difference between a pager and email.

The Atlantic reports on mounting government privatization concerns, in the wake of Chicago‘s decision to lease its parking meters for at least $974 million less than they’re worth.

A postal workers union goes on the offensive against the Postal Service’s partnership with Staples.

The New York Times examines President Obama‘s distant relationships with his father’s family.

ELECTIONS

US Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown both oppose the medical device tax, but they differ on how to get rid of it, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

WBUR goes out on the trail with US Rep. John Tierney and political newcomer Seth Moulton as they battle each other in the Democratic primary for the Sixth Congressional District seat.

PACs improperly coordinated by Republican National Committeewoman Chanel Prunier of Shrewsbury made a number of illegal contributions, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, loses that distinction to Canada, the New York Times reports. The Globe‘s Megan Woolhouse visits Bristol, Rhode Island, where she finds the middle class is getting hollowed out, leaving a community of wealth alongside those struggling to make ends meet.

Thomas Piketty is right,” reads the headline on the The New Republicbook review by Nobel laureate and MIT professor emeritus Robert Solow, summing up Solow’s view on the theory of widening wealth inequality put forth by the French economist in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. By contrast, the headline over a review in the National Review is “Piketty gets it wrong.”

EDUCATION

The drumbeat continues for the Boston Public Schools to tap the system’s interim superintendent, John McDonough, for the permanent post, as the Globe weighs in with an editorial urging his appointment. McDonough and Boston Teachers Union president Richard Stutman issue a joint response to a CommonWealth report on the estimated 200 leftover teachers created by McDonough’s new, open-hiring process.

A new study estimates universal prekindergarten in Massachusetts could cost up to $1.5 billion, the Herald News reports.

Boston University women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg, facing allegations that she bullied players, is leaving her post.

HEALTH CARE

After a federal judge rejected Gov. Deval Patrick’s ban on the painkiller Zohydro, the governor imposes restrictions on the ability of physicians to prescribe the drug, State House News Service reports.

A new survey indicates 69 percent of Americans want their health plan to provide birth control coverage, Time reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Transit agencies across the country are shifting from diesel to natural-gas run buses, Governing reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The owner of the Back Bay building where two Boston firefighters died in a wind-swept inferno last month is suing the Malden welding company the owner says was responsible for igniting the fire.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is suing the former president of a tiny Falmouth college, seeking repayment of millions of dollars she alleges he improperly squandered.

A federal judge orders the Supreme Judicial Court to turn over memos on hiring practices to former probation commissioner John O’Brien and sets May 5 for the start of his trial, the Patriot Ledger reports.

Brockton law enforcement officials launch more patrols in a bid to curb violent crime, the Enterprise reports.

RELIGION

Maureen Dowd rips the canonization of Pope John Paul II, whose time atop the Vatican, she notes, was marked by “nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up.”

MEDIA

The Boston Globe hires a broker to explore the sale of its Morrissey Boulevard headquarters.

New York analyzes Aereo and concludes the media firm is a “ridiculous company” and urges the Supreme Court to shut it down.