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Inside Scoop: Can Elizabeth Warren Really Win?

It's Massachusetts' fickle independents who'll decide her high-stakes showdown with Scott Brown. Here's a look at what they think of her so far.

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Given the dreary wintry mix, the hall was only about one-third full. There were maybe ten Job Corps students, some serving and some seated. Another ten or fifteen adults were there to learn about the program. Before Warren spoke, the man at my table—Jason Reed of the Chicopee Boys & Girls Club, white, portly, nearly bald, in a pressed shirt and tie, a registered Democrat who had voted for Brown two years earlier—spoke of Warren cautiously, saying he had no impression of her yet. Afterward, he almost glowed with admiration. “I’m impressed,” he told me. “She has a comforting quality. She puts family first—that’s important to me. I’ll definitely make time to do my research.”

One young woman who’d been at Warren’s table, the one who’d had the gastric bypass, enthusiastically told me that she would definitely vote for Warren. Outside, as I left, the very friendly African-American chief of security, who said he’d served thirty years in the Marines, was effusive about how likable she was. “She seems like someone you’d want for a neighbor, like you could trust her to take care of your house if you went on vacation.” He hadn’t voted in the last election because he was disgusted with politicians; this time he would.

Elizabeth Warren had hit her targets: a swing voter, a first-time voter and a sometime voter. But they were drawn to Warren on a cold afternoon in Chicopee for reasons quite different from those that have thrilled the left.

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Progressives have been in love with Warren since she first tried ensuring that bankruptcy law didn’t hurt consumers—or maybe even further back, when she was writing financial self-help guides and appearing on Dr. Phil to advise families on their household budgets. Or maybe they first met her on "The Daily Show" or in Michael Moore’s documentary  Capitalism: A Love Story. Or maybe they followed her scholarly and public-policy work on the middle class and debt, like her 2001 book  The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt. They started going crazy for her when, as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), she crisply grilled Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. And once she proposed a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she became a populist folk hero for progressives eager to rein in Wall Street. Even before the White House declined to nominate her to chair the bureau, assuming that Republicans would shoot her down, the Warren for Senate drumbeat had begun. She declared her candidacy on September 14. Although there’s still one candidate running against her in the primary—six others have withdrawn—Warren is being treated as the presumptive nominee.

A few days after Warren announced her candidacy, her campaign released a YouTube clip in which she perfectly articulates the progressive creed:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory…. You built a factory, and it turned into something terrific or a great idea. God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

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