WASHINGTON -- A New York Times report from Monday evening suggesting that Elizabeth Warren might give up her hopes of heading the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in favor of a run for the Senate in Massachusetts is receiving a dousing of cold water from several interested parties.
Warren's office, for starters, was adamant in its insistence that she remained focused on building up the CFPB -- the agency that she conceived of and is helping to build as a special adviser to the president.
“Elizabeth Warren is 100 percent focused on building the new consumer agency," said Jen Howard, her spokeswoman.
Top Democratic strategists, meanwhile, professed confusion over the origins of the latest round of Warren-for-Senate rumors. While it is true that the party lacks a viable alternative to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) -- and that Warren may be without a job should opposition to her nomination to the CFPB post not fade -- the idea that an opportunity to pick up a seat would be lost without her candidacy seemed a bit farfetched.
"There is no lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy and the chatter rightfully reflects what a great candidate she would be," said one top strategist. "But [President] Obama will win the state by at least 20 points. Maybe more. That is the way the math works. Scott Brown will have to get 25 percent of Obama's supporters if Obama wins with that kind of margin."
A recent article in the Boston Globe confirmed that basic arithmetic. In 2008, Obama received 1.9 million votes in the Bay State to Sen. John McCain's 1.1 million. That total number of votes cast (3.103 million) was roughly 854,000 more than the number cast during the special election in January 2010, when Brown got 1.168 million (52 percent) to Attorney General Martha Coakley's 1.059 million (47 percent).
"[Democrats] argue that if the extra 854,000 votes from the 2008 race were split by the same 61 percent-to-38 percent ratio seen in Obama's win over McCain, and then that vote split was added to the Republican and Democratic totals from the 2010 special election, 'Coakley' would beat 'Brown' by a margin of 1.580 million votes to 1.493 million votes," the Globe piece reads.
In short: while Warren may be the biggest splash in terms of candidate recruitment, she isn't the only person who could beat Brown, his strong poll numbers and all. Another Warren -- Setti, the mayor of Newton, Mass. -- is in the race already. And while he is currently regarded as a long shot against Brown, D.C.-based strategists were, at least on Tuesday, talking up his prospects.
So who is floating the idea of Elizabeth Warren running for Senate if Warren's office insists that her heart and mind are elsewhere? The most common explanation is that the party's campaign committees were behind the news, hoping to build up the type of base yearning for Warren that the Harvard law professor couldn't refuse. But such a move would run the risk of irritating the very candidate that these committees want to recruit. "It wouldn't make sense," said one committee official.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is another suspect. The Times story, written in part by the paper's congressional correspondent, Jennifer Steinhauer, noted that Reid "has spoken with Ms. Warren about running" in addition to persuading "her to come to Washington, calling her in the fall of 2008 to ask her to lead a panel established by Congress to oversee the $700 billion fund it had created to bail out the financial industry."
The paper presumably got the signoff from Reid's office to report that bit of information. But when pressed on a possible Warren run during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, the majority leader jokingly objected to the line of question.
"I've known Elizabeth Warren. We've talked about issues about the [financial regulatory reform] Dodd-Frank bill," he said. "Many of the conversations I've had with her, and anybody else, I think should be private."