A joint Morning Consult-Politico poll released today contains some startling news: If the 2020 presidential election were held today, and the candidates were Donald Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Trump would win. Yes. Really.
Trump bests Warren 42 percent to 36 percent, with 22 percent undecided. Warren has a combined 37 percent favorable rating to a combined 30 percent unfavorable rating; 20 percent view her very favorably, and 20 percent view her very unfavorably. Amazingly, 18 percent of those polled have heard of her but have no opinion, while 16 percent don’t know who she is.
This is just one poll, it’s not focused on swing states (where the contest would, in actuality be fought), and it does show plenty of room for Warren to improve her standing.
But the point is, Warren’s appearance at the Women’s March in DC, the publicity surrounding McConnell ending her grandstanding on the Senate floor, and all of her high-profile attacks on Trump aren’t doing much for her, on the national level— at least not yet. And it suggests that her political standing is less good than it was ahead of 2016, when she was generating lots of interest from swing voters in swing state focus groups.
It also doesn’t seem to be doing much for her thus far back in Massachusetts. As a reminder, recent WBUR polling shows that only 44 percent of voters there think she deserves re-election, whereas 46 percent think someone else should get to have a go. In September, University of Massachusetts polling showed her barely capable of beating former Gov. Bill Weld and Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Interestingly, that polling did show her beating Curt Schilling handily, which may explain why Schilling looks like he’s not running. But thus far, no one else seems to be stepping up, while Warren presumably uses things like her appearance at the March donning her pink Planned Parenthood scarf, her railing against McConnell and Jeff Sessions, and various Senate questioning stunts to rake in dollars from the lefty, Sanders contingent in the Democratic Party to pad out a campaign war-chest capable of making up for her other deficiencies as a candidate.
Those recruiting for this race need to ponder their next moves long and hard. On the one hand, getting a Republican in the race now could focus attention on Warren’s negatives and force her to start spending some of that cash rather than just hoarding it for a possible rainy day.
The flip side is, the longer a Republican is in the race, the more opportunities will exist to highlight inevitable splits between that contender and Massachusetts voters, who (obviously) tend to be pretty liberal. Also, fundraising in that race isn’t going to be easy, because the baseline presumption of most GOP donors will be that the race is unwinnable. It remains the case that Warren will probably still be re-elected, but GOP donors might not want to treat her as a dead-cert shoo-in and pass on funding what might be long-shot bid that could come good (think Mark Kirk in 2010).
Someone like Weld could be hugely advantageous in this race—maybe even running as an Independent, not a Republican. It’s easy to see him besting Warren in a debate. He’s no fire-breather on issues that tend to freak out the more liberal swing voters in the Bay State. It’s more plausible to see him attacking her over her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which looks increasingly beleaguered with news emerging about the CFPB’s head’s Clinton-like use of private devices, payment of cushy salaries—even by DC standards– to its employees, and court judgments indicating the whole structure is unconstitutional, than it is virtually any other possible contender (perhaps especially Mitt Romney). By the time Warren reaches re-election, the CFPB might not even exist anymore—maybe a good talking point for her versus evil Republicans, but along with her inability to get appointed to head it, also something that makes her look somewhat ineffective.
When speculation originally popped about Warren being in trouble, and Weld polling well against her, the assumption was that Weld couldn’t run against her, because he was not resident in Massachusetts. Except, it turned out he was.
There are a lot of options to go after Warren, but Weld might just be the man. It’d be very hard to tie the former Libertarian Party VP to Trump. And he’s well-known in Massachusetts, which is still full of voters who have, in fact, pulled the lever for him before.