Elizabeth Warren Isn't Ghost-Dancing Just Yet

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 24 2012 5:27 PM

Elizabeth Warren Isn't Ghost-Dancing Just Yet

Nearly four weeks have passed since Hilary Chabot broke the news that Harvard University once classified Elizabeth Warren as a "minority" hire. By my back-of-the-napkin count, 42 percent of all subsequent Boston Herald stories have focused on Warren, her hard-to-prove claim of Cherokee ancestry, the Pow Wow Chow cook book that she uses as next-best-thing-to-DNA proof.

The result:

Republican incumbent Scott Brown (48 percent) clings to a one-point lead over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren (47 percent) in the Massachusetts race for the U.S. Senate, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH-Boston) poll of likely general-election voters in Massachusetts... the race has closed since a February Suffolk University/7NEWS poll showed Brown leading Warren 49 percent to 40 percent.

Previous polls had shown Warren remaining competitive, but they were outdated. This poll was taken from May 20 to May 22. It finds that 49 percent of voters believe that Warren has some Native American in her (hell, she's from Oklahoma), and that her unfavorables have spiked a mere 5 points during the affair. How little do voters care about it? Just make this comparison.

With 80 percent of voters aware of the 1965 incident when Romney was accused of forcibly cutting the hair of a prep school classmate, 46 percent said that Romney was a bully, while 40 percent said he was not.

If the scandal hasn't killed Warren after four weeks, when is it supposed to work? The way Suffolk asks the question, it looks like the story has changed from the culturally significant, doom-laden question of preferential treatment to the wacky question of whether Warren has high cheekbones. Reporters are still obssessed with it -- Warren's response is to stand by "her mother" and "her family." If that's the story, she's going to wriggle out of this.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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