Democrat Elizabeth Warren, racing to define herself before her political opponents brand her negatively with what she terms “ridiculous attack ads,” is launching the first television commercial of her US Senate campaign.
The would-be challenger to Republican Senator Scott Brown says in a largely biographical spot hitting the airwaves tomorrow, “Like a lot of you, I came up the hard way.”
The ad will be a proportional response to a nearly $600,000 campaign launched against her last week by a conservative group, said one adviser.
“It’s a statewide buy that’s aimed at allowing Elizabeth to tell her story and explain her fight to the people of Massachusetts,” spokesman Kyle Sullivan said.
The Massachusetts Republican Party had a tart response.
“Professor Warren is clearly desperate to remake her image,” the party said in a statement. “With a full year to go until Election Day, it is revealing that Professor Warren feels compelled to air hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads to try and repair the damage.”
In her ad, Warren recounts a hardscrabble childhood, her teenage job, her three brothers’ service in the US military, her marriage at 19, and putting herself through college.
“For years, I worked to expose how Wall Street and the big banks are crushing middle-class families. It just isn’t right,” she says to the camera as family photos flash across the screen.
She highlights her work setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington before deciding to make her first bid for elective office.
“Washington is still rigged for the big guys and that’s got to change,” Warren says.
The ad is the first broadcast spot by any candidate in the 2012 US Senate race.
Warren is one of five Democrats seeking her party’s nomination to challenge Brown next year as he seeks his first full, six-year term.
While that primary won’t be held until next September, Warren’s major challengers for the nomination dropped out of the race shortly after she entered it. Now she is concerned that a coordinated attack by Brown, the state GOP, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and other support groups could cement an elitist image of her.
Already the state party has taken to referring to Warren as “professor” and labeling the Harvard Law School professor a “militant liberal” and the “matriarch of mayhem,” the latter after she took credit for providing some of the “intellectual foundation” for the Occupy Wall Street movement.
For their part, Democratic Party organizations and their allies have sought to dismantle the everyman image Brown created with his barn coat and pickup truck in the January 2010 special election to replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Warren taped a web ad to announce her candidacy. Her movement to the more costly - and widely viewed - public airwaves is emblematic of what is expected to be an extraordinarily expensive and nasty campaign.
Already there have been TV ads by two outside groups targeting Brown and the one targeting her.
The first, by the League of Women Voters, cost over $1 million and criticized Brown’s global warming record. More recently, the League of Conservation Voters has been running a pair of ads as part of a $1.8 million campaign accusing the senator of favoring energy companies over environmental causes.
Brown released his own web video in response to the second ad, titled, “Blowing Smoke.” He also has sought to raise money off the attacks, branding himself as a target of liberal constituencies.
Last week, a pro-Republican group, Crossroads GPS, began its own $560,000 airing its own independent ad citing the connection between Warren and Occupy Wall Street. Crossroads was founded by former Bush political adviser Karl Rove.
In her ad, Warren brands the Crossroads commercial one of the “ridiculous attack ads” by her opponents.
In a companion e-mail to supporters, Warren writes that her campaign has already raised $300,000 since that ad started running.
“With the help of friends like you, we can match them, dollar-for-dollar. With your help, we can set the record straight - and show Rove and his buddies that we’re not going to get pushed around,” she says.
The state GOP said in its statement: “Unfortunately for Professor Warren, voters have gotten a candid glimpse of what she really stands for that no amount of gauzy, poll-tested ads will cover up.”
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.