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Does Setti Warren have the goods to beat Scott Brown?

Posted by Jesse Singal  May 9, 2011 03:14 PM

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So it's official: Newton mayor Setti Warren will run for Senate.

There will be many more such announcements as Democrats seek to undo the catastrophic January 2010 loss of the seat that had been held (forever, in the eyes of many Massachusetts Dems) by Ted Kennedy; we're still relatively early in the game. But for those unfamiliar with Warren, there's at least some reason to buy into the notion that he could be a strong candidate — though there are also certainly plenty of questions about whether or not he is seasoned enough for the task.

Warren has an impressive bio for someone who is barely 40 — he worked in the Clinton White House, directed FEMA's New England efforts, did stints for John Kerry's presidential campaign and Massachusetts Senate office, and served a tour in Iraq as a Naval Intelligence Specialist.

With youth comes political weaknesses, of course. While Warren is certainly well respected as an up-and-comer among the state's Democratic establishment, he lacks the money network so vital for a successful Senate run — being elected mayor of Newton doesn't require one to enlist wealthy donor after wealthy donor to throw fundraising dinners. He also lacks name recognition among most voters, a problem potentially compounded by the fact that, if he got through the primarily, he would be running against an incumbent who is currently well-respected by voters in the state.

But none of these seem like problems that can't be fixed. There's a lot about Warren to excite a Democratic Party desperate to retake "Teddy's seat." He's a young, fresh face with a lengthy resume relative to his age. And while his background would be quite impressive regardless of the color of his skin, the fact that Warren would give Massachusetts voters the opportunity to elect only the seventh African-American Senator in US history is the sort of thing that could bring out otherwise unenthusiastic voters. As for Brown's current popularity, it comes at a rather placid period in state politics — the Democratic machine hasn't yet geared up to dislodge him.

Of course, these claims that Warren can overcome his inexperience (and Brown's position of relative strength) depend on many important players in the party getting behind Warren relatively early. That may or may not happen — but he's certainly the sort of candidate who could attract a lot of excitement per dollar spent promoting him. An anti-Martha-Coakley, in other words.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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