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Warren decides to seek Brown’s US Senate seat

She will travel state to declare

'She will have to run the gantlet, which is modern American politics. It ain't bean bag,' said Michael P. Shea,a Massachusetts Democratic media consultant. "She will have to run the gantlet, which is modern American politics. It ain't bean bag," said Michael P. Shea,a Massachusetts Democratic media consultant. (Chuck Burton/Associated Press)
By Frank Phillips
Globe Staff / September 14, 2011

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Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and a Wall Street critic, will officially embark this morning on her run for the US Senate seat held by Republican Scott Brown.

Drawing on the populist-tinged rhetoric that made her a national figure, Warren will launch her candidacy by greeting voters across the state, beginning with a morning visit to a Boston MBTA station. She will then head to New Bedford, Framingham, Worcester, and Springfield, making similar appearances shaking hands and greeting voters.

Though she will not make any formal statements or speeches, those visits will be paired with a video on her campaign website that will feature the candidate talking about the major themes she will strike during the campaign.

“The pressures on middle class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington,’’ Warren says in a clip of the video. “I want to change that. I will work my heart out to earn the trust of the people of Massachusetts.’’

While her decision to run is not a surprise, Warren’s presence in the race is expected to dramatically reshape and energize the 2012 campaign that will determine whether Brown will get a six-year term in the seat that was held for nearly 46 years by the state’s liberal icon, the late Edward M. Kennedy.

“Now it will be a race that draws national attention,’’ Todd Domke, a Massachusetts Republican political analyst, said yesterday. He predicted a tight race if Warren can get the backing of the Democratic establishment, particularly Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Warren’s entrance into the race has drawn keen interest from state and national Democratic leaders who believe that she could generate the necessary excitement and funds to give Brown a serious challenge.

Brown stunned the Democratic establishment in January 2010 when he won the special election to replace Kennedy.

Armed with a huge war chest and a rock star-like image among national Republicans for his victory last year, he must now run again.

A spokesman for the Brown campaign said neither the senator nor his campaign committee would comment on Warren’s announcement.

Six Democrats have previously announced their plans to seek their party’s nomination: Setti Warren, the mayor of Newton; Alan Khazei, cofounder of City Year; state Representative Thomas P. Conroy; Bob Massie, the 1994 nominee for lieutenant governor; Herb Robinson, a Newton engineer; and Marisa DeFranco, a North Shore lawyer.

But Warren, with a strong public profile that appeals to many Democratic activists, has emerged an early favorite.

Party leaders and insiders have long worried that none of the other Democratic candidates has the resources or gravitas to match Brown. National Democrats see Brown’s seat as critical if they hope to retain control of the Senate after 2012 elections.

Initial polls show that Warren has her work cut out for her. A Globe survey late last month showed that in a hypothetical matchup against Brown, but no other candidates, Warren would trail the incumbent by 19 points.

Brown would receive 48 percent of the vote, the poll suggested, while Warren would get 29 percent. The results signal early concerns for both candidates: Warren has low name recognition, while Brown has failed to capture more than 50 percent support in a direct matchup with her.

Whether Warren, who has never run for public office, has the skills needed to mount a serious campaign is not clear.

“She will have to run the gantlet, which is modern American politics,’’ said Michael P. Shea, a Massachusetts Democratic media consultant. “It ain’t bean bag.’’

“She is a seasoned veteran as a public official,’’ Shea said. But “to be a successful candidate requires an extraordinary set of varied skills,’’ he said. “She is untested.’’

Warren, who has spent the last several years in Washington in high-profile public positions, has built a national following for her relentless attacks on the country’s financial institutions, which she has long accused of carrying out predatory and anticonsumer practices.

She often uses her own personal history to make her point that Washington has over the last three decades damaged ordinary Americans with policies that increasingly favor the rich at the expense of the middle class.

Warren, the 62-year old daughter of a janitor and store clerk, grew up in Oklahoma. She attended public schools and universities, becoming a bankruptcy specialist at Harvard.

In Washington, she fought to establish a consumer protection agency, though vehement opposition killed her chances of winning Senate confirmation to lead that agency and forced President Obama to choose someone else this summer.

In August, Warren returned to Massachusetts and began to explore a potential campaign against Brown.

Frank Phillips can be reached at phillips@globe.com.