By Jon Keller


BOSTON (CBS) – As she campaigns across the country, Elizabeth Warren is downplaying the Massachusetts/Harvard parts of her resume in favor of her Oklahoma roots, reports Politico.

As Captain Renault (Humphrey Bogart’s police pal in the movie “Casablanca”) once put it as he entered Bogart’s casino to collect his winnings: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

Tailoring your sales pitch to the client at hand is the essence of political campaigning. If Warren’s folksiness seems a bit inartful at times (“Hold on a sec, I’m gonna get me a beer” during an Instagram video, sporting a Berkshire Community College cap), it’s considerably more authentic than some other case studies.

Remember John Kerry in 2004, asking an Ohio store owner where he could “get me a hunting license”? (What is it with these lame imitations of hick phraseology?) And when Donald Trump lavishes praise on bikers at his rallies or expresses affection for “my African America,” do we really believe he craves the company of either group?

Still, Politico’s broader point is valid: that Warren’s salesmanship conflicts with “the duality in her campaign – the fact that Warren is both an up-by-the-bootstraps success story and a privileged Ivy league professor — that opponents are starting to notice and exploit.”

Joe Biden went there this week in an online post accusing Warren of “an elitism that working and middle class people do not share: ‘We know best; you know nothing.’”

Pete Buttigieg is also on the hunt, telling reporters last week “if you want the most ideological, far-out candidate possible, you’ve got your answer.”

None of this can be a surprise to the Warren campaign. From its inception, the question of whether a Massachusetts liberal from the Harvard Law School faculty was the Democrats’ most electable candidate was sure to be raised in the Democratic race, if for no other reason than it’s a guaranteed part of the Trump arsenal.

Warren can justifiably complain that she is, in fact, from relatively humble Oklahoma origins, and does, in fact, like beer (which Michelob Light is, arguably). But it won’t do her any good.

Warren’s rise in the polls during the summer and early fall was due to an array of factors, her energy, intelligence, and specificity among them. In the end, her chances of winning both the nomination and the presidency depend on enough voters deciding that her aggressive demands for social justice and sweeping policy change are what’s needed to defeat both Trump and Beltway inertia.

But politics is a funny business. In the fall of 2004, a poll showed 57 percent of undecided voters would rather have a beer with George W. Bush than Kerry. In November 2015, when Trump was emerging as the leading GOP candidate for president, a survey found he was the preferred drinking companion in the field.

Beer matters.

And if Warren can’t find a way to overwhelm doubts about her authenticity, she may be needing a few belts of something a lot stronger than Michelob Light.

Jon Keller

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