Is Elizabeth Warren’s Hollywood Support Killing Her Senate Chances?

Scott Brown’s campaign is turning the backing of celebrities like Cher and Barbra Streisand into a political liability for the Harvard professor

Elizabeth Warren is the darling of the entertainment industry, but the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate may be denied her Hollywood ending.

Polls in Massachusetts, where Warren is fighting to take back Ted Kennedy’s seat from Republicans, show the former Obama administration official lagging behind incumbent Scott Brown.

To make matters worse, Warren’s celebrity support from the likes of Barbra Streisand, Ron Howard and Cher have left her open to attacks in her home state that she is an out-of-touch elitist.

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A web ad launched by the Massachusetts Republican Party this week makes the case with all the subtlety of a jackhammer. While aping the style of a movie trailer, the ad calls Warren the winner of the “biggest hypocrite in a political campaign,” and dredges up a tony fundraiser hosted by TV producer Norman Lear at his Hollywood “estate.”

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There’s a danger that the attacks are weakening Warren, even though political analysts caution that Cher’s endorsement won’t be a deciding factor in the race.

“It’s a strong second tier issue,” Tobe Berkovitz, a professor of political science at Boston University and a former Democratic campaign consultant, told TheWrap. “It can make her seem hypocritical, because here she is railing against the 1 percent, and where does she go to raise her money?”

A spokeswoman for the Warren campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Despite the criticism that Warren is more a creature of Beverly Hills than Fenway Park, the candidate is unlikely to close the door to the entertainment industry.

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Her Harvard professor bona fides and her past work creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have entertainers and media moguls reaching for their checkbooks.

Last quarter, 20 percent of Warren’s donations over $200 came from California, according to a report in the New York Times. Streisand, DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton are among the big names who have contributed the maximum amount of  $2,500, according to recent campaign filings.  

Warren was back in town at the beginning of this month for a fundraiser at the entertainment industry lawyer Skip Brittenham’s  Santa Monica home.  

Yet Warren’s momentum has stalled. In addition to the criticism leveled by Republicans about the candidate’s movie business ties, Democratic activists have begun griping to the media about Warren.

Also read: Is Hollywood Bailing on Obama?

In an article this week in the Boston Globe entitled “Democratic jitters in Senate race,” party analysts said that Warren has plateaued and needs to recapture the optimism that greeted her initial entry into the race.

Some of this enthusiasm gap is a testament to how effectively Brown has fought back. He has portrayed himself as a moderate Republican in a deeply blue state. Likewise, his opposition to requiring religious-affiliated healthcare organizations from providing contraception coverage has resonated with the state’s Catholic voters, political analysts say.

“He’s been able to position himself as someone who believes in bipartisanship,” Tim Vercellotti, director of Western New England University’s Polling Institute, told TheWrap. “I think his [re-election] chances are better now than they were a few months ago, but I have to quickly add that the election is a little under 9 months away and so much can still happen.”

In a recent poll conducted by Vercellotti, Brown had opened up an eight-point lead over Warren. That is in marked contrast to the end of 2011, when some polls showed Warren as the favorite.

Vercellotti argues, however, that in a presidential election year in which Barack Obama is expected to take Massachusetts by a wide margin, strong Democratic turnout could propel Warren over the top. 

Barring that, maybe it is time for Boston legends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to get involved. In a Massachusetts election where Hollywood has suddenly become a central campaign plank, the “Good Will Hunting” gang could be difference makers.