Last night on Real Time with Bill Maher Jay Leno told Democratic strategist Paul Begala that he’s feeling all kinds of fire and energy from Elizabeth Warren and almost none of that from Hillary Clinton. And then today chief Washington Post correspondent Dan Balz reported that when a small group of Democrats, Republicans and Independents discussed the political landscape last Thursday night in Aurora, Colorado, the only person they really liked across the board was Warren.
Balz writes that the focus group was “dismissive, sometimes harshly” in their assessments of former Florida governor Jeb Bush and was “chilly” about Clinton.
The group was basically uninterested and resistant, in short, to the idea of Bush vs. Clinton again and the general return of their dynasties.
“[But] when Warren was introduced into the conversation, however, many of those around the table, regardless of party affiliation, responded positively,” Balz reports. “To this group, who spoke in stark terms throughout the evening about the economic challenges of working Americans, Warren has struck a chord.
“Quick impressions voiced about [Warren] were highly positive: ‘Passionate.’ ‘Smart.’ ‘Sincere.’ ‘Knowledgeable.’ ‘Intelligent.’ ‘Capable.’ One person said ‘questionable.’ That was as close to a negative reaction as she got in that round.
“There were other signs that Warren, who has said repeatedly that she is not running for president in 2016, had caught the eyes and ears of people in the room. She was the popular choice as a next-door neighbor, seen as genuine and personable. Even one of the most conservative members of the group said this.
“Several said that if they could pick from a long list of national politicians, they would prefer to have the chance to have a long conversation with Warren, describing her as both articulate and down to earth. ‘She’s a strong woman, and I’d like to sit down and pick her brain,’ said Susan Brink, an independent who backed President Obama. An independent who voted Republican in both 2012 and 2014, was among those who offered an admiring view of Warren. ‘If she ran, I think she could be the next president,’ she said.
The Aurora focus-group session, moderated by Democratic pollster Peter Hart for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, “turned upside down much of the conversation about the coming presidential campaign, where Bush and Clinton occupy so much space,” Balz reports. “The collective impressions and individual observations provide a valuable counterpoint to the conversation that is taking place among political insiders.
“Reactions to Bush were viscerally negative. When the participants were asked for short impressions of him, the responses included the following: ‘Joke.’ ‘No, thank you.’ ‘Clown.’ ‘Don’t need him.’ ‘Greedy.’ ‘Again?’ One said ‘intriguing’ and another said ‘interesting.’ That’s as close as anyone came to outright enthusiasm for Bush.
“Hart asked the group which individual from a long list of current politicians they would least like to have as a next-door neighbor. Eight named Bush. ‘I’m tired of it,’ said Brandon Graham, an IT systems engineer and Democratic-leaning independent. Jenny Howard, who works in accounting and voted for Romney in 2012, said, ‘He’s running off the Bush name and thinks that means something.’
Clinton fared slightly better. Instant impressions included the following: ‘Don’t like.’ ‘Strong.’ ‘Spitfire.’ ‘Untrustworthy.’ ‘More of the same.’ ‘Politician, but gets things done.’ The reactions echoed what has been found in polls and in other focus groups, which is that Clinton has stature but remains a polarizing figure.”