BOSTON — Elizabeth Warren spent the last night before Election Day starring at a pair of rallies in Boston and its environs and appearing as powerful — and as likely to win Tuesday — as she has yet. But remnants of the inexperienced first-time candidate remain, and the mood among Massachusetts' Democratic left is nervous and electric, the memory of failed 2010 candidate Martha Coakley still fresh.
Warren appeared with Congressman Ed Markey and a handful of local elected officials in the harshly lit gym of Framingham High School, west of Boston, late Monday afternoon. The gym was about three-quarters full, and a local band called the Scooby Snacks played classic rock covers as the crowd, which skewed older and white, waited for Warren to arrive.
Tom Conroy, a candidate for state representative, brought back the specter of the Coakley loss to start things off.
"We are now supporting a candidate that has fired up the Democratic party in this state and got us working hard again!" Conroy said, alluding to what was seen as the failure of the Democrats to take Brown seriously as a threat in 2010.
Markey, a Massachusetts political stalwart who's represented the 7th congressional district since 1976, waxed poetic about the party's star candidate this year.
"When Elizabeth Warren looks at you on this crisp, clear New England night, she sees the constellation of possibilities and she lifts our gaze for this state and for this nation," Markey said. "And now the whole world is looking at us, here, in Massachusetts."
The symbolic weight of Warren's candidacy doesn't seem to be lost on her. Warren seemed almost nervous in Framingham, peppering her speech with "You bet" and "That's right," and ending a bit shakily, bumping into her podium as she stepped down to stand with Markey.
The stakes are high not just for Warren, but for the Democratic majority in the Senate — a fact that has become a centerpiece of her campaign.
"Here we are," Warren said. "It all comes down to tomorrow. This is a race about whose side you stand on." More than one speaker alluded to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell, and Markey even brought up Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, who was a bogeyman of the first debate Warren had with Brown.
Polls show that Warren and Brown are locked in a tight race, with a small edge for Warren, who's been running consistent but small leads of a few points since the summer (except for a recent Boston Herald poll that had Brown one point ahead). The race has been marked by toxic attacks on both sides, incredible spending figures despite a ban on third-party radio and TV advertisements, and unusual national interest for a state race.
The toxicity has calmed since its apex earlier in the fall and over the summer, but it is still the subtext of this campaign. At Warren's final rally on Monday, a Harry Truman Society event on a street corner in the Boston neighborhood of West Roxbury, the mostly labor crowd booed when a Republican candidate for governor's council briefly addressed the crowd. (They cheered, less briefly, when he said he had recently joined the Teamsters.)
Supporters were thick on the ground with Warren signs, and most also had a small sign in the shape of a stop sign that read "Scott: The Truck Stops Here," a reference to Brown's trademark pickup truck. Large men in union T-shirts and with union signs dominated the crowd, joined by Boston liberals in barn coats and arty glasses; Warren's coalition.
Ed Kelly, the chief of the Massachusetts Firefighters Union, introduced Warren after mocking Brown for touting his union membership. (Brown is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.)
"It's the Screen Actors Guild, and he's been acting like he cares about you for two and a half years, and I'm not smoking that anymore," Kelly said.
Warren ran up to the podium with her hands in the air, like a boxer, as the crowd chanted, "Warren! Warren!"
"This is what it's all about," Warren said. "This is it. This is it. Thank you."
"Tomorrow is when we speak here in Massachusetts with a strong voice," Warren said, her own voice sounding slightly hoarse. Warren spoke for about five minutes, mainly sticking to her stump speech lines about Brown's voting record, and left the stage. She'll hold her election-night party at Copley Plaza; Brown will hold his at the Park Plaza Hotel, also in downtown Boston.
Two Warren campaign volunteers from Quincy, fiftysomethings Kate Whooley and Maureen Crimmins, arrived at the rally just as Warren was leaving, to their disappointment. Neither of the women, involved as they have been in the day-to-day volunteering for Warren, were totally confident of a win.
"I've been working for many months on her campaign," Whooley said. "I feel optimistic, but it's felt neck and neck much of the way."
"It's distressing to see the number of Obama voters who are going to vote for Brown. That makes no sense to me," Crimmins said, though she guessed that Warren would eke out a close win despite Brown's bipartisan appeal. "We know a lot of people like that."
But like other Warren faithful, they've felt a thrill just being a part of it. "The canvassing has been steady, and the phone calling — just a steady, steady group of people," Whooley said. "It felt good."