The lingering specter of a white, liberal Democrat who claimed to be a minority in a job where that status could have enhanced her chances for promotion and tenure might decide the outcome of the battle for control of Congress.

That’s why Warren must act quickly to put this issue behind her. She needs to apologize to Native Americans, whose struggles for opportunities she minimized by claiming from her position of prestige to be one of them. She should apologize to the supporters of affirmative action for undermining their efforts to bring real diversity to the faculty of Harvard’s law school. And in a “come to Jesus” speech to the people of Massachusetts, Warren needs to offer them the kind of contrition that has eluded her when discussing this issue.

Only then, I think, will she be able to turn the focus from her misspeak to Brown’s misdeeds in supporting so much of the GOP’s right-wing agenda.