When I made the rounds of the state’s Democratic old guard, I was surprised at how openly they disparaged Warren. Jim Shannon, a former Democratic congressman and state attorney general, told me, “At this relatively late point in the campaign, I don’t have a fix on what type of candidate she is.” Boston Mayor Tom Menino has conspicuously avoided endorsing her altogether.
In particular, veteran politicos were dismayed by the Cherokee controversy—the revelation that Warren’s Ivy League employers had counted her as a Native American, despite scant genealogical evidence. “You look at it and say, ‘Shouldn’t that be a one- or two-day deal?’” says Shannon. “It turned into a month.” (The conservative Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr nicknamed Warren “Fauxchohontas,” and it stuck.) So far, polls suggest the Cherokee story has had little impact. But Birmingham was convinced it had drawn blood, by identifying Warren with a diversity-obsessed ivory tower, and he feared many voters wouldn’t give her the benefit of the doubt. “If she weren’t using it for her academic advantage, she hasn’t come up with a plausible explanation for why she was claiming it,” Birmingham says. He went on: “The only fear about Warren has been borne out. Although on paper she seemed great, she’s very articulate, people think she’ll kill Brown in the debates, she’s very, very smart. But as a candidate she’s completely untested.”