Boston’s Thomas M. Menino, the longest-serving big-city mayor in the U.S., will end months of fence-sitting by formally endorsing fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren for the U.S. Senate.
Menino will endorse Warren tomorrow at a rally in Boston, according to Boston Globe and Boston Herald reports that cited people who knew of the plan. Dorothy Joyce, a spokeswoman for Menino, didn’t immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment. The mayor’s backing for the Massachusetts candidate may prove crucial Nov. 6 as recent polls show Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School, running neck and neck with Senator Scott Brown, a Republican elected in 2010 with Tea Party support. The two debate tonight.
“The difference on Election Day is likely to be turnout,” Jeffrey Berry, who teaches politics at Tufts University, said in an interview. “The difference is how much pressure he will put on local precinct captains to get the vote out.”
Menino, who has ruled the state’s biggest city since 1993, is a power broker who can deliver Boston votes, Berry said from the school in Medford, Massachusetts. The mayor previously raised questions about his own motives by telling reporters that Brown is an “amicable guy” who would be “hard to beat.”
Brown is no stranger to winning elections in a state dominated by Democrats. He was a Massachusetts lawmaker when he won a special election to fill out the last term of Democrat Ted Kennedy, who died in office in 2009, and has kept his distance from national Republicans. Now he’s appealing to voters across party lines, including featuring President Barack Obama in advertisements. His campaign has also touted endorsements from Democrats such as former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn.
Warren, an Oklahoma native in her first campaign for public office, is trying to energize Democrats and independents by stressing her credentials as a consumer advocate and attacking Wall Street, big banks and their lobbyists in Washington. She helped design and set up Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and won the president’s endorsement for the Senate. Two-term Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, has also backed her. Yet it’s Menino’s ground operation she needs.
The mayor took office in 1993 and became the longest-serving Boston mayor when he was re-elected in 2009 with 57 percent of the vote. Boston, with about 625,100 residents last year, accounts for about 9.5 percent of the state’s population of about 6.6 million.
The mayor withheld his endorsement as Warren’s campaign to unseat Brown gathered intensity earlier this year. While both Menino and Warren were among the featured speakers at this month’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, he shunned the chance to back her Senate bid before a nationwide audience.
Warren has drawn much of her financial support from outside the state. By mid-August, she had raised more than $28.2 million to Brown’s $19.5 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a research group in Washington.
Getting out the vote in a city the size of Boston requires more than money, however. Menino has proved his organization’s power time and again, most recently in November 2011 when he mobilized his forces to deny former Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty a chance to regain his seat on the City Council. Flaherty had challenged Menino’s re-election in 2009.
“It’s not just his endorsement,” John Walsh, the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said in an interview before Menino made his announcement. “It’s the work he puts in. That is really a piece of the calculation.”