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Elizabeth Warren moves toward barnburner race against Sen. Scott Brown

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“She definitely brings a different résumé to the race,” Ms. Duffy says. “It’s going to have its pluses and minuses. The big thing is that she’ll be a magnet for national money. Of course, that’s going to help Brown raise money.”

Brown is one of the more moderate Republicans running for reelection in this cycle, but so far he faces no serious tea party challenge for the GOP nomination. Warren, a native of Oklahoma, could square off against a half-dozen Democratic candidates, though the only one with any money is Alan Khazei, former CEO of the City Year youth service program.

Warren has never run for office before, and it’s unknown how she will perform on the stump.

“Beyond her identification as a Democrat, I think her biggest asset is that she’s aggressive, which will play well after [Martha] Coakley,” says Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University outside Boston.

State Attorney General Coakley was the Democratic nominee in 2010 against Brown, and she ran a lackluster campaign in an election that was widely seen as hers to lose.

“Warren’s weak spot is that she’s an academic, and it’s not clear that she can relate to the average voter,” Mr. Berry says. “Brown has great facility in exuding a common touch and a regular home-boy persona.”

Still, he calls a Warren-Brown race a tossup, given registered Democrats’ strong numerical advantage in Massachusetts over Republicans.

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