Some conservatives say it’s time to begin attacking Sen. Elizabeth Warren, hoping to dent the liberal icon’s political ascent as she begins a book tour widely seen as a testing ground for a 2020 presidential bid.
Republicans have been divided over how to handle Ms. Warren, a first-term senator from Massachusetts and one of the Democratic Party’s biggest draws. Some prominent leaders have sought to boost her profile, figuring she’d be an easier opponent to defeat in 2020 than others.
But America Rising Political Action Committee says Ms. Warren needs to be taken down a few pegs, so the group is beginning an initiative to put her under the microscope as she kicks off a tour in New York Tuesday for her latest book, “This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class.”
“Our goal is to make sure there is a lot of negative information flowing around Sen. Warren,” said Colin Reed, executive director of America Rising PAC. “We view this book launch as the soft launch of her presidential campaign, and what I don’t want is for her to have a 2018 re-election to the Senate that she then parlays into the start of the presidential run without any roadblocks in her way.”
Ms. Warren’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment. But she has played down the idea that she is laying the groundwork for a presidential bid.
She may also have some work to do in Massachusetts, where she’s up for re-election next year, and where a January poll released by WBUR and The MassInc Polling Group found 46 percent said Ms. Warren should give someone else a chance to run, compared to 44 percent who said she deserved another six-year term.
The senator, who suffered among some liberals when she backed Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernard Sanders in last year’s Democratic primary, may have helped paper over some of those concerns after tussling with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in February.
Mr. McConnell had Ms. Warren punished for impugning the motives of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, stripping her of her right to speak on the floor for the duration of the debate over Mr. Sessions’ nomination to be attorney general. In the aftermath, Democrats rallied to Ms. Warren, while GOP strategists debated whether it made sense to boost her profile or ignore her.
That debate continues.
“By attacking her now, we’re giving her exactly what she wants — more attention and a heightened platform at a time when there’s general disarray and a lack of a clear voice in the Democratic Party,” said Phil Cox, a GOP strategist and former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. “I think the better strategy is to wait until we’re a bit closer to game time and then define her. I mean, whether today or a year from now, it’s not going to be too hard to make the case that Elizabeth Warren is a partisan liberal.”
Mike McKenna, another GOP consultant, also said Republicans should invest their energy elsewhere for now, arguing that Ms. Warren is her own worst enemy.
“There are other politicians on the left that I am worried about more than Elizabeth Warren,” Mr. McKenna said. “I am pretty firm in the camp of let her talk.”
He added, “She is a fairly unhappy, angry person, and that comes across every time she opens her mouth.”
Mr. Reed said his group has no interest in propping Ms. Warren up, and is reviving the same strategy they deployed against Mrs. Clinton, when they made the former first lady’s 2014 book tour about her verbal gaffes, helping to torpedo the positive image the Democrat aimed to build up.
“Our strategy is to go after her,” he said of Ms. Warren. “It is not to make her the face of the Democratic Party.”
The strategy includes building an opposition research file against her, following her with video trackers and making the case that Ms. Warren’s pursuit of ideological purity has come at the expense of her constituents and flies in the face of the more bipartisan approach her Democratic predecessor, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, took in Congress.
Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist, said it is smart to attack Ms. Warren because it could set up a favorable contrast for President Trump, reminding voters of the Democratic alternative.
“She is always great for boosting conservatives who go crazy with the possibility that she could go anywhere near the White House,” Mr. O’Connell said. “Hillary Clinton used to wonderfully fill that role for us. … You need to find someone else, and Elizabeth Warren is the embodiment of all [that] wings of the Republican Party stand against. You say her name in Republican circles and they spit venom.”
Steve Koczela, president of The MassInc Polling Group, said it makes sense that Ms. Warren would come under attack from national GOP groups given that she has been such as polarizing figure — beloved by the left and loathed by the right.
“She is certainly one who generates a lot of passion on both sides,” Mr. Koczela said.