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Odd Couple: Wall Street Foe Warren Stumps for Big-Businessman

Chants of “Run, Liz Run” filled the hall as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Miss.) ran on to the stage at the Netroots Nation 2014 annual convention July 18 looking like everyone’s favorite college professor.

Warren was the keynote speaker at a Gary Peters for Senate campaign rally and fundraiser.

She accepted the cheers for a few minutes, then just as a good college professor would Warren signaled with both arms for the crowd to be quiet.

“Sit down. Sit down. Let’s get started,” Warren said to the crowd, which seemed to be merely passing time waiting for the moment their shining star of the Occupy Wall Street movement took the stage.

However, whether she can help Rep. Peters (D-Mich.) defeat Terri Lynn Land (R) for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is yet to be seen.

Besides the wildly cheering, chanting Liz Warren faithful in the Ambassador Ballroom of the Detroit Marriott hotel, there are hundreds of thousands people outside the political pundit-sphere who don’t know who Elizabeth Warren is.

A Politico Battleground poll, released July 21, shows 20 percent of Democrats likely to vote this fall in competitive House and Senate races, and 22 percent of voters overall said they had “never heard of Warren.”

Bill Clinton is seen much more positively than Warren by Democrats, Republicans and independents. According to the Politico poll, Clinton has a 36 percent approval rating, while Warren’s approval rating is 16 percent, only one point higher than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Michigan voters were included in the Politico poll because the Land-Peters race, along with four Michigan congressional elections, is seen as one of the most competitive races in the nation.

Warren is the favorite flavor of political pundits looking for someone to run against Hillary Clinton in the Democrats’ 2016 presidential primary. But a Gallup survey released July 18 also shows that Warren is far from a household name.

She doesn’t even have much of an impact among people who identify as Democrats. The Gallup survey shows 57 percent of Democrats nationally have either never heard of Warren or have no opinion of her.

Still, Warren brought the progressive faithful to their feet inside one of the finest hotels in downtown Detroit at the Peters for Senate rally. She is helping the Democrats paint a picture of contrast between Peters and Land, who has been branded as being the wealthiest Senate candidate in the nation by Bloomberg News.

Thousands cheered as Warren told them how she had defeated the million-dollar-a-day political budgets of the nation’s largest banks to win approval for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“The CFPB is proof that government can work for us,” Warren said. “It has already forced the biggest financial institutions in the country to return more than $4 billion to consumers they cheated.”

“We won because you got out there,” she told her cheering audience. “You kept that idea alive. You called out sleazy lobbyists. You won this fight.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee was quick to point out the differences between the Democrats’ Senate candidate in Michigan and the junior senator from Massachusetts.

The NRSC called Peters and Warren two things that don’t go together in an email message that was sent out the day before the Netroots Nation rally.

“Occupy Wall Street Senator Elizabeth Warren and Wall Street broker Gary Peters certainly form a political odd couple,” wrote Brook Hougesen, the press secretary of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“If history has taught us anything it’s that Gary Peters will do or say anything to save his political career, including pretending to be someone he's not. If Gary Peters can turn on a dime to line his coffers, how can Michiganders trust him at all in the Senate to keep his promises?” she concluded.

OpenSecrets.org shows Peters has received more than $2 million in campaign contributions since 2008 from members of the finance/real estate and insurance sector, the very people Warren has been fighting.

It should come as no surprise that Peters has received support from that group. That’s his crowd.

Peters was vice president of investments at UBS PaineWebber Inc. branch in the suburban Detroit community of Rochester Hills and officer at Merrill Lynch in Rochester Hills before running for office.

Peters has also been on arbitration panels for the National Association of Securities Dealers, the New York Stock Exchange and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is also attacking Peters for voting against a bipartisan House resolution calling on the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups by the IRS.

"Rather than representing Michiganders' voice in Washington, Peters has benefitted from the Democrats' close relationship with the IRS, accepting $8,500 from the National Treasury Employees Union, which covers IRS employees," said Hougesen.

In addition to the latest NRSC campaign against him, Peters’ relatively brief political career has not been free from political controversy in Michigan.

Some of the members of the Netroots Nation audience might actually have protested against Peters in 2007. He announced a run for Congress only two months being appointed third Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government at Central Michigan University.

Some students protested, saying Peters could not be objective in the classroom, and even if he could, the university was subsidizing his political campaign.

Yet, for what it is worth, Warren is supporting Peters’ campaign.

“The U.S. Senate needs more fighters like Gary Peters who are willing to stand up for women. It already has enough backward-looking extremists trying to block equal pay efforts while they support dangerous Supreme Court decisions like Hobby Lobby,” she said in a statement issued by the Peters campaign.

Warren is also resisting those in the crowd who were waving banners and signs emblazoned with the words “Run, Liz Run” in Detroit.

A group trying to draft Warren to run for president opened a website July 15 with the URL ready4warren.com.

However, Warren has promised to finish out her Senate term that runs through 2019. And her spokeswoman Lacey Rose told the Boston Globe in an email that Warren is not working with the group, nor does she support its efforts.

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)