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Reed: Elizabeth Warren a lasting gift to GOP future

February 14, 2017 GMT

The dust-up between U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had two clear winners: sales for Warren’s upcoming book and the long-term health of the Republican Party.

Following the high-profile back-and-forth involving Warren impugning one of her Senate colleagues, she and her political machine leapt into action. Within hours, she had appeared on a softball interview with Rachel Maddow, her finance team blasted an outraged fundraising email and designed a T-shirt to raise campaign cash. Furious Warren supporters created hashtags that started trending on social media, and the story quickly dominated the national news.

It wasn’t all positive news for Warren, though. In the days that followed, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr. accused the Massachusetts senator of playing the race card. Warren faced charges of hypocrisy when news reports emerged of her co-sponsoring a 2015 bill with then-U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the man she was now labeling a racist, to award Congressional Gold Medals to participants in the Selma marches of 1965.

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Speaking of hypocrisy, Warren is an interesting messenger to lead a discussion about racial issues. After all, she spent years self identifying as Native American — a claim she has been unable to substantiate — presumably to climb the career ladder at a time when elite universities were desperate to diversify their ranks. The controversy wasn’t enough to sink her in a Massachusetts Senate race, but running for president is an entirely different ballgame.

Conveniently, last week’s brouhaha occurred almost simultaneously with the rollout of Warren’s latest book. If you’re a publisher hoping to sell books to Warren supporters, it’s hard to imagine a better scenario than days of free headlines about a fight over President Trump’s Cabinet.

It wasn’t just Warren’s book sales that could benefit — the whole episode was a boon for her standing among the Democratic contenders.

Barely three weeks into the Trump administration, the jostling for the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer has begun in earnest. Similar to the dire situation Republicans faced in 2009 during the early days of the Obama administration, Democrats find themselves out-of-power and leaderless in 2017. Not since Reconstruction have they faced such a political hole.

While they haven’t settled on a leader, restless Democratic activists are demanding resistance to President Trump at all costs. Just as the Tea Party crucified Republicans they deemed insufficiently opposed to President Obama, the Democratic base is hungry for a fight with the new Republican president.

So it’s not surprising that Warren and her fellow would-be 2020 competitors are reading the political tea leaves and reacting accordingly. But that’s where Democrats play into the hands of the GOP in the long run.

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Republicans could do a lot worse than having Warren as the leader of the opposition. Democrats have already been relegated to the coasts and the cities. They have been gutted everywhere else. Nominating a former Harvard law professor from Cambridge is not going to fix their problems with blue-collar voters in the middle of the country.

Granted it’s early, but nearly the entire crop of Democrats’ potential 2020 leaders fail to expand their geographical base. Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris all share more than just liberal views. They also all represent states in the Northeast or West Coast.

Donald Trump is president right now because he flipped a handful of Rust Belt states that hadn’t voted Republicans in decades — states where Warren has already demonstrated her lack of appeal when she endorsed failed Senate candidates.

While the recent publicity may improve her standing with liberal activists nationwide, it’s also a long-term win for the GOP. Warren is not the person to lead Democrats out of their abyss. But as a Republican, I’m happy she’s trying.

Colin Reed is the executive director of America Rising, a Republican communications Super PAC. Follow him on Twitter @colintreed.