It sounds like the long-rumored Elizabeth Warren campaign is really going to happen. She wrote a blog post about her return to Massachusetts that sounds like the warm-up to a campaign, and she has just set up an “exploratory committee,” ostensibly to explore the decision whether to run, but more likely to confirm it.
I found myself wondering if a law professor has ever been elected to the Senate. Barack Obama doesn’t count, because he was a politician moonlighting as a law professor when he taught at the University of Chicago. The closest I can think of is Pat Moynihan, who wasn’t a law professor but was a true scholar before running for and winning a Senate seat in New York in 1976. But even he had an extensive political career (serving in the Kennedy administration, among other posts) before running for the Senate.
Of course, there are still a number of significant obstacles between Warren and the Senate, including the Democratic primary and, more importantly, popular Republican incumbent Scott Brown. But I have to imagine the prospects are good. Warren was controversial as a law professor, but those controversies will be close to irrelevant to her Senate run. She has a great deal of credibility on economic issues, and has focused on them for decades, going into an election that is likely to turn on precisely these issues. In many states, the fact that she excites the liberal wing of the Democratic party, but is deeply unpopular with many Republicans and draws mixed reviews from moderates might be a problem. But Massachusetts obviously is not that kind of state.