He shared the stage at Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign launch. He’s featured in her online fundraising pitches and stars on her social media accounts. He even has his own selfie lines at organizing events.
Bailey, Warren’s fluffy, cheerful golden retriever, has quickly emerged as the senator’s top surrogate, and a phenomenon in his own right.
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Many voters know Warren as the wonkish former Harvard professor who was behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She’s laid out an ambitious and detailed platform to tackle social and economic inequality, big money in politics and Washington corruption.
But Warren’s 2020 campaign is also trying to highlight personal narratives — about her life growing up in Oklahoma and as a young mom — as a way of connecting with potential supporters.
That’s where her canine comes in. Nine weeks into Warren’s campaign, Bailey — who arrived as a gift from her husband in July and was named after the protagonist in It’s a Wonderful Life — is all over the place.
There’s the “Bailey Cam,” which records days out on the trail from the eight-month-old pup’s vantage point, uploaded to Warren’s Instagram page. The icon featured first below her photo on that page is a paw print linking to the dog’s images and videos.
Bailey surfaced in an email fundraising request on Jan. 14, with an embedded gif of the dog along with Warren and her husband, Bruce Mann.
“Bailey had his own photo line, wore a ‘Bailey Cam,’ and probably answered more media questions than I did (for the record: yes, he’s a very good eight-month-old boy),” Warren wrote, describing a road trip to nearby New Hampshire. “He snoozed all the way home, and he still hasn’t caught up on his sleep. Campaigning is hard work!”
Later, a fundraising request signed by Mann noted how he sends pictures of Bailey to Warren when she’s traveling outside of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
“Bailey, our new golden retriever, and I miss her, but I send her a “Morning Bailey” email every morning with a photo. (She’s been posting them to her Instagram if you want to get your fix, too.)”
All of that was an outgrowth of Bailey’s steady presence since Warren’s launch, from the impromptu televised news conference outside her home to a recent New Hampshire campaign stop, where a group of supporters began chanting: “Bailey! Bailey!”
Politicians — and their consultants — have long believed a dog’s lovability can rub off onto an officeholder.
There’s a rich history surrounding those occupying or aspiring to the White House and their pets. Millie, George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel, authored her own book. After Bill Clinton got a Labrador retriever and named it Buddy, his pollster reported back to the poll-hungry president that a survey showed 57 percent of Americans approved of the name.
Donald Trump is the first president in more than a century not to have a pooch join his family at the White House. The topic came up at a rally last month in Texas. “I wouldn’t mind having one, honestly, but I don’t have any time,” Trump said. He said he’s been told it would be “good politically,” but it “feels a little phony, phony to me.”
In Warren’s case, the full embrace of Bailey serves an additional purpose: It humanizes a politician who’s known on the national stage for her fiery opposition to big banks and run-ins with Trump, but who hasn’t given voters much insight into what’s she’s like away from the spotlight.
“People think campaigning is about politics, policy and platforms, [but] a lot of it is personality,” said Josh Wolf, a media strategist with the political consulting firm AL Media. “It shows — whether it’s Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or another candidate — that they’re capable of feeling love and compassion that a lot of us can relate to. Dogs bring out the best in people. It makes perfect sense that a presidential candidate would want to feature their dog, because in doing so they’re showing their best side as well.”
So far, it seems to be working. The Warren campaign’s most viewed Instagram video since her Dec. 31 launch is not of Warren talking to crowds in Iowa or South Carolina, but a simple sequence of her coming home and Bailey racing to the door to greet her.
One supporter’s sentiment expressed over Twitter: “Elizabeth Warren has a golden retriever named Bailey and she put a GoPro on him at her speaking event. She has my vote.” An outside Twitter account emerged, @FirstDogBailey, complete with “Run Bailey Run!” memes.
After Warren posted pictures of herself washing Bailey before a campaign event, an account on Twitter named “We Rate Dogs,” which has 7.8 million followers, commented: “omg.” Warren responded, then a back-and-forth ensued that drew tens of thousands of interactions.
Then there’s the memorabilia. “He’s a Very Good Boy,” reads the tagline to a “Bailey for First Dog” handkerchief, selling for $18 on Warren’s online merchandise site. “Help make sure he gets to run laps on the White House lawn.”
“Ted Kennedy kept his Portuguese water dog around with him everywhere. It’s a Massachusetts thing,” said Debra Kozikowski, vice chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. “It’s genuine. I’m glad he’s becoming a service to the campaign. I’m glad he’s raising her money, like any good family member should be doing for another family member.”
“This isn’t like a phonied up, photo op,” Kozikowski added. “She really loves that dog. She loves her husband too, by the way.”
Ken Snyder of Snyder Pickerill Media Group, which makes political ads, said featuring a dog in a TV spot is an easy way to bring warmth and familiarity to a candidate. But like most things in politics, if it’s inauthentic, people will sniff it out.
Even when there’s a genuine connection between candidate and animal, the cute pet bump will only get you so far.
“No one’s getting elected to any office because of their dog,” Snyder said. “I don’t even think a dog catcher would get elected simply because they’re shooting themselves with their dog.”
While it seems clear Warren’s campaign is milking every bit of good will — and every dollar — that Bailey can summon, the senator’s love of dogs isn’t new. During her first run for Senate in 2012, she posted photos on social media of her golden retriever, Otis. A mainstay at her Harvard offices, Otis died just before Warren won that race.
Warren spoke to a Boston Globe columnist at the time about the loss, in a column entitled “Elizabeth Warren’s Private Agony.”
“It’s the lack of complication,” she said then. “I could spend time just running my hands through Otis’s coat, drawing circles in his short fur, and thumping him on the side, his big hollow chest, you know that sound. It’s possible to get lost in there. And that’s what I needed.”
Alex Thompson contributed to this report.