The anti-Elizabeth Warren narrative was written before the Massachusetts senator even announced she was exploring a presidential run.

She’s too divisive and too liberal, Washington Democrats have complained privately. Her DNA rollout was a disaster — and quite possibly a White House deal-breaker. She’s already falling in the polls, and — perhaps most stinging — shares too many of the attributes that sank Hillary Clinton.

In the year of the woman, it adds up to one unwelcome mat for the most prominent woman likely to be part of the 2020 field. But it also presents an unmistakable challenge: How does Warren avoid a Clinton redux — written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground?

In interviews with POLITICO, nearly a half-dozen current and former Warren advisers and associates acknowledged the rap on her, even as they dismissed it as little more than D.C. chatter. Any comparison to Clinton will recede, they said, once Warren hits the campaign trail in early states and weaves her own narrative in front of real voters. Amplified by an advanced video and digital operation her team has assembled over the past year-and-a-half, in part to help humanize her as a candidate, Warren will quickly remind people of her early years as an anti-Wall Street, pro-consumer crusader, they argue.

Those attributes will thrust her back to the front of the Democratic pack, those close to Warren predict.

“Elizabeth is not that,” a onetime Warren adviser said of portrayals of the senator as cold or unlikable. The person was given anonymity to address the Clinton comparison frankly. “I don’t think it’s fair. I know her. I think she is a warm and affectionate person. Once she’s on the stump and gets going on her economic message, she’s quite good … Hillary had three decades’ worth of animosity — it was just the way the world had treated her — that had built a crust around her that you really couldn’t penetrate. I don’t feel like Elizabeth has that kind of edge to her.”

“All of us are just scratching our heads over why this is happening. She has a great operation, she’s very smart about it all,” added Warren’s biographer, Antonia Felix. “She’s not just a viable candidate, she’s someone who can actually win. It’s like they’re throwing cold water on that.”

Others see sexism in the barrage of Warren criticism and alleged parallels to Clinton. If there’s a public perception that’s personally rankled Warren, it’s the depiction that she’s cold, according to one of her former advisers.

“They say that about women — anybody who runs for president. As you go up the political ladder and go up in the polls, you will get that criticism,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist. “First it was Hillary Clinton. Then it was Nancy Pelosi. Now it’s Elizabeth Warren. Who knows who is behind her.”

Fair or not, Warren will have work to do to overcome wariness of her likely candidacy. A USA Today/Suffolk poll released last week assessing excitement behind potential 2020 Democratic candidates showed a net negative for Warren — more people opposed the idea of her candidacy for president than supported it. And a quarterly poll of Iowa Democrats saw Warren’s standing among potential White House seekers drop 7 percentage points — 16 percent to 9 percent — from September to December.

Likely driving those numbers was the DNA episode, which dominated media coverage of Warren in the weeks leading up to the midterms. Unlike her counterparts in the Senate who are eyeing a White House run, Warren skipped visits to Iowa and even nearby New Hampshire during the campaign.

Though Warren wasn’t absent from the election — she spent or helped raise $11 million for Democratic candidates in early states and other competitive midterm races — skipping early states and the usual media bump that goes with those trips arguably contributed to her struggle so far to craft a national narrative.

“From an earned-media perspective she hasn’t been out defining herself. She’s been defined by the speculative echo chamber that is Washington and” potential Democratic 2020 rivals, said Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson.

Warren’s camp has been taking steps to prepare for her first full-fledged introduction to a national audience. In 2017, the campaign hired on a full-time videographer and now has several staffers dedicated solely to video. So far, Warren has invested more heavily in her digital infrastructure than any of her potential 2020 Democratic competitors.

One purpose of the ubiquitous video is to capture Warren in more relatable, personable moments and move them to social media platforms. Last week, for instance, while waiting at the airport for holiday travel, Warren recorded what looked to be an off-the-cuff video blasting President Donald Trump for his “tantrum” that prompted a government shutdown.

Felix and other longtime associates of Warren say the senator’s ability to explain kitchen table economic issues to middle-class voters will shatter any “Pocahontas” caricature built up by the right. Those skills will become evident once she starts traveling to early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which is expected in January. Once Warren is in front of crowds, they say, her bona fides as a working-class champion that shot her to national prominence, with best-selling books and daytime television sessions with Dr. Phil, will break through, they argue.

When it comes to the questions about her likability, Warren’s been there before.

In her first Senate campaign in 2012, Warren ran on a populist economic message but was depicted as detached from the average voter — someone who dined with intellectuals at Harvard — while her competitor positioned himself as a regular guy.

“We were running against a Republican in Scott Brown whose whole case was likability. He was the person you wanted to have a beer with,” said Doug Rubin, a Boston-based Democratic consultant who worked on Warren’s 2012 campaign. Rubin said what ultimately resonated with voters was Warren’s ability to explain the complex economic issues that average people face. “I think there is a real power in her values and her work.”

Warren’s reputation as standoffish stemmed in part from the arms-length distance at which she kept reporters in the Senate hallways, where until recently she rarely stopped for interviews. The early intent was for Warren to project more “workhorse than showhorse,” but a different perception took hold.

“It got under Warren’s skin,” the former adviser said. Warren would say: “‘Now I’m being portrayed as this aloof person.’ She didn’t like that.”

Kate Donaghue, a grass-roots Democratic organizer and Democratic National Committee member in Boston, described Warren as someone who thrives on relationships: calling all of her major supporters on their birthdays, moving to the other side of a crowded room to give a quick hello hug, and often being the main star at Donaghue’s annual holiday party.

But like Clinton, gendered terms like “shrill” or “scoldy,” are already ascribed to Warren, as people dismiss her as a viable 2020 contender, said Adam Jentleson, a progressive strategist and former staffer to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). What’s been lost in recent coverage of Warren, he said, are her talents as a public speaker who can connect with the average person.

“She is an extremely powerful speaker, and I think that’s something that is not mentioned very often and I wonder why,” he said. “The case against her is she’s too divisive, she’s made some missteps and therefore she’s done. I think people who think that haven’t seen her work a room recently. … Anybody who discounts her raw power as a speaker is making a big mistake.”

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But the biggest criticism facing Warren was her October decision to release a DNA test in defense of her claims of Native American heritage. The move, and the way she carried it out, was roundly blasted as a political miscalculation. She was criticized for seeming to play into Trump’s taunts of her as “Pocahontas.”

Warren was also panned for the timing of the rollout, less than a month before critical midterm elections. Democrats called it a distraction at a time when party leaders needed to unify behind a message to defeat Republicans and some condemned her as having played into Trump’s hands.

To Warren’s team, addressing claims of Native American ancestry and whether they played a role in Warren’s ascent as an academic at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law was a necessary evil that was dealt with over the course of months in 2018. That included opening up to The Boston Globe, which in an investigation found that Warren’s ancestry claims played no role in her hiring at Harvard or four prior positions at other law schools.

If Warren were to run for president, it was an issue that had to be detonated with plenty of breathing room before the 2020 cycle, several sources with knowledge of the decision said.

So far, though, it has stubbornly stuck around.

Patty Judge, the former Iowa lieutenant governor who funds the quarterly Iowa poll that saw Warren’s approval fall by 7 points, attributed the drop to the negative reports after Warren’s DNA release. That could change once Warren brandishes her retail side, she said.

“She’s dynamite when you’re with her. She’s magnetic. She’s very compelling,” Judge said. “Probably what she needs to do is get out here and get a lane established for herself.”