LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren made her bid for the presidency official on Saturday in this working-class city, grounding her 2020 campaign in a populist call to fight economic inequality and build “an America that works for everyone.”
Warren delivered a sharp call for change at her presidential kickoff, decrying a “middle-class squeeze” that has left Americans crunched with “too little accountability for the rich, too little opportunity for everyone else.” She and her backers hope that message can distinguish her in a crowded Democratic field and help her move past the controversy surrounding her past claims to Native American heritage.
Weaving specific policy prescriptions into her remarks, from Medicare for All to the elimination of Washington “lobbying as we know it,” Warren avoided taking direct jabs at President Donald Trump. She aimed for a broader institutional shift instead, urging supporters to choose “a government that makes different choices, choices that reflect our values.”
Trump “is not the cause of what’s broken,” Warren told an elated crowd without using the president’s name. “He’s just the latest — and most extreme — symptom of what’s gone wrong in America.”
In a tweet, Trump referenced the controversy over her Native American identity, once again using the insulting nickname he’s given her.
“Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President,” Trump tweeted. “Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!”
Warren announced her campaign in her home state of Massachusetts at a mill site where factory workers went on strike in the early 20th century, a fitting forum for the longtime consumer advocate to advance her platform.
Supporters turned out in below-freezing temperatures, many hoisting signs — “Win With Warren,” one read. A Massachusetts bakery created “Persist” cookies for the event to honor the candidate’s slogan, “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” words first spoken in the Senate to rebuke her.
Warren’s rollout rally was a potent motivator for longtime supporters such as Mo Malekafzaly and Carlos Garcia, two longtime backers who attended her rally from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
The choice of Lawrence to start her campaign “shows who she’s fighting for,” Garcia said. Asked if fellow New Englander Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, could pose a serious threat to Warren in New Hampshire’s critical primary should he get into the race, Garcia said Warren is “such an effective communicator that I think that people will respond to that very well.”
Warren went straight from her kickoff to New Hampshire, home to the nation’s first primary, where her campaign projected 350 people turned out for an event in the city of Dover. She plans to spend today in Iowa, where the leadoff caucuses will be the first test of candidates’ viability.
Warren was the first high-profile Democrat to signal interest in running for the White House, forming an exploratory committee on New Year’s Eve.
She was endorsed and introduced Saturday by Massachusetts Democrats Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Kennedy’s backing could prove valuable for Warren, given his status as a rising young Democratic star and his friendship with one of her potential 2020 rivals, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas.
Warren enters the race as one of the party’s most recognizable figures. She has spent the past decade in the national spotlight, first emerging as a consumer activist during the financial crisis. She later led the congressional panel that oversaw the 2008 financial industry bailout. After Republicans blocked her from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency she helped create, she ran for the Senate in 2012 and unseated a GOP incumbent.
She has $11 million left over from her commanding 2018 Senate re-election victory that can be used on her presidential run.
Still, Warren must compete against other popular Democrats who will be able to raise substantial money. A recent CNN poll found fewer Democrats said they’d be very likely to support Warren if she runs than said the same of former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, and Sanders. Still, about as many Democrats said they’d be at least somewhat likely to support Warren as said the same of Harris or Sanders.
That challenge is on display this weekend as Democratic presidential contenders — or those considering a run — fan out across the crucial early-voting states. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is in Iowa, while New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is visiting South Carolina. Another possible presidential rival, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, planned to be in New Hampshire on Saturday, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar is announcing her bid today in her home state of Minnesota.