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Sen. Scott Brown will be up for re-election in a little less than a year. As we heard Monday, Brown said he's not campaigning yet. Although, he has amassed a sizable $10 million war chest. There are four Democrats vying to challenge him. But his most likely challenger is Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
One test of political candidates is how they react to criticism. Warren got a test like that last week at a volunteer meeting in Brockton. About 200 people crowded into a VFW hall there.
Warren was about to launch into her stump speech when a middle-aged man near the front of the room stood up and interrupted. The man said he was unemployed and asked about Occupy Wall Street and whether Warren takes credit for the intellectual foundation of that movement.
"Is that true?" he asked.
"Sir, let me say two things," Warren replied. "I'm very sorry to hear that you've been out of work. I'm also very sorry that the recent jobs bill, that would've brought 22,000 jobs to Massachusetts, did not pass... I'm also, since you asked, I also want to say about Occupy Wall Street, I've been protesting what's been going on on Wall Street for a very long time.
"It is, as I've said, it is an independent and organic movement. They must of course obey the law like everybody else, but they have their own agenda and they will develop it as they develop it."
"Well, you're the intellectual creator of that property, as far as I'm concerned, you're a socialist whore, I don't want anything to do with you, and your boss is a foreign-born Marxist pig," the man said.
With that, the man walked out as Warren's supporters told him to leave.
"It's alright," Warren responded. "So, we are here to do work, and I think we have a reminder that we have a lot of work to do."
"She dealt with him and then she moved on, and that's what we need to do as Democrats," said Kristina Meservey, who saw the exchange online. She's a retired nurse practitioner on Cape Cod, and came out to see Warren at a campaign stop in Orleans.
"Democrats have wasted a lot of energy. The Democrats need to talk about positive things, proactive things," she said.
Political observers weren't sure if Warren would be able to raise money or garner much support locally. She surprised everyone when she raised $3.5 million in about three weeks.
Now Warren is spending time in public halls like the one in Brockton. She's drawn as many as 500 people to volunteer events in Framingham and Pittsfield — that's a lot for a first-time candidate at this stage in a campaign.
Like any new candidate, she's still polishing her stump speech. She's got this crowd-pleaser:
The way I look at this, I went from being the daughter of a maintenance man, to being a fancy-pants professor at Harvard Law School. America is a great country.
And then, she's got a few rough patches:
So, when you look at the numbers — forgive me, I'm a teacher, it will never go away — but if you look at the numbers, year over year America's GDP goes up and the median earnings of a fully employed male go up right in lockstep. In other words, the country got richer and families got richer and we did it together.
But then she reels them back in with a rousing finale:
We turned into a country in which some of the most profitable companies in our country pay nothing in taxes, while we say to young people, "You're just going to have to take on more debt to get an education." And we say to seniors, "You're just going to have to learn to live on less." That is wrong. That is not America.
And here's where she gets them on their feet:
What do we value most as a country? Are we here to protect those who've already made it, to say that "You know, you get to keep every crumb of it, and shut everyone else out." Or are we here to say, "You make it big, God bless, good for you, keep a whole lot of it. But you've gotta take a piece of it, and you've gotta pay forward. You've gotta invest so the next kid can make it, and the kid after that and the kid after that."
If you follow Warren around on the trail, you'll hear a lot of gratitude.
"I just wanted to thank you for running, and taking all of the slings and arrows that I know are gonna come," one supporter told Warren.
Many of these people have been following Warren since she went to Washington to start the government consumer watchdog agency. Then President Obama appointed someone else to lead it.
Most people who see her at these meetings say she's their dream candidate. But some need more convincing.
"In order to support you, I would love to know what you're for, and to what you are opposed," said Bob Costello, who lives in Foxborough.
Costello voted for Brown last time and said he doesn't want to vote for him again.
"Absolutely, and we'll keep building it up on the website. But the short version, just so you understand it, is to think of it this way. If it's advancing our future. If you're investing in education, in infrastructure, in transportation and renewable energy. That's how we build a future," Warren responded.
Because she's about $7 million behind Brown, Warren's future depends on how well she can build a grassroots infrastructure with her brand of populism.
This program aired on November 9, 2011.
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