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While Campaigning For Other Democrats, Sen. Warren Gains Fans

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We report next on a woman who's become a focus of presidential speculation. Hillary Clinton, of course, is an overwhelming front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but Elizabeth Warren has excited a lot of Democratic activists. The Massachusetts senator is spending her summer traveling the country.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

She is campaigning for other Democrats which, of course, puts her in front of a lot of crowds. Today she'll visit Detroit addressing the Netroots Nation conference. That's a major annual gathering of progressive activists. Warren's tough stance on Wall Street has made her a fast-rising star. Here's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: In Detroit, in Louisville, in Cleveland, in states considered blue, red or battleground, this is what it sounds like when Elizabeth Warren makes an entrance.

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GONYEA: This particular event was earlier this week in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a long way, politically, demographically and economically from Warren's home state of Massachusetts. She was campaigning for Natalie Tennant who's in an uphill fight to keep the state's U.S. Senate seat in Democratic hands. Warren's politics are far more liberal than those of West Virginia - even West Virginia Democrats. But she keeps her message focused on the tough times for people who, Warren says, don't get a fair shake.

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SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN: I'll tell you how I see this. Citibank, Goldman Sachs, all those other guys on Wall Street - they've got plenty of folks in the United States Senate who are willing to work on their side. We need some more people willing to work on the side of America's families. That's what we need to do.

GONYEA: Then there's her own personal story and blue-collar roots - her father's heart attack when she was 12, which caused the family to lose their station wagon and almost the house. She became a teacher, then an attorney, then a Harvard professor.

WARREN: I'm the daughter of the janitor, and I ended up in the United States Senate. America is truly a great country.

GONYEA: The enthusiasm around Senator Warren - the crowds - the Democrats asking her to come campaign with them and the way she keeps getting asked about a White House bid bring to mind the early buzz for another newly elected U.S. senator who excited the left - Barack Obama back in 2006. Bridgid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair University also points to this.

BRIDGID HARRISON: One of the issues that Senator Warren is most known for and the thing that she's talking about across the country is the student loan interest rate issue. This is something that resonates with many young voters, and I think that this is one potential vehicle for garnering the support of that very important constituency that really kind of has been silent and sleeping for the past six years.

GONYEA: About 400 people packed the hotel ballroom for Warren's event in Shepherdstown. They also couldn't help talking about whether Warren will change her tune about pursuing the presidency. A lot of people here said they like Hillary Clinton, as well - like 64-year-old Karen Gorrel who says she'd like to see Warren run.

KAREN GORREL: I think so. Go for it. I would - we would support her. And I love Hillary Clinton. I would support Hillary Clinton but...

GONYEA: Given a choice between her and Hillary?

GORREL: Don't make me do that.

GONYEA: For now, any real talk of 2016 will have to wait. In the meantime, Warren will continue her travels trying to elect Democrats in 2014 and picking up political friends along the way. Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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