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It is official, and the race is on. Elizabeth Warren has begun her quest to be the next senator from Massachusetts.
As expected Wednesday, the Democrat and consumer advocate officially launched her bid to unseat Republican Sen. Scott Brown — who last year won the seat long held by Ted Kennedy.
Warren spent the day introducing herself to voters in several communities across the state. She started in the Broadway T stop in South Boston, where she told morning commuters why she's running.
"The middle class has been squeezed, chipped, hammered for a generation now, and Washington doesn't seem to get it," Warren told commuters.
Warren is a 62-year-old Harvard Law School professor with a reputation as a tell-it-like-it-is consumer advocate. President Obama picked her to set up the new consumer protection agency, which she did. But her fiery anti-corporate rhetoric earned her the enmity of many Washington Republicans, and Obama opted not to make her the agency's first director. So she returned to Massachusetts, and now joins a field of five other Democrats who hope to unseat Scott Brown.
Warren announced her candidacy on a video posted online. She made it clear that her campaign will be based on the same message she has delivered for years: middle class Americans are under assault; Washington doesn't get it, and corporate America has all the advantages.
Warren argues middle class families have been savaged by a one-two punch: stagnant income and rising costs for the basics.
"A big company like GE pays nothing in taxes and we're asking college students to take on even more debt to get an education," Warren said Wednesday morning. "We're telling seniors they may have to learn to live on less. It isn't right, and it's the reason I'm running for the United States Senate."
As a Harvard law professor, Warren focused much of her attention and work on bankruptcy, the credit industry and the declining fortunes of working American families. Now that she's a candidate for the Senate, she might have to choose her words somewhat carefully. But three years ago, back when she was still a Harvard Professor, I spoke to her about the declining fortunes of the middle class.
"There was a time in post-war America when all the laws were aimed at, 'How do we strengthen the middle class? How do we help poor people? Support education?'" Warren said. "The middle class is no longer the protected group in America — it's become 'Find your profits by carving it out of the flesh of middle class families.'"
Warren argues middle class families have been savaged by a one-two punch: stagnant income and rising costs for the basics, such as housing, food, gasoline, health care and child care. Then she says, the real estate bubble and a run-away banking industry hit them with mounting debt.
In the coming campaign, Warren will preach that the middle class is under siege. Here's the way she put it to me three years ago:
"It used to be the case if you got an education and a job and bought a house, like everyone else...you couldn't go broke. Today, you can be pretty conservative and you can still find yourself in a debt hell that you didn't believe existed."
At the T station in South Boston, Warren delivered that same message and made it sound personal. Warren, who comes from Oklahoma, is telling Massachusetts voters that she grew up on the "ragged edge of the middle class," and will fight for working families.
"I've stood up to some pretty powerful interests," Warren said. "I've gone toe-to-toe with them and didn't back down."
Democrats have been looking for a strong challenger to Brown, who has $10 million to defend his seat and, according to polls, is one of the state's most popular politicians.
Warren has never run for public office before, so she clearly has a steep hill to climb. But her high profile and populist message could find a receptive audience — especially in these difficult economic times.
This segment aired on September 14, 2011.
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