Elizabeth Warren Brings Her Populist Presidential Campaign To New Hampshire

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during an event at Manchester Community College in Manchester, N.H., Saturday. (Michael Dwyer/AP)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during an event at Manchester Community College in Manchester, N.H., Saturday. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

One week after her trip across Iowa, Elizabeth Warren resumed the early stages of her presidential campaign in New Hampshire on Saturday. The Massachusetts Democrat brought her populist message to two events in the Granite State, home of the first-in-the-nation primary.

In Iowa, Warren’s job was to introduce herself to a state that didn’t know much about her. But in New Hampshire, Warren has the advantage of being the senator from the state next door.

“So this is great, and I’m so excited,” Warren said to a crowd of several hundred people at Manchester Community College. “This is just coming to see our next-door neighbors.”

But sometimes neighbors need to reintroduce themselves, which is what Warren did. As she did in Iowa, she told the story of her childhood in Oklahoma, where, after her father suffered a heart attack, her mother had to hold the family together with a minimum wage job.

“You know what Washington was asking back when I was a kid?” Warren asked the crowd, before offering the answer: ‘“What does it take for a family of three to survive?’ Today, do you know what they ask about the minimum wage? ‘What increases the profitability of giant companies?’ I am in this fight because I think they should be asking about little families instead of about giant multinational corporations.”

Warren says this explains why so many working Americans are struggling to pay for housing, childcare and college. Referring again to her own story, Warren said she attended a commuter college for $50 a semester. Warren said, by contrast, current federal policies contribute to $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.

“Today, America has said to kids who want to get an education, ‘great, if you’re born into a well-to-do family,’ ” Warren said. “If not, you’ve got to shoulder a huge debt burden.”

Warren calls policies like these the result of “corruption, pure and simple,” and she advocates for big structural changes in the way government works — beginning with a package of anti-corruption measures that would end revolving door lobbying, among other things.

“We need to make everyone who runs for public federal office put their tax returns online,” Warren insisted.

That was as close as Warren came to mentioning President Trump, who has never disclosed his tax returns.

In the past, Warren has called Trump “a thin-skinned, racist bully,” but since announcing her exploratory presidential committee two weeks ago, she has refrained from attacking the president.

“We need to talk about our affirmative vision,” Warren said Saturday. “I'm willing to fight. Everybody knows that. The question is, how do we build an America that works not just for those at the top but an America that works for everyone else?”

There’s little doubt that Warren’s populist message of anti-corruption reform, along with her pledge to run a campaign free of corporate PAC money, is supposed to stand in stark contrast to Trump’s Washington.

It’s a message that appealed to many in the crowd in Manchester.

“[Donald Trump] is so corrupt that I think that’s going to be his downfall,” said Adam Rosenthal of Concord, who believes Warren has the background and the record to challenge the president.

“She took on the financial industry in the United States, and I think she’s well equipped to go after [Trump] because I think she’s one of the true champions of a balanced economy and of taking the corruption out of it.”

Yvonne Howard of North Sutton, New Hampshire, agrees with that sentiment and says “honesty” is the most important quality a presidential candidate can have. Howard likes what she heard from Warren, but with the New Hampshire primary still a year away, she’s not ready to commit.

“The best thing about living in New Hampshire is that we will have a lot of opportunities to see a lot of different people,” Howard said. “That is the true New Hampshire advantage. I’m hoping that [Warren is] the one, but you can never tell.”

Warren is the first major candidate to launch a 2020 White House bid, which gives her an important head start in the race for financial support and staff. And being the senator from the state next door, she’ll have a built-in advantage in the state's primary.

“She enters the race with history on her side,” according to Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire. “Massachusetts candidates, going back to Michael Dukakis, do very well in New Hampshire.”

On the other hand, Scala says Warren’s challenge will be to live up to those high expectations — and not to give the Granite State short shrift.

“There’s always concern — especially among New Hampshire activists — that they’re being taken for granted, especially by candidates with a lot of name ID from the state next door,” Scala said.

What is likely be a crowded Democratic field is already growing. On Saturday, Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and housing secretary under President Obama, announced that he’s running for president. And on Friday, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said she’s in.

Meanwhile, Republicans are already taking aim at Warren.

“Granite State voters will see through today’s dog-and-pony show for what Elizabeth Warren really is: a phony who has repeatedly fumbled delivery on the national stage,” said Mandi Merritt, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee.

But Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic political consultant, said following her well-received early launch in Iowa last week and her first appearance in New Hampshire, Warren has impressed a lot of Democrats.

“I’m not saying Elizabeth Warren is going to win the nomination or be the next president,” Marsh said. “But, boy, she’s off to a terrific start.”

This segment aired on January 13, 2019.


Anthony Brooks Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.



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