It’s been two weeks since Senator Elizabeth Warren announced she was exploring a bid for president, and she has since made campaign swings through Iowa and New Hampshire. We gathered several of our political reporters — Jess Bidgood, Liz Goodwin, Victoria McGrane, and James Pindell — to answer questions via Slack Monday about her nascent campaign:
When Elizabeth Warren entered the race, she faced some criticism about her candidacy — everything from her DNA test release to questions about her ‘likability’ (more on that later). But her first two weeks seemed to have gone well. What’s made that possible, and will that make a difference a year from now?
McGrane: I think a key reason for the change in narrative about Warren: She’s actually out there running, meeting voters, campaigning — that gives reporters something tangible to cover versus the musings of the pundit class. Plus, Warren is better at retail politics than many in the media were aware and Warren and her team in various ways used her 2018 Senate re-election campaign to practice the sort of events we’ve seen her put on in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Goodwin: I thought her NYE announcement was kind of bizarre at first, but it’s looking like a very smart move to get out early and reset the narrative about her. As to whether that will matter in a year? Seems like the answer is no, because most voters are really waiting to hear from the other candidates before making a decision, as well.
Bidgood: Going early allowed her to roll out her message without getting drowned out by the noise of other candidates — and to capitalize on the general rush of Democratic enthusiasm around defeating President Trump, with cheering crowds and at-capacity events. I agree with Liz that this won’t matter so much a year from now. It will become harder to break through like that as more candidates get in.
Goodwin: I think it’s also clear that a lot of voters associate any criticism of her claims to native heritage with Trump, and are not at all riled up by the critique of her DNA test that came more recently from the progressive left. I do think they still have serious questions about her electability, however, but those aren’t totally centered around the DNA stuff.
Pindell: Warren is better off politically than she was two weeks ago. Back then there were headlines about whether her campaign was over before it started. Now her campaign, while not perfect, is treated as serious and top-tier. Her events in Iowa and New Hampshire — where there were hundreds interested to see her and she made a good impression — now serve as a marker from which to judge other candidates.
For those of you who have spent time on the trail with Warren, what are your big takeaways from her stump speech? What are a few words that encompass the top issues she’s talking about?
Bidgood: Her stump speech is a distillation of the themes that have propelled her political rise: economic populism, with an ever-sharper focus on corruption in Washington. She has added a focus on race and discrimination to her analysis of the economy’s problems. It’s a scathing picture of an economy she says needs structural change, but she has been careful not to explicitly name Trump as the villain.
Goodwin: She keeps emphasizing how she doesn’t want to “nibble around the edges” of the problems in Washington. She wants bold “systemic change” to the rules so they are no longer tilted against regular people and in favor of corporations. She ties this into the story of her own personal life growing up in Oklahoma when economic mobility was easier because the government invested more in education, etc. (You’ll hear a lot about how little she paid for commuter college and law school.)
Bidgood: Me, too. She is known as this liberal firebrand from Massachusetts, and I think she is trying to use her earlier upbringing to appeal to voters elsewhere, and to suggest that the issues she cares about can have a broader appeal.
Pindell: I have found her new 15-minute stump speech interesting for a number of reasons. There is more Oklahoma than Massachusetts. There is an almost technocratic vision of how to change the rules in Washington, rather than a broad theme focused on anger, frustration, hope or change. For example, the word “rules” — as in rules of politics or the rules driving income inequality — is probably the one that comes up the most in her stump.
One word not in…