The senator’s ‘I have a plan’ mantra has become a rallying cry as she edges her way to the top – but is it enough to get past the roadblocks of Biden and Sanders?
Plan by plan, Elizabeth Warren is making inroads and gaining on her rivals in the 2020 Democratic race to take on Donald Trump.
The former Harvard law professor’s policy heavy approach made an impression among activists at the She the People forum in Texas last month and was well-received at the California state party convention earlier this month.
This week a Morning Consult poll saw Warren break into the double digits at 10%, putting her in third place behind Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. A recent Economist/YouGov poll found Warren was making gains among liberal voters, with Democrats considering the Massachusetts senator for the Democratic presidential nomination in nearly equal measure with Sanders.
Her intense campaigning on a vast swathe of specific issues has achieved viral moments on the internet – even including one woman whom Warren advised on her love life – as well as playing well during recent television events.
At a televised town hall in Indiana this week, Warren listened intently as a woman who voted for Trump in 2016 described her disillusionment – not only with a president who failed to bring back manufacturing jobs as he said he promised but with an entire political system stymied by dysfunction.
“I feel duped,” said the voter, Renee Elliott, who was laid off from her job at the Indianapolis Carrier plant. “I don’t have a lot of faith in political candidates much anymore. They make promises. They make them and break them.”
Warren rose to her feet. “The thing is, you can’t just wave your arms,” the she said, gesturing energetically. “You’ve really got to have a plan – and I do have a plan.”
That mantra – a nod to the steady churn of policy blueprints Warren’s campaign has released – has become a rallying cry for Warren as she edges her way to the top of the crowded Democratic presidential primary field.
But despite the burst of momentum, Warren’s path to the nomination has two major roadblocks: Sanders and Biden. Her success will depend on whether she can deliver a one-two punch: replacing Sanders as the progressive standard bearer while building a coalition broad enough to rival Biden.
Warren began that work this week with a multi-stop tour of the midwest designed to show her strength among working class voters who supported Trump. Ahead of the visit, Warren unveiled a plan she described as “economic patriotism”, which earned startling praise from one of Trump’s most loyal supporters.
“She sounds like Donald Trump at his best,” conservative Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson told his largely Republican audience as he read from Warren’s proposal during the opening monologue of his show this week. The plan calls for “aggressive intervention on behalf of American workers” to boost the economy and create new jobs, including a $2tn investment in federal funding in clean energy programs.
His praise was all the more surprising because Warren has vowed not to participate in town halls on Fox News, calling the network a “hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists”.
The debate over whether Democrats should appear on Fox News for a town hall has divided the field. Sanders, whose televised Fox News town hall generated the highest viewership of any such event, argued that it is important to speak to the network’s massive and heavily Republican audience.
As Warren courts working-class voters in the midwest, she continues to focus heavily on the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. After jumping into the race on New Year’s Eve 2018, Warren immediately set to work, scooping up talent and building a massive operation in Iowa. Her campaign is betting a strong showing in the first in the nation caucuses will propel her in New Hampshire, which neighbors Massachusetts, and then boost her in Nevada and South Carolina.
But as Warren gains momentum, moderate candidates are becoming more vocal about their concern that choosing a nominee from the party’s populist wing will hand Trump the election.
“If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer,” former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper told Democrats in California last weekend. Though his comments were met with boos and jeers among the convention’s liberal crowd, his warning is at the heart of the debate over who should be the Democratic presidential nominee.
Warren has pointedly distinguished herself as a capitalist as opposed to a socialist or a democratic socialist, but she has not backed away from a populist platform that embraces sweeping economic reforms.
In her address to the California Democratic party, Warren rejected appeals for moderation.
“Some say if we all calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses,” she said. “But our country is in a time of crisis. The time for small ideas is over.”
Her economic focus is key
she will be able to appeal to the fanatical liberal base and still have a good message to win over White middle-class voters in key states.
That is fine... I make no secret about how I feel about the angry White women in pink hats that I think have far too much influence in the Democratic party. I figured using the word "fanatical" to describe the liberal base would be an example of me showing restraint.
I think "fanatical" is the right word for the way I feel about them.
Two months ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential hopes appeared to be fading. The Massachusetts Democrat’s poll numbers were stuck in the mid-single digits, placing her fourth or fifth among Democratic candidates. After swearing off high-dollar fundraisers, she had brought in less money in the first quarter than South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a relative unknown who was still building a national profile. Media coverage of Warren’s campaign focused less on her bold ideas than her perceived lack of “electability.” Summing up the conventional wisdom, one CNN headline proclaimed, “Why is Elizabeth Warren struggling? Democrats aren’t looking for policy.”
Yet, to borrow a phrase, Warren persisted. And with the first debate quickly approaching, she has jumped in the polls and emerged as the clear leader in the Democratic “ideas primary.”
Last week, Warren unveiled a sweeping new plan for what she calls “economic patriotism.” Her proposal calls for $2 trillion investment in clean energy, which she says would create more than a million jobs and advance the goals of the Green New Deal. In a boost to workers, the plan would require federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and offer 12 weeks of paid family leave. It would also convert the Commerce Department into a new Department of Economic Development, focused on job creation. By linking the causes of environmental and economic justice in one package, Warren is reimagining the American Dream for these times.
This deeply thoughtful and ambitious approach to policy has fueled Warren’s rise in the polls and spawned her unofficial (and highly memeable) campaign slogan, “I have a plan for that.” Just consider the range of issues on which Warren has not only offered a detailed policy but also influenced the terms of the debate. She has a plan to establish a universal child-care program that would relieve the burden on families and, importantly, raise caregivers’ pay. She has a plan to cancel the student debt of millions of Americans, staking out an even more aggressive position on the issue than Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Warren even has a plan to pay for her other plans with a wealth tax on the richest 0.1 percent of Americans.
On the stump, Warren has shown an ability to effectively connect these proposals to her own experiences, from the threat of losing her house as a child to her struggle to find affordable child care as a young mother. Meanwhile, she has rolled out several plans in shrewdly chosen locations. Warren introduced her $100 billion plan to address the opioid crisis ahead of a visit to West Virginia, the state with the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths. And she announced her plan to break up big tech companies ahead of a visit to Long Island City, N.Y., where Amazon intended to build its new campus before a backlash from local activists caused the company to reverse course.
What truly distinguishes Warren, however, is that her ideas add up to a bold and coherent vision for the future. In contrast with former vice president Joe Biden, who has said that President Trump is a historical “aberration,” Warren grasps how systemic corruption, which took root over the course of many years, created the conditions for Trump’s election. (For example, she has introduced anti-corruption legislation in the Senate to “padlock the revolving door between big business and government.”) And she’s offering a powerful, populist vision for ending American plutocracy.
That vision is clearly resonating with voters. Today, the candidate with supposed “electability issues” is drawing large, energetic crowds. While she remains behind Biden and Sanders, she is gaining in the polls and earning respect from people Democrats lost, either to Trump or to apathy, in 2016. A recent focus group of Trump voters in Iowa showed strong support for Warren’s policies, while a BlackPAC poll conducted in April found her in third place among black voters, with especially high favorables among those following the race closely. Far from being a divisive presence, as some predicted, Warren is showing how a bold, progressive agenda can be a unifying force.
Warren is certainly not the only Democrat in the field running on innovative, important ideas. Sanders, in particular, has built on his transformative 2016 campaign, with bolder proposals for public education and Medicare-for-all. One also hopes that Warren will show the same audacity and vision in foreign policy as the campaign continues. But no matter what happens, it’s now obvious that pundits who argued that Warren had missed her moment were wrong. The presidential race is better because she is in it.
Elizabeth Warren has pulled ahead of fellow senator Bernie Sanders for the first time in two new 2020 election polls released on Wednesday as the two candidates continue to battle for support from progressive voters.
Warren has climbed into second place among the crowded Democratic primary field, according to a survey conducted by The Economist/YouGov. Sixteen percent of those polled said they would support Warren if the Democratic presidential primary were held today, while 12 percent said they would vote for Sanders.
This is the first time since Warren entered the 2020 race that she has led Sanders by more than the margin of error in a national poll.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who was one of the last Democrats to enter the race, had the most support by far (26 percent) in The Economist/YouGov poll. The survey polled 1,500 U.S. adults from June 9 to June 11 and has a 3 percent margin of error.
Warren's winning streak continued in a Monmouth University poll of likely Nevada Democratic caucus-goers released Wednesday afternoon. Nineteen percent of those polled supported Warren, while 13 percent backed Sanders.
Again, Biden had the clear lead with 26 percent support among registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters. The survey polled 1,333 Democratic or unaffiliated Nevada voters from June 6 to June 11 and a 5 percent margin of error.
The Monmouth poll was the first time Warren has been ahead of Sanders in an early-voting state. The Nevada caucuses take place after New Hampshire and South Carolina, and is the westernmost of early-voting states in the presidential primary.
Both Sanders and Warren are considered the more progressive candidates in the 2020 field, churning out bold policy proposals that go after Wall Street and aim to break up large technology companies like Facebook. The two also have plans for free college tuition and universal health care.
On Wednesday, Sanders will outline his democratic socialist vision in an expansive speech at George Washington University. According to excerpts of his speech released by his 2020 campaign, Sanders will say that President Donald Trump loves socialism but not for the working class.
"While President Trump and his fellow oligarchs attack us for our support of democratic socialism, they don't really oppose all forms of socialism," Sanders will say. "They may hate democratic socialism because it benefits working people, but they absolutely love corporate socialism that enriches Trump and other billionaires."
Most national polling still shows Sanders ahead of Warren, but over the past few months the Massachusetts senator has been on the rise while the independent senator's numbers keep dropping. A Fox News survey in May showed Warren had gained 5 percentage points since March while Sanders had dropped 6 points.
That trend continued in Wednesday's The Economist/YouGov survey, where Sanders had dropped 4 percentage points from the week prior. Warren, on the other hand, was up 5 percentage points from the week before.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Pete Buttigieg ran through his stump speech (six minutes on generational change), tossed bean bags with activists (in front of as many cameras as Iowa voters), took seven questions from reporters (“How does it feel to be a rock star?”) and pounded out some blues on an electric keyboard (a Miles Davis tune).
If Mr. Buttigieg didn’t spend much time talking to voters at his campaign picnic on Sunday, he did stick to his winning formula: doing everything possible to reach bigger audiences on their screens.
More than most of his Democratic rivals, Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has cracked the code of the early months of the presidential campaign, embracing TV appearances while mastering the art of creating moments for social media and cable news. The 37-year-old’s campaign was the first to grasp that the early primary race would unfold on mobile devices and televisions instead of at the traditional town-hall gatherings and living rooms in the early states.
He’s not alone: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has inundated reporters with policy proposals, prompting hours of cable news coverage and forcing fellow candidates to respond to her ideas during live interviews.
Over the first six months of the presidential campaign, Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Warren have out-maneuvered the other 21 Democratic candidates, demonstrating an innate understanding of the value of viral moments and nonstop exposure that drives politics in the Trump era.
Mr. Buttigieg, a man who has made himself all but unavoidable for comment, rode a wave of positive press about his personal story: a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar who, during his two terms as mayor, has served in Afghanistan as a Naval intelligence officer, come out as gay and gotten married. In doing so, he reached the first tier of Democratic presidential candidates.
Ms. Warren took the opposite route to the same destination. Rather than lean into her biography, she rolled out unusually detailed domestic policy plans to grab headlines and inspire activists. She also earned attention for her devotion to taking photographs with every attendee at her events who wants one — more than 30,000 to date, she said on Sunday.
The two have seen their strategies pay dividends. Each vaulted to the top of a major poll of Iowa Democrats released last weekend by the Des Moines Register and CNN, which placed Ms. Warren and Mr. Buttigieg in a virtual tie for second place with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, behind former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. And on Wednesday, Ms. Warren surpassed Mr. Sanders in a poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Nevada, another key early voting state.
Unlike many of their rivals, who built their political careers in the era of carefully chosen, less-is-more press interaction, the two have placed their fate in the hands of TV bookers and the gods of online viral content.
Erik Smith, a Democratic strategist who worked on Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, said none of the candidates or their staffers have experience running in such a crowded primary contest, which puts a premium on the need to be nimble and creative. “They’re used to having a two-way primary and a two-way general,” he said. “Those habits don’t serve you well in a multicandidate primary, particularly one as long and substantive as this.”
Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Warren began their rise in the public polling as they became more frequent presences on cable TV. Since April 1, the most-mentioned Democratic presidential candidates on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are Mr. Biden, Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren and Mr. Buttigieg, according to data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive.
Mr. Buttigieg, who rose from 1 percent support to 14 percent in three months in polling conducted for the Des Moines Register and CNN, has been powered largely by his appearances on televised town hall-style programs, which have helped him create a fund-raising colossus rivaled only by Mr. Biden’s when it comes to tapping major donors, said Rufus Gifford, the finance chairman for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.
“It’s Trumpian, to a certain extent, in that it’s refreshing in its honesty,” said Mr. Gifford, who has co-hosted fund-raising events for both Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg and has made the maximum $2,800 contribution to Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California. “There’s something about him where he feels less polished than the other candidates in the race, in a good way.”
Darcie Derby, a 43-year-old who works at a Cedar Rapids logistics company, said she first saw Mr. Buttigieg during his February appearance on Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk show. Since then she and her sister have been sharing Buttigieg stories and memes on their Facebook pages, she said.
“I’m looking for something fresh and new for America,” said Ms. Derby, who wore a black shirt bearing the phonetic pronunciation of his name: “BOOT EDGE EDGE.”
“I watched him and I was like, ‘I really like this guy,’” she said.
As Mr. Buttigieg stumped across Iowa last weekend, he encountered admirers familiar with his television performances and curious to hear more about him. He spent an hour touring Mason City, trailed by reporters as he popped into a store, visited a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel and took a look at Willow Creek, which runs through town.
His tour finished at a brewpub, the only place he encountered multiple voters, a couple dozen who were enjoying a midday drink. Mr. Buttigieg ordered a root beer. “I’m still on the clock,” he said.
“There’s a buzz about him where people want to learn more about him. They’ve seen him on cable news,” Paul Adams, Mason City’s mayor pro tem, said while Mr. Buttigieg mingled inside Fat Hill Brewing. “For most people, the interaction with a candidate is going to be from TV. In these types of settings, anybody can do well.”
While speaking with reporters across the street on the picturesque town square — called Central Park — Mr. Buttigieg acknowledged his recent political success was because of his ability to use his TV appearances to make a case that he is a unique candidate in the field.
“It helps especially when the field is so crowded, crowded almost to the point of people feeling like it’s cluttered,” Mr. Buttigieg said.
Of the rest of the field, which includes seven senators, six current or former House members and three current or former governors, Mr. Buttigieg said, “I think many of them will be viewed as kind of forming clumps.”
Ms. Warren has also used a nonstop media push to separate herself from the second tier of candidates.
She rolled out her plan to break up big tech companies in New York at a moment when anger at Amazon for planning an expansion in Queens was near its peak. Later she introduced an opioids proposal during a trip to West Virginia. The Des Moines Register got the exclusive on her proposal to fight corporate agriculture.
Ms. Warren attributed her recent polling rise — from 9 percent to 15 percent in the Register’s surveys — to her ability to make Democrats aware of what she would do as president. At a gathering Sunday in Cedar Rapids, Ms. Warren’s staffers chanted, “I’m a Warren Democrat,” an implicit assertion that she has created her own lane in the crowded field.
“It’s about having ideas,” Ms. Warren said. “About being able to say specifically, ‘Here’s what’s gone wrong in this country, how corruption has put us on the wrong path,’ and then having very specific plans to go after it.”
Asked if it was difficult to attract attention in the crowded field, Ms. Warren offered a one-word response: “No.”
In April and May, Ms. Warren and Mr. Buttigieg outspent most of the Democratic field in advertisements on Facebook and Google. Ms. Warren spent $1.1 million and Mr. Buttigieg $975,700, according to tracking from Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic political firm. Only Mr. Biden, who spent $1.5 million after his late-April campaign launch, and Ms. Harris, whose campaign spent $1 million, are close.
“I hear about all her new policies on Twitter,” said Madeline Kelley, a Warren supporter and Cedar Rapids college student who brought her dog, Doc, to wave signs for the senator.
Other Democratic candidates looking up in the polls are less than thrilled about the attention being paid to front-runners.
“More power to them,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. “People will peak at different moments. I’d rather peak closer to the election.”
Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who was the penultimate candidate to join the race, said he did not draw any inspiration from the tactics of President Trump’s campaign.
“I don’t take from 2016 that this is the era of celebrity,” Mr. Bullock said after polishing off a steak dinner. Referring to a former Republican presidential candidate who did well in some polls in 2015, he added, “You could have said to me four years ago, ‘What do you attribute the strength of Ben Carson to?’”
And former Representative Beto O’Rourke, the Texan who launched his campaign with nonstop cable coverage of his marathon days of intimate small-town gatherings, disappeared from the TV screens once the novelty of his campaign eroded. His standing in the polls dropped.
After getting questions at his events asking why he wasn’t going on “The View” or MSNBC, Mr. O’Rourke in recent weeks has recalibrated his schedule to spend more time sitting for TV interviews.
“There a lot of people who can’t be here, who won’t tune in on Facebook Live, who won’t be able to be present in the town halls that we’re holding,” Mr. O’Rourke said in Cedar Rapids. “I need to be able to be accountable to them through the questions that you ask and I answer.”
On Wednesday night, he was a guest on Mr. Colbert’s show.