This week in presidential politics, the Democratic field grew with the additions of Montana Governor Steve Bullock and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Both men start with low name recognition and a lot of catching up to do in a field of 23. On the Biden front, the former vice-president is still on a roll. His poll numbers are holding if not increasing and he’s welcoming attacks from Trump.
But the star of the week has been Elizabeth Warren. The Senator from Massachusetts seemed to find her footing. She took shots at Trump and Fox News. And she started to tell her story instead of rolling out more policy proposals.
My main criticism of Warren’s campaign has been her emphasis on policies. Like it or not, most voters don’t make decisions based on policies and, so far, Warren seemed to be basing her campaign on them. For every problem, she seemed to say, “I’ve got a plan for that.” In this political environment, people are skeptical of politicians’ plans to solve problem. Every time she rolled out a new program, people’s eyes rolled, too.
In the last few weeks, she seemed to shift. A video is floating around social media that shows Warren talking about her childhood in Oklahoma and going to college. Her lower middle class family couldn’t afford college so she got a scholarship. She dropped out at 19 and got married long before she ever ended up at Harvard. The story is humanizing and relatable.
Warren also took aim at Fox News. A few weeks ago, Bernie Sanders did a town hall event with Fox and he got great press with pundits praising him for taking his message to a hostile, or at least highly skeptical, audience. Democratic candidates then fell all over themselves trying get on Fox News. Warren played it differently. Instead of following the flock, she told reporters she wouldn’t participate in driving up the ratings of a network that engaged in “hate-for-profit.” Democrats loved it. Warren said out loud what a lot of them already thought about the likes of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
Now, Warren’s campaign looks a lot more strategic. In the early goings, she laid out the type of progressive-populist policy proposals that the Bernie crowd loves, giving them an alternative to the Vermont Senator. Now, that she’s planted that flag, she’s spending more time telling her story while bashing the Trump establishment. If she keeps it up, expect to see her support grow over the next few weeks.
Not long ago, I wrote that the race could come down to Bernie Sanders and an anti-Bernie candidate. Biden’s entry changed that equation. Sanders seems to have reached his ceiling while Biden is consolidating the moderate vote. Time will tell if candidates like Bullock or Colorado Senator Michael Bennet can cut into it. If they can’t, the race might come down to a Biden verses an anti-Joe candidate from the left. If that plays out, I’d put my money on Elizabeth Warren emerging as Biden’s chief rival.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >