Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren dodged questions on Monday about her biggest political liabilities as she jumped headfirst into the 2020 Democratic presidential primary process.
In announcing the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, Warren staked out the first significant territory in what will likely be a crowded field of Democrats itching for a swing at Donald Trump.
But showed no sign she’s ready to overcome the self-inflected scandal that has dogged her for years: her questionable claim of American Indian ancestry.
The result was an unsteady performance that none of the three major cable news networks broadcast live from beginning to end.
Asked in her first question as a candidate-in-waiting how she will respond to Democrats who worry that questions about her ancestry had left her too vulnerable to be electable, Warren defaulted to talking points.
‘I’m in this fight because I understand what’s happening to working families,’ she said outside her home near Boston, standing alongside her husband Bruce Mann.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke to reporters with her husband Bruce (left) at her side, after announcing she has formed an exploratory committee to run for president in 2020
The first question from a reporter as she entered the 2020 fray was about her electability given her Native American DNA scandal – and she avoided answering it
President Donald Trump has hit Warren repeatedly as a fake Native American and nicknamed her ‘Pocahontas’
President Donald Trump has long been critical of Warren for claiming to have Cherokee ancestry, a move the president claims gave her preferential treatment in university hiring at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.
Warren conceded this month that she is ‘not a person of color,’ following her embarrassing October release of DNA test data that concluded her proportion of American Indian blood might be as small as 1 part in 1,024 – lower than average European-Americans.
She sidestepped a separate question on Monday about whether her far-left brand of populism will polarize American voters, denying her meaningful support outside the liberal northeast U.S. and California.
Instead she acknowledged only that CEOs and investment bankers won’t like her.
‘The problem we’ve got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who have money, to buy influence,’ said Warren, 69. ‘And I’m fighting against that, and you bet it’s going to make a lot of people unhappy.’
The 69-year-old Democrat would not, however, rule out accepting help from super PACs built with their political contributions.
‘Would you take support from super PACs,’ a reporter asked.
Despite a crush of TV cameras covering Warren’s announcement and her short Q&A with reporters, none of the three big cable TV news networks broadcast the entire event live
Warren, pictured walking away after the short press availability, said she’s no fan of super PACs or the billionaire who fund them, but didn’t rule out accepting their help in 2020
How she announced: Elizabeth Warren used New Year’s Eve morning to make her presidential move in a video recorded in her kitchen but slickly produced
A flustered Warren said only that ‘I don’t think we ought to be running campaigns that are funded by billionaires, whether it goes through super PACs or their own money that they’re spending.’
That fell short of a pledge to shun their help as she runs for the White House.
‘I’ve already received donations from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,’ she boasted, before revealing that she would spend New Year’s Eve with her husband doing what they always do: watching the 1942 film ‘Casablanca.’
Trump aides licked their chops and laughed as they anticipated a battle between the president and the ultra-liberal swashbuckler he regularly mocks as ‘Pocahontas.’
A Trump administration official with knowledge of the president’s thinking said Monday that Warren ‘will go down in flames,’ and cracked a subtle Native American joke.
‘She’s going to somehow ride her far-left platform into the White House?’ the official asked.
‘It’s a dream come true,’ said a second official, adding a fond hope that Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal would follow Warren into the race.
‘Can we get Blumenthal to run too? More phony Democrats, please,’ said that official.
She’s (almost) running: Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren used New Year’s Eve to announce she is setting up an exploratory committee for a 2020 bid
President Donald Trump has said he would love to face Warren, and has already spent two years publicly mocking her to soften the ground
Trump has similarly weaponized Blumenthal’s past missteps, turning his military career into a case of stolen valor because he has falsely claimed to have fought in Vietnam.
Blumenthal served in uniform as a U.S. Marine reservist for six years but spent the war thousands of miles from harm’s way.
Warren’s New Year’s Eve launch guaranteed she had the nation’s political spotlight largely to herself.
‘America’s middle class is under attack,” the 69-year-old Massachusetts Democrat said in a launch video. ‘How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie. And they enlisted politicians to cut them a bigger slice.’
She tried to strike a uniting tone, declaring that ‘no matter what our differences, most of us want the same thing: ‘to be able to work hard, play by the same set of rules and take care of the people we love. That’s what I’m fighting for.’
The Republican National Committee blasted out a scathing reply.
Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that Warren ‘couldn’t be more out of touch. With her lack of support from voters – including in her home state – on top of her phony claim to minority status, now that she is formally running Americans will see her for what she is: another extreme far-left obstructionist and a total fraud.’
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal is another liberal Democrat who Trump aides would like to see enter the 2020 contest, because of his false claims to have fought in Vietnam
On the blocks: In an email to supporters, Warren said she’d more formally announce a campaign plan early in 2019. She can now raise money for a run
Warren burst onto the national scene a decade ago during the financial crisis with calls for greater consumer protections.
She quickly became one of the party’s more prominent liberals even as she sometimes fought with Obama administration officials over their response to the market turmoil.
Now, as a likely presidential contender, she is making an appeal to the party’s base. Her video notes the economic challenges facing people of color along with images of a women’s march and Warren’s participation at an LGBT event.
In an email to supporters, Warren said she’d more formally announce a campaign plan early in 2019.
Warren is the most prominent Democrat yet to make a move toward a presidential bid and has long been a favorite target of President Donald Trump.
In mid-December, former Obama housing chief Julian Castro also announced a presidential exploratory committee, which legally allows potential candidates to begin raising money. Outgoing Maryland Rep. John Delaney is the only Democrat so far to have formally announced a presidential campaign.
But that’s likely to change quickly in the new year as other leading Democrats take steps toward White House runs.
Greatest hits: Trump is likely to make use of his previous assault on Elizabeth Warren’s claims of Native American roots, which he stepped up in the wake of her DNA test
Warren enters a Democratic field that’s shaping up as the most crowded in decades, with many of her Senate colleagues openly weighing their own campaigns, as well as governors, mayors and other prominent citizens.
One of her most significant competitors could be Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who is eyeing another presidential run harnessing the same populist rhetoric.
She must also move past the widely panned October DNA test stunt meant to bolster her claim to Native American heritage. Instead, the use of a genetic test to prove her ethnicity emboldened Trump’s taunts of her as ‘Pocahontas.’
There was no direct mention of the controversy, or of Trump, in Monday’s video. It did include images of the president and his inner-circle current and former aides who her base most loves to hate: Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon.
Warren has the benefit of higher name recognition than many others in the Democratic mix for 2020, thanks to her years as a prominent critic of Wall Street who originally conceived of what became the government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
She now faces an arduous battle to raise money and capture Democratic primary voters’ attention before Iowa casts its first vote in more than a year.
She has an advantage in the $12.5 million left over from her 2018 re-election campaign that she could use for a presidential run.
Warren’s campaign is likely to revolve around the same theme she’s woven into speeches and policy proposals in recent years: battling special interests, paying mind to the nexus between racial and economic inequities.
‘America’s middle class is under attack,’ Warren said in the video.
‘How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie. And they enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice.’
WHO ARE ALL THE DEMOCRATS OFFICIALLY RUNNING FOR THE PRESIDENCY IN 2020 SO FAR?
Age on Inauguration Day 2021: 71
Entered race: Set up exploratory committee January 31, 2018
Career: Law lecturer and academic who became an expert on bankruptcy law and tenured Harvard professor. Ran for Senate and won in 2012, defeating sitting Republican Scott Brown, held it in 2018 60% to 36%. Was short-listed to be Hillary’s running mate and campaigned hard for her in 2016
Family: Twice-married mother of two and grandmother of three. First husband and father of her adult children was her high-school sweetheart. Second husband Bruce Mann is Harvard law professor. Daughter Amelia Tyagi and son Alex Warren have both been involved in her campaigns. Has controversially claimed Native American roots; DNA test suggested she is as little as 1,064th Native American
Religion: Raised Methodist, now described as Christian with no fixed church
Views on key issues: Voted Republican until 1995 but has tacked left since. Pro: higher taxes on rich; banking regulation; Dream Act path to citizenship for ‘dreamers’; abortion and gay rights; campaign finance restrictions; and expansion of public provision of healthcare – although still to spell out exactly how that would happen. Against: U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Syria; liberalization of gambling
Slogan: To be announced
Age on Inauguration Day 2021: 46
Entered race: Announced exploratory committee on December 12, 2018
Career: Stanford and Harvard graduate who was a San Antonio councilman at 26 and became mayor in 2009. Was Obama’s Housing and Urban Development secretary from 2014 to 2016
Family: Married with nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old son. His identical twin Joaquin, who is a minute younger, is Democratic congressman. Would be first Hispanic-American nominee and first-ever U.S. president with a twin
Views on key issues: Little record on national issues. Seen as moderate. Pro: gay rights; immigration reform; mass transit investment
Slogan: To be announced
Age on Inauguration Day 2021: 57
Entered race: Filed papers July 28, 2017
Career: Three-time Maryland congressman, first winning election in 2012. Previously set up publicly-traded companies lending capital to healthcare and mid-size businesses and was New York Stock Exchange CEO
Family: Married father of four; wife April works for children’s issues nonprofit
Views on key issues: Social liberal in favor of legalized pot and gun control but not single-payer healthcare; fiscally conservative
Slogan: Focus on the Future
Age on Inauguration Day 2021: 46
Entered race: Filed papers November 6, 2018
Career: Started a dotcom flop then become healthcare and education tech executive who set up nonprofit Venture for America
Family: Married father of two; would be first Asian-American nominee
Religion: Reformed Church
Views on key issues: Warns of rise of robots and artificial intelligence, wants $1,000 a month universal basic income and social media regulated
Slogan: Humanity First
Age on Inauguration Day 2021: 50
Entered race: Filed papers November 12, 2018
Career: Tattooed Army paratrooper officer with combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan awarded disability by VA; then high school teacher and West Virginia state senator. Lost 2018 run for Congress
Family: Married father of two; wife is paid caregiver for his combat-related disabilities; grandfather was illegal immigrant from Mexico
Religion: Not declared
Views on key issues: Populist union booster who backed teachers’ strike in West Virginia; wants lobbyists banned; voted for Trump in 2016 but regrets it
Slogan: To be announced