HOLYOKE — Senator Elizabeth Warren on Saturday made her most definitive indication to date that she is mulling a run for the White House in 2020, telling a town hall crowd that she will take a “hard look at running for president” after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Until now, Warren has responded to questions about her presidential ambitions by insisting she is focused on winning reelection to the Senate in November. On Saturday, she linked her potential interest in the nation’s highest office to the damage she sees President Trump doing to the country and, more recently, to how Republicans have handled the sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
When a town hall attendee asked her if she planned to run for the White House, Warren started her answer by saying she felt it is vitally important that Democrats not lose focus on the upcoming midterm elections and on winning back majorities in the House and Senate.
“But let’s face it: Donald Trump is taking this country in the wrong direction,” she continued. “I am worried down to my bones about what Donald Trump is doing to our democracy.”
Her voice shaking slightly with anger, Warren then recalled Thursday’s extraordinary hearing featuring Christine Blasey Ford detailing how she says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. Kavanaugh vehemently denied those allegations.
“I watched 11 men who were too chicken to ask a woman a single question. . . . I watched powerful men helping a powerful man make it to an even more powerful position,” Warren said.
“And I thought, ‘Time’s up.’ It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government and that includes a woman at the top,” she said, and the crowd of more than 500 burst into applause. Then she dropped her news.
“After Nov. 6 I will take a hard look at running for president,” Warren said.
Warren’s GOP opponent in the Senate race, Whitman Republican Geoff Diehl, wasted no time slamming her for the remarks.
“I think she should do the right thing for Massachusetts and drop out of the Senate race if she wants to focus on a White House run,” Diehl said in an interview with the Globe.
“She hasn’t been truthful for the better part of a year. . . . All of her travel out of state and putting Massachusetts in the rearview mirror is all because she’s focused on making a run for the White House for her own political career.”
(Independent candidate Shiva Ayyadurai is also challenging her.)
But on Saturday, the wild cheers from Warren’s town hall crowd indicated that at least her base voters in the state are fine with the prospect of her turning her attention toward the Oval Office.
Patricia Yacovone-Biagi of Shelburne said after the event she felt “a huge sense of relief” at Warren’s announcement. “I am so happy that at least she’s considering it because we didn’t put forth the best candidate last time as Democrats,” she said, displaying handwritten stickers stating, “I believe Dr. Ford,” and another, “I still believe Anita Hill.”
Warren, she said, “has a proven track record of being able to reach across the aisle and heal some of these rifts and wounds that we have. She just might be the right person to get us all working together again.”
Yet a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll found that 58 percent of Bay State voters don’t think Warren should run for president. Interviews suggest that some of that resistance is linked to fear that the pugilistic populist isn’t the best choice to defeat Trump, or that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss shows the country isn’t ready for a woman president.
“She’s great, and I love her as our senator and I hope to keep her as our senator,” said Teri Page of Chicopee, who wore a T-shirt declaring, “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” which became Warren’s slogan after Republican senators voted to formally silence her for criticizing the nomination of now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
But Warren running for president? “It would be a tough race,” Page said, sounding uncertain. Why? “I think because she’s Elizabeth Warren.”
“As we saw in 2016, it’s going to be difficult to get a woman in, but I’m all for it,” said Scott Letendre of Westfield, as he waited in a long line to take a photo with the Cambridge Democrat after the town hall.
If she jumps in, Warren would join a long line of Massachusetts politicians who have sought the presidency, including Mitt Romney, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, and John F. Kennedy. Former governor Deval Patrick is considering a run in 2020.
At this point, polling and predictions for a 2020 campaign are incredibly premature, but that hasn’t stopped pundits from beginning to list potential candidates.
Warren has hovered at the top of numerous lists predicting the best-suited Democrats to take on Trump in 2020. CNN moved her into the No. 1 slot for most likely to win the primary contest, citing in part her fit for the current political moment of women voting and winning political office.
But the potential field is a crowded one, with other big names such as former vice president Joe Biden grabbing attention, and quite a few other women such as Senators Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. And Warren hasn’t always come out on top in national surveys.
In August, a Politico/Morning Consult poll showed her beating Trump in a potential general election matchup, but not by as much as two better-known candidates: Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
In a separate Suffolk University poll this spring, Warren emerged as the front-runner in the next New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary.
For the past year, Warren, 69, has made a series of public and private moves widely interpreted as laying the groundwork for launching a presidential run: She’s worked to cultivate key Democratic constituencies, such as black voters; reached out to key politicos in early presidential primary states; and improved her once-frosty relations with the national press.
She’s barnstormed across the country on behalf of Democrats running for office — most notably in key states on the presidential battleground map, such as Nevada and Ohio, and used her hefty e-mail list to help raise money for candidates in crucial races. Earlier Saturday, for instance, she sent out a fund-raising plea on behalf of Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a Democrat in a tough reelection fight to fend off the state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, in a race considered to be among a handful of contests that could determine control of the Senate.
Two of her aides recently were dispatched to the Democratic Party in New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation primary.
Warren would start the primary race — which would unofficially begin shortly after the midterm elections — with an impressive war chest and tried-and-true fund-raising prowess, and the ability to raise millions more seemingly at the press of the send button.
Warren has $15.6 million in the bank, according to federal filings, and has raised a total of $22.4 million this election cycle.
Much of her cash has come in the form of small-dollar donations, which proved a powerful force in the 2016 primary campaign of Sanders, the Vermont independent. As of mid-July, she had collected more than 1 million donations, and 98 percent of those checks were for $100 or less.Victoria McGrane can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.