GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — Elizabeth Warren pumped her arms in the air three times as she introduced Hillary Clinton at a big New Hampshire rally Monday. Clinton belly-laughed at the Massachusetts senator’s jokes.
The two political leaders made sure they projected unity.
But there’s a shared mood of skepticism between the two women, who represent opposing wings of the Democratic Party. And if they don’t find common ground, Democrats could wind up divided on core agenda items even if the party rolls up big election gains.
The policy areas where Clinton and Warren agree and disagree will be some of the most carefully mapped territory in Washington should Clinton win the White House. (If Donald Trump wins, expect immediate talk of a Warren bid for the presidency.)
Warren’s stamp of approval would help Clinton keep core, activist Democrats in line behind a Clinton administration. Without it, the new president would be left fighting both the Republicans and the liberal flank of her own party.
“Despite the fact she’s only a freshman senator, this might be one of the most important relationships in Washington,” said Jim Manley, a former staffer to Senate minority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “Warren will be a strong supporter of a Clinton administration, but I bet she’s going to cause them a whole bunch of pain as well.”
Monday’s rally at Saint Anselm College, just outside Manchester, marked the first time the two women have shared a stage since June, when Warren was auditioning to be Clinton’s vice president.
Warren reiterated her support for Clinton Monday: “I just want to be official here. I’m with her. Are you with her?”
She used much of her speech to outline signature policy initiatives where the two agree in broad brushes, including allowing students to refinance education debt, increasing the minium wage, and curbing the power of special interests.
“It’s not about one person or one candidate,” said Warren. “It’s about a movement. It’s about a strong, powerful movement to make real change in this country, the kind of change that we make together.”
With an audience that exceeded 4,000, Monday’s event was larger than the typical Clinton rally. It was initially supposed to be inside, in a smaller venue, but was moved outside after a spike in interest.
The event was designed to highlight the entire Democratic ballot — with Senate candidate Maggie Hassan, currently New Hampshire’s governor, also taking the stage along with other Democratic candidates.
New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary in February was one of the starkest examples of the gap between the leaders of the Democratic party and the party’s more liberal base: Even though the state’s political elite lined up behind Clinton, she lost by 22 points. She went on to lose 23 of the 57 nominating contests to US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a liberal outsider who had little sway in Washington before this election cycle.
Since Clinton clinched the nomination in June the party has come together and both Warren and Sanders have campaigned across the country for her, united by the threat of a Trump presidency.
“What Elizabeth Warren has proven during this election, is it is a huge asset to have her fight by your side,” said Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that’s long backed Warren. “It’s also well known that she’s a strong opponent.”
Clinton took pains to nod to the Warren wing during her speech on Monday.
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I could listen to Elizabeth go on all day,” said Clinton, a crowd-pleasing line.
Clinton complimented Warren’s screeds against leaders in corporate America, including her recent committee grilling where she called out former Wells Fargo chairman John Stumpf, who resigned this month amid intense pressure over phony customer accounts.
“She’s refusing to let them off the hook, and she’s not just speaking for herself, is she?” Clinton said.
The audience yelled: “No!”
“She is speaking for every single American who is frustrated and fed up, and I am so looking forward to working with her to rewrite the rules of our economy to make sure we both grow it and make it fairer for every single person working hard here in America,” Clinton said.
The liberal wing of the party is already gearing up for a postelection agenda, one that’s ready to pull Clinton to the left. Warren is poised to be their champion on issues including lifting the minium wage to $15 an hour, reinstating a Depression-era law to separate commercial and investment banking, and advocating for administration appointees who’ve been aggressive proconsumer regulators.
“The day after the election I and other progressives will work equally hard to make sure that the new president and Congress implement the Democratic platform, the most progressive party agenda in American history,’’ Sanders said in a statement Monday.
The first hurdle would be the lame-duck session of Congress, when members of Congress come back after the election and vote on key issues. The agenda could include the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a mammoth trade accord that President Obama is pushing despite opposition from the liberal wing of his party and the far right on the Republican side.
Clinton supported the agreement when she was secretary of state, and then had an election year change of heart on the deal that business leaders hope they will be able to pressure her into reversing. Warren has always been against it.
Also on deck could be the confirmation of Merrick Garland, a centrist judge educated at Harvard Law School, whom President Obama nominated to succeed conservative Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Progressives would prefer a more liberal jurist than Garland.
“Progressives are trying to keep as much out of the lame-duck as possible,” said Green. “It represents a nonaccountability zone.”
Before that, Democrats need to win the White House — which seems to be increasingly in their grasp. And both Warren and Clinton both kept their strongest language focused on the Republican nominee for president.
“I’ve got news for you, Donald Trump. Women have had it with guys like you,” Warren said. “And nasty women have really had it with guys like you,” she said, referring to the insult Trump hurled at Clinton during the last debate.
“Get this, Donald,” Warren continued, as Clinton sat nearby beaming and laughing. “Nasty women are tough, nasty women are smart, and nasty women vote.”
Clinton loved the riff — and ad-libbed about it during her own remarks.
“I kind of expect if Donald heard what she just said, he’s tweeting away,” Clinton said. “She gets under his thin skin like nobody else.”