When Senator Elizabeth Warren told a town hall audience in Holyoke on Saturday that she’d “take a hard look” at running for president after next month’s midterm election, she further stoked talk of her national ambitions.
Political observers on both sides of the spectrum who have long speculated about the liberal Democrat’s future on Sunday had a mixed response to Warren’s surprising statement, which came in response to a question from the audience.
A favorite of progressives and the party faithful, Warren has appeared emboldened by the growing anger toward President Trump and his conservative base. That anger, particularly among women, was never more apparent than on Thursday, when Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was questioned about sexual assault allegations before a Senate panel.
As a high-profile Democrat, Warren is well-positioned to tap into the anti-Trump sentiment, particularly among female voters, said Ray La Raja, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“I think she has seen that women in the Democratic party . . . are engaged and enraged, and that is a strong base for her,” La Raja said. Democrats want someone who is “a fighter, someone who is compelling emotionally,” he added.
Noting the record number of women running for Congress this year, Rachael Cobb, chairwoman of the political science department at Suffolk University, said Warren appears to be putting up a “trial balloon,” ahead of what will likely be a crowded field for Democrats running for president in 2020.
“The sense among women, especially of the importance of running, of putting themselves forward, being clear where they are on things, is not going to fade,” Cobb said. “I think this is a critical event in American politics and will have long-lasting repercussions.”
Warren is facing Republican state Representative Geoff Diehl in the Nov. 6 election. Diehl on Sunday said Warren should drop out, in light of her interest in a White House run.
“She owed it to the people to be honest with them long before yesterday. I’m renewing my call for her to drop out of this race now that it’s abundantly clear she’ll be spending the next two years ignoring the needs of the people of the Commonwealth focusing, instead, on her own political profile,” Diehl said in a statement to the Globe Sunday night.
Warren’s office said Sunday night she will not drop out of the race and “she continues to fight for working families.”
Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said Warren was doing a disservice to voters by eyeing the White House while running for reelection to the Senate.
“We have a senator who doesn’t want to be a senator running for the Senate,” Ford said. “It’s bizarre,” he added. “She should pick which job she wants, and run like hell for it.”
One national conservative strategist said Warren’s interest in the White House could harm Democrats running next month in more conservative-leaning areas of the country.
“I’m a little surprised by the timing. Interjecting herself into the national consciousness right now is not a good idea for Democrats nationally,” said Jon McHenry, who is based in Virginia.
The prospect of a Warren candidacy could pose a problem for centrist Democrats such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin ahead of the November midterms.
“Getting a lot of questions about Liz Warren is not a way to maintain those [centrist] credentials,” McHenry said.
In Holyoke, Warren linked her potential candidacy to damage she sees President Trump doing to the country, and how Republicans handled sexual assault accusations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Kavanaugh.
Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers growing up in the Maryland suburbs. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the accusations in a senate hearing last week. The FBI is now investigating the validity of the claims.
Warren said she watched “powerful men helping a powerful man make it to an even more powerful position,” as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 along party lines to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate.
At the town hall, she noted those who have “less power” go beyond women, and include the nation’s LGBTQ community, immigrants, seniors, and students saddled with debt.
“This is about power . . . who’s got it and who doesn’t plan to let it go,” Warren said. “So I will tell you this: Today, I am angry.”
Victoria McGrane of the Globe staff contributed. Material from prior Globe stories was used. John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.