Elizabeth Warren is going after voters in Joe Biden’s backyard, and she’s getting a pretty warm welcome in the process, independent.co.uk reports.
At least that’s what went down on Monday, when the Democratic presidential candidate attended a town hall in northeastern Philadelphia, and some 180 union members braved a drizzling and bracingly cold rain to hear the senator speak up close and personal.
She had a plan for almost everything, or so she said. And the voters – almost all of them teachers, students, or workers in the Philadelphia area – seemed to like what she had to say during her first visit to the state on the 2020 campaign trail.
“And I’ve got a plan for that … in fact, I have several,” Ms Warren said at one point, employing her campaign mantra in calling for big structural changes to the US economy that would put middle class and working class voters first, restore power to unions, and get Americans of all races and backgrounds into college free of charge.
The presidential candidate’s trip comes just a week before Mr Biden is set to hold the first major rally of his election in the same city, which is one of America’s largest, and one that sits between the Democratic front-runner’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the state he served for decades as a senator, Delaware.
But Ms Warren’s first visit to Pennsylvania – a state that shocked America in 2016 by voting for Donald Trump after twice helping elect Barack Obama – was accompanied by much less fanfare than Mr Biden’s planned extravaganza next week. The former vice president is expected to pull out all the stops, speaking from in front of the iconic Philadelphia Art Museum, flanked by the lovably bizarre hockey mascot Gritty and atop the famed Rocky steps.
Ms Warren’s visit was a bit more personal. It allowed her to get to know the voters of the state, and to make the case that she – a public school teacher from Oklahoma turned lawyer turned senator – has what it takes to beat Donald Trump, and knows what workers are going through.
Thurston Moon, a science and math teacher from Philadelphia said that the hour-long event with Ms Warren had had an impact on him.
“I’m a fan of Bernie Sanders. I’ve been a fan of Joe Biden for a long time. Those two, you know, they’re on my radar. But I don’t think I’ve heard either of them say anything as progressive as I heard today from senator Warren,” Mr Moon said.
Mr Moon said he had been leaning towards supporting the former vice president, but Ms Warren’s plans – not to mention her charisma, and the occasional sly joke at the expense of some fat cats on Wall Street – had stirred up something other than practicality.
“I really was leaning towards Biden at first because I figured he had that background that would help him get that leg up over Trump but, I don’t want to look for a nominee just because they’re going to beat Trump,” he said, acknowledging that he felt persuaded by the Massachusetts senator. “I want to look for a nominee because they’re going to be good for America.”
But Ms Warren still faces an uphill battle if she hopes to be the one to take on Mr Trump next November. The senior senator from Massachusetts counts herself as one of 22 presidential candidates, nearly all of whom have found themselves in the long shadow cast by the former vice president’s soaring poll numbers.
Mr Biden, in the latest aggregate of polls from Real Clear Politics, comes in first with 40 per cent of the Democratic primary support. He’s followed by Bernie Sanders with 16.3 per cent. Ms Warren comes in third place, with roughly half of that, 8.3 per cent.
Polling aside, Mr Biden and Mr Sanders have both made a name for themselves as adept fundraisers. Mr Biden posted the largest first-day fundraising total – with $6.3m, compared to Mr Sanders’s $5.9m – and, unlike Ms Warren, has shown a willingness to accept checks from major donors. Ms Warren, meanwhile, posted a $6m fundraising haul for the entire first quarter of 2019, and will likely be topped in the arena by Mr Biden going forward as he continues to court big donors.
But even as Mr Biden towers over the race, Ms Warren strutted confidently into the union hall in Philadelphia on Monday and made her case. As children played on the carpeting in the back, the senator explained her plan to tax American wealth over $50m to make public universities and colleges tuition and fee free, and to unburden millions of Americans from their student loans.
She talked about levelling the playing field for black and white Americans, and promised to take on the Koch Brothers and vested money interests she described as pumping dollars into Washington to keep the oil and gas industry alive, climate change be damned.
And, as she laid out her plans, the crowd ate it up. Mr Biden may be the closest thing to a hometown hero, but the voters in Philadelphia were at least open to other options with months to go before the first contests are held in the Democratic nomination.
For some, like Elizabeth Spencer, a mother of two who attended the town hall, there’s still time for inspiration, and she’s not as worried about the media hand wringing that Ms Warren might not be electable as a woman and a progressive.
“It feels like a tipping point, a big historical moment,” Ms Spencer said, waiting in line for a selfie with Ms Warren. “I guess originally I was thinking whoever can beat Trump is who I’ll support but I want to lean into really supporting a candidate I am passionate about – especially a woman candidate and not worry so much about their electability.”