WASHINGTON – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a presidential run, making her the highest profile Democrat to formally move toward a bid for the White House in 2020.
“If we organize together, if we fight together, if we persist together, we can win. We can and we will,” Warren told supporters in a video posted online Monday morning.
The former law professor has long been expected to join a large field of Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the runner-up in the 2016 Democratic primary; former Vice President Joe Biden and Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke are among the Democrats who may seek to challenge President Donald Trump.
“In our country, if you work hard and play by the rules, you ought to be able to take care of yourself and the people you love. That’s a fundamental promise of America, a promise that should be true for everyone,” Warren said at the opening of her video.
She also discussed her childhood in Oklahoma and the opportunities that she had despite the fact that her father worked as a janitor after suffering a heart attack.
“Working families today face a lot tougher path in life than my family did. And families of color face a path that is steeper and rockier, a path made even harder by the impact of generations of discrimination,” she said.
Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has also formed a 2020 exploratory committee and Maryland Rep. John Delaney has already formally begun his presidential campaign.
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Warren, 69, came into the national spotlight for her passionate criticism of Wall Street, the banking industry and large corporations after the 2008 financial crisis hit. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed her the chair on a panel to oversee the federal bailout in response to the crisis.
Warren won her Senate seat in 2012, defeating incumbent Republican Scott Brown and handily won re-election in 2018. A leader of her party’s liberal wing, she has advocated for progressive policies such as “Medicare for all.”
“America’s middle class is under attack,” Warren says in her video.
She has been a fierce critic of Trump and his administration and he has made her one of his favorite targets, referring to her as “Goofy Elizabeth Warren” in tweets and mocking her claims of Cherokee heritage by calling her “Pocahontas.” Conservatives have alleged Warren used that claim to gain favor in applying for jobs, but the universities she worked at have said her ethnicity played no role in her hiring.
Partly in response to Trump’s jibes, Warren released the results of DNA test which found “strong evidence” of Native American ancestry. But the release was widely mocked because the results only showed that her Native American ancestry went back 6 to 10 generations.
And the test showing that she was at least 1/1024th Native American was denounced by the Cherokee nation, which said using “a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.”
Trump has said he believes he could easily defeat Warren in a general election.
“I do not think she’d be difficult at all,” Trump told reporters on Oct. 15. “She will destroy the country. She will make our country into Venezuela. With that being said, I don’t want to say bad things about her because I hope she would be one the people that get through the process.”
Many observers read Warren’s DNA release, which came two weeks after she said she was taking a “hard look” at running, as an attempt to put the issue of her ancestry behind her ahead of a presidential bid.
On Saturday, Warren dropped the Massachusetts initials from her Twitter handle, changing it from @elizabethforma to @ewarren, which was interpreted as a sign she was beginning to brand herself for a national audience.
With the 2020 Iowa caucuses a year away, early polling has generally placed Warren in the middle of the pack among the better known potential 2020 Democratic candidates. Last week, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll found that 27 percent of Democratic and independent voters were excited by the prospect of a Warren candidacy, while 33 percent opposed her running.
The most popular choice in that poll was someone new altogether, while Biden had the most support among the known potential candidates. The former vice president has led in most early polling but, historically, the early front-runner rarely goes on to win a party’s primary.
An exploratory committee, or “testing-the-waters committee” is formed when someone wants to “explore the feasibility of a becoming a candidate,” the Federal Election Commission explains. The person may conduct polling, make phone calls and travel to determine if they want to officially run. But once they start campaigning or raise more than $5,000, the person must register as a candidate and begin to file FEC reports.