Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, despite a disappointing showing in another early caucus Saturday, promised a crowd of thousands in Seattle that she would continue to fight for “big, structural change.”
“I wasn’t born a politician, but I was born a fighter and these times call for a fight,” Warren said to roars. “The danger is real, our democracy hangs in the balance and you have a decision to make. When there is fear, when there is so much at risk, do we back up, do we cower, or do we fight back? Me, I fight back.”
Speaking to what her campaign said was 7,000 people at the Seattle Center Armory, the Massachusetts senator picked up the combative stance she displayed at last Wednesday’s debate and that drew her praise and millions of dollars in campaign donations.
After congratulating Sen. Bernie Sanders for winning the Nevada caucuses, Warren shifted immediately to a fierce attack on former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, Warren said, has a history of harassing women and supporting racist policies such as redlining and stop-and-frisk policing.
“A billionaire who hides his taxes, has a bad history with women, let me put it this way,” Warren said. “We’re not substituting one arrogant billionaire for another.”
Bloomberg, who touts his electability, “is not the safest candidate,” Warren said. “Michael Bloomberg is the riskiest candidate.”
She largely declined to go after Sanders, the other champion of the party’s left wing, who has emerged as the clear Democratic front-runner. Her lone criticism was in contrasting their positions on eliminating the filibuster in the Senate.
“Bernie says we’re going to keep the filibuster,” Warren said. “I say Mitch McConnell is not going to get a veto.”
Warren arrived straight from Nevada where early results had her in fourth place, a showing she said kept her campaign “in the fight.” Her campaign manager on Saturday tried to outline the campaign’s path forward. While both Sanders and Bloomberg have “effectively unlimited resources to compete (for very different reasons),” he wrote on Twitter, both also have “a significant ceiling on their eventual support both in the primary and in the general.”
Warren’s stop in Seattle comes at a far different moment in her campaign than her last visit, when she drew 15,000 people to the Seattle Center lawn on a sunny August afternoon — at that point the largest crowd of her campaign. Then, she was just beginning a rise in the polls that would see her briefly emerge as a Democratic front-runner. Now, she’s trying to turn her campaign around after a months-long slide in the polls and disappointing showings in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.
And while ballots have already been mailed to voters for Washington’s March 10 primary, the Democratic field may look far different come primary day. Next Saturday’s South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states including California and Texas vote, could winnow the once-sprawling field to just a few candidates.
Warren has been preparing for a long campaign. She’s had paid staff in Washington since December, and last month had more staff in the state than any other campaign.
“She’s been walking her talk for years,” said Crystal Novak, a general contractor from Seattle, who lined up hours early to see Warren. “She is well organized, she’s thought of different ways to effect change and has come up with plans to implement that.”
Speaking for about 45 minutes, Warren quickly ticked through many of her most prominent campaign proposals — a wealth tax on vast fortunes, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, eliminating lobbying and battling corruption — but returned again and again to the theme of a fight, with herself as lead combatant.
People are afraid, Warren said, for their families, for their neighbors, for the country.
“Fighting is an act of patriotism. We fought back against a king to build this nation, we fought back against the scourge of slavery to save this union, we fought back against a Great Depression to rebuild our economy,” she said. “Americans are at their best when we see a problem and we fight back.”
Warren earned strong reviews for her debate performance Wednesday night, when she forcefully attacked Bloomberg in the same terms she did Saturday night.
In the three days since the debate, she said, her campaign has raised $9 million.
“I’d been waiting to hear that spark from her,” said Lucy Autumn, a nurse from Bellingham. Autumn, however, remains undecided. “I would like to hear a little more of her commander-in-chief side.”
“She killed it, it was amazing,” said Lisa Wilson, 30, an Amazon employee from Seattle. “She’s already proven she can get things done. Fighting for consumers, for the credit bureau, that was a big deal.”
Warren stressed herself as a fighter in recounting the story of that agency, and how she got involved in politics after last decade’s financial crisis — “You remember, the one that Michael Bloomberg blamed on African Americans and Latinos,” she added.
“The government said we’ve got $700 billion to bail out the banks and we’ve got nothing for families who were cheated and I saw how wrong it was and I said ‘I will get in this fight,'” Warren said.
She recounted going to Washington with her idea that would become the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She got two answers, she said. One, that it was a good idea and, two, that it would never happen.
“All I could hear was ‘fight harder,’ ” Warren said. Eventually, despite banks spending millions of dollars lobbying against the creation of the new agency, it was passed into law.
“I learned two lessons from that in Washington,” Warren said. “The first one I learned was you don’t get what you don’t fight for. And the second was we can make government work for the people, we can do this. So, yeah, I am a fighter, but I am a fighter who gets things done.”