MASSACHUSETTS – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took a major step toward a presidential run on Monday, announcing in a video message and email to supporters that she is forming an exploratory committee ahead of an expected campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2020.
With her announcement 13 months before the Iowa caucuses, Warren, who became a progressive star by taking on Wall Street after the 2007 financial crisis and, more recently, President Donald Trump, is the first Democrat with a national profile to take formal action towards a likely presidential campaign.
In a four-and-a-half minute video, Warren makes clear some of the very themes that catapulted her to national prominence will define her upcoming presidential run: economic equality, government accountability and reining in big corporations.
“Corruption is poisoning our democracy,” Warren says in the video as images of Republican leaders flash across the screen. “Politicians look the other way while big insurance companies deny patients life-saving coverage, while big banks rip off consumers and while big oil companies destroy this planet.”
The clip begins with the senator recalling a hardscrabble childhood in Oklahoma — her mother got a minimum-wage job after her father suffered a heart attack. He would eventually work as a janitor.
“He raised a daughter who got to be a public school teacher, a law professor and a senator. We got a real opportunity to build something,” Warren says. “Working families today face a lot tougher path than my family did.”
In one of multiple nods in the video to racial inequality, she adds that “families of color face a path that is steeper and rockier, a path made even harder by the impact of generations of discrimination” — an early acknowledgment of the political importance of appealing to and winning the support of minority voters.
As she warns of a deepening crisis faced by the American middle class, Warren points a finger squarely at the Republican Party, using images of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, along with grinning cameos from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, departing House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump.
Warren is a searing critic of the President, and Trump has responded by openly mocking her Native American heritage and referring to her as “Pocahontas.” Her decision in October to respond to Trump and other critics by releasing the results of a DNA test aimed at proving her ancestry fell flat with many Democrats and overshadowed her midterm message.
The announcement also comes in the midst of a prolonged partial government shutdown over Trump’s insistence on funding for a border wall, which has caused political chaos that has spooked investors and sparked turmoil in the stock market. This backdrop could prove to be a boon for Warren, who is widely expected to build a campaign centered around her signature economic populist message and anti-corruption platform.
By launching an exploratory committee, Warren can begin raising money for the coming campaign. She is unlikely to seek the assistance of a billionaire-funded super PAC, according to a source familiar with Warren’s thinking, because she believes grassroots support should be a defining factor in the coming primary. Warren has already sworn off corporate PAC money.