“We can fight back”: Elizabeth Warren comes out swinging on midterm trail

Plus: The latest on Iowa, a key endorsement in Louisiana, POTUS hits the trail, and GOP's anti-gay message in Kan.

Published October 20, 2014 1:00PM (EDT)

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren barnstormed three Senate battlegrounds over the weekend, delivering voters a two-pronged message: “the game is rigged,” and the only solution is to fight back against the vested interests who have hijacked the political system.

Warren, a progressive favorite and longtime thorn in the side of Wall Street banks, began her campaign swing Friday in Colorado, where she stumped for Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. While Warren hasn’t hesitated to criticize fellow Democrats for their coziness with corporate interests, she trained her sights on Republicans like Udall’s opponent Cory Gardner, who holds a slim lead in most recent polls.

Speaking at an Englewood campaign office, Warren tore into the GOP, declaring that “Republicans believe this country should work for those who are rich, those who are powerful, those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers,” the Denver Post reported.

"I will tell you we can whimper about it, we can whine about it or we can fight back," Warren said. "I'm here with Mark Udall so we can fight back."

After Colorado, it was on to Minnesota, where Democratic Sen. Al Franken is favored to win his race against GOP businessman Mike McFadden. Channeling the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone – whose brand of progressive populism ignited what he called “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” – Warren lambasted Republicans in a fiery speech.

"The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it," Warren told an enthusiastic crowd at Carleton College, where Wellstone taught before entering politics. But “[w]e’re coming after them,” Warren thundered, touting items she and Franken have worked on together, including student loan reform.

Warren concluded her three-day blitz in Iowa on Sunday, where Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and GOP state Sen. Joni Ernst are locked in a tight contest to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Hailing the great public works projects and government investments that fueled 20th-century prosperity, Warren lamented the turn toward a deregulatory agenda in the 1980s.

"They called it deregulation. But what it really meant was, 'Have at 'em boys,'” Warren said, the Des Moines Register reported. “They were saying in effect to the biggest financial institutions: 'Any way you can trick or trap or fool anybody into signing anything, man, you can just rake in the profits.'"

With Braley at her side, Warren castigated Ernst as an ultraconservative, noting that the Republican would slash the budget even more than Rep. Paul Ryan.

“Love that,” Warren told the crowd.

Commenting on Warren’s speech on Twitter, Des Moines Register reporter Jennifer Jacobs wrote, “I think it’s fair to say that that crowd of Iowa Dems absolutely loved Elizabeth Warren’s debut speech here of the 2016 presidential cycle.” Warren has insisted she isn’t running for president, but her trip to Iowa – her first since becoming a senator – is sure to stoke further speculation about a progressive primary challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Whether it’s Warren or some other candidate, any challenger to Clinton is likely to sound the populist themes Warren emphasized in her campaign appearances over the weekend. A Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll last week found that even while Clinton leads Warren in a hypothetical contest, 44 percent of Iowa Democrats thinks it’s a “disadvantage” for Clinton to “have close ties to Wall Street.”

In other midterms news:

  • The Des Moines Register eviscerated Joni Ernst in a blistering editorial this weekend, taking the GOPer to task for her comments – revealed in newly unearthed audio – lamenting that “[w]e rely on government for absolutely everything” and pining for the days when “churches and private organizations” were tasked with caring for the poor. “It's fascinating to see Ernst yearn for the good old days, when the government felt no obligation to provide food, clothing or health care, basic necessities of life, to families in need,” the editorial board wrote. “Sad to say,” the editors added, “with 400,000 Iowans now living at or below the poverty level, and one in five Iowa children not having enough to eat, food pantries are not charming relics of Joni Ernst's past. They are present-day symbols of genuine hardship and suffering.” It’s hard to see the paper endorsing Ernst after an editorial like this one, but an endorsement for Bruce Braley won’t necessarily put the Democrat over the top. In 2012, the Register endorsed Mitt Romney, but President Barack Obama went on to win the state by 6 points.
  • Meanwhile, the New Orleans Times-Picayune generated buzz with a front-page editorial Sunday urging Louisiana voters to reelect Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. Lauding the three-term incumbent’s seniority, hurricane recovery leadership, and support for the state’s oil and gas industry, the Times-Picayune wrote that the conservative Democrat was an “easy” choice for voters. Polls show Landrieu edging two GOP opponents ahead of the Nov. 4 vote, but she isn’t likely to clear the 50 percent threshold to avoid a Dec. 6 runoff. That contest will likely pit Landrieu against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, and the RealClearPolitics polling average gives Cassidy a 5.3 point lead in a head-to-head matchup.
  • President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail in two blue states this weekend, stumping on Sunday for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown before heading to Chicago to campaign with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Richard Durbin. Brown and Durbin both have clear leads over their opponents, while Quinn is holding on to a narrow edge over GOP challenger Bruce Rauner.
  • In his 2004 book "What’s the Matter With Kansas?," Salon’s Thomas Frank documented how conservative Republicans exploit social issues to convince downscale voters to vote against their economic interests. This year will be no different, if vulnerable Republicans Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts have their say. The Associated Press reports that both candidates are hammering their opponents on marriage equality while touting their own support for “traditional marriage,” with Roberts releasing anti-marriage equality mailers attacking independent challenger Greg Orman and Brownback speaking at an anti-marriage rally on Saturday. Brownback and Roberts have both seen their political prospects improve in recent weeks; after trailing in the polls, recent surveys suggest that they're pulling even with their opponents.

By Luke Brinker

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