Democratic Senate hopeful and West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant runs a grim, uphill race in her staunchly conservative state. But when the ultra-liberal senator from the bluest of blue states — Elizabeth Warren — arrived at the Clarion Hotel in Shepherdstown to give a stump speech for her future colleague, the crowd LOVED it and gave her several standing ovations.
According to CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby, the large ballroom — which often proves hard to fill for political events — was jam-packed with over 400 people.
But…WHY? Republicans dismiss Warren as some fire-breathing Marxist intent on class warfare, but they may underestimate the fiery populist Massachusetts senator at their peril.
This powerful take-away quote from Warren’s speech goes a long way towards explaining Warren’s appeal:
“The way I see this, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, all those other guys on Wall Street, they’ve got plenty of folks in the United State Senate willing to work on their side. We need more people in the U.S. Senate willing to work on the side of America’s families.”
We often forget that liberals and Tea Partiers have something in common: They both loathe Wall Street and the banking industry, and feel that both Democrats and Republicans have given them too many concessions for too little in return.
How Senator Warren took West Virginia by storm.
Hamby and The New York Times‘ Jonathan Martin joined CNN Chief National Correspondent Peter King on a panel to talk about how Elizabeth Warren’s broad red state appeal. Hamby explained:
“She’s very good in a campaign setting, framing these progressive, liberal issues as middle class issues.”
Warren focused on the kitchen table economic issues many West Virginians care about — like Social Security, Medicare, raising the minimum wage, and student loans — and “the crowd at it up […] they really liked her.”
King added that Warren and Tennant took care to focus on Warren’s economic populist message and downplay her support for clean energy and capping carbon emissions: Which West Virginians view as anti-coal and a threat to their livelihoods. He paraphrased Tennant’s message as:
“I’m glad she’s here, I’m with her on minimum wage and student loans, but… Not on coal!”
Martin put the Democratic Party’s problem in rural states in a nutshell:
“Therein lies the challenge for Democrats in rural states. they’re right there on the New Deal and the Great Society, bread and butter economic issues, but when you get beyond, talking about environmental or cultural issues, that’s where Democrats have had challenges in those states in recent years.”
He then explains how Warren’s economic populism and folksy appeal are perfect for bridging this gap:
“It’s a compelling issue. And she’s as much an ‘Oakie’ as she is Harvard Yard.”
Hamby adds why her brains and academic credentials don’t turn people off:
“She doesn’t come off as this effete Cambridge intellectual, she’s very folksy. […] She does have this genuine rapport with audiences.”
Here’s the video: