Senator Elizabeth Warren has never hesitated to unleash political hellfire on the masses and bipartisan machine.
It’s her trademark. As Warren took center stage during the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner on Feb. 8, 2020, she absorbed the crowd’s “Warren” battle-cries and used the momentum to advocate for her vision of a Democratic revolution.
“This is not a time for small ideas,” she roared, fist-pumps punctuating her cadence. “This is not a time to nibble around the edges of problems, this is not a time to be vague and elusive. This is a time to step up, and when we see a big problem, offer a big solution.”
However, despite her blueprints for the White House, Warren’s rhetoric has recently adopted the same vague claims she’s warned voters to challenge. In navigating the snowy path to the New Hampshire primary on February 11, Warren has recalibrated her campaign strategy to address the bureaucratic leviathan: Democratic voters’ inability to trust the United States political system.
Democrats have fought a partisan gladiator battle in the 2020 arena to defend their integrity against an onslaught of opponents. In particular, President Trump’s impeachment trial has fragmented the American political ethos, which Democrats have used to legitimize their push to boot him from the Oval Office. Additionally, the delay in the Iowa caucus results helped to increase these existing tensions and fuel distrust within the Democratic party.
Nevertheless, Warren has persisted. In order to soothe Democrats’ unrest, Warren has softened her razor-sharp rhetoric with broad appeals to hope and unity, speaking to voters’ faith in governmental representation and participation.
However, by doing this, she has strayed from the heart of her campaign: her policies. Since launching her campaign in February 2019, Warren has used it as a database for organizing and promoting her policies.
“It’s the fact that she’s thinking it through,” said Laurie Gay, a Massachusetts resident who travelled to Manchester, New Hampshire for a Warren canvassing event on February 8. “It’s the fact that she’s being practical about thinking through what it’s going to take to attain her policy agenda. I know it won’t all work out the way she intends, but Elizabeth Warren is the total package.”
Warren’s political colleagues have also based their endorsements on her commitment to actualizing her policies. “I want to restore some integrity in our government,” said U.S. Representative Jim McGovern, of Massachusetts, who endorsed Warren in July 2019. “I agree with her on fighting for the middle class, on uplifting those struggling with poverty. I agree with her plans for climate change, to make college more affordable, how she wants to take on big money in politics and the corruption that goes along with it.”
Despite this, Warren’s speeches across New Hampshire last weekend revolved around proving she’s a worthy challenger to Trump rather than the policies that have carried her this far, such as her plans for universal childcare and the ultra-millionaire tax.
For example, consider her speech in Iowa on February 4 as the caucus haze delayed a clear-cut victor from being crowned. Addressing her Iowa supporters, Warren began her speech by contrasting her upbringing with Trump’s to provide evidence and logic in support of her plan to oust him from the Oval Office. However, at the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner on February 8, she drastically watered down her speech by using blanket statements and normative claims to appeal to the ideals of democracy and patriotism.
New Hampshire for Warren declined to comment on any shifts in her campaign strategy.
New Hampshire voters feel that Warren’s shift away from emphasizing her powerhouse policies has cracked her campaign’s authenticity and strength. As a result, many locals have chosen to support other candidates.
“Bernie is for us,” said Jennifer Ruscito, a teacher from Manchester who supports U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders by frequently volunteering and attending events like his Democratic debate watch party on February 7. “He’s been saying the same thing for 40 years. It’s the way he does everything, the way he lives life, the way he talks.”
Moderate voters agree. “I don’t think she’s electable,” said Jimmy Kyriakoutsakos, a lifelong Manchester resident who supports former Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “When someone’s on that stage with Trump he’s going to chew them up. He’s going to chew her up.”
These doubts may account for the recent dips in Warren’s polling numbers. Despite Warren’s gradual decline in popularity since October 2019, a recent poll conducted by CNN and the University of New Hampshire on February 5-8 indicated that her popularity has drastically dipped to 9 percent.
Warren’s polling results show just how critical the New Hampshire battleground is for her; another third-place finish could cost her the race. In particular, Warren should theoretically have an advantage in New Hampshire because it neighbors her home state of Massachusetts, so a losing performance could impact her electability.
However, Warren’s national support network has no doubt that her performance in New Hampshire will help carry her to the White House. “Good or bad, I just want to keep my energy going,” said Kelly Chambers, a volunteer for Philly for Warren who has worked alongside Warren’s New Hampshire team to lay the groundwork for her Pennsylvania strategy. “Once we get a couple of the early states out of the way, it will really allow for momentum to build.”
As all eyes turn to New Hampshire for the first primary of the 2020 presidential election, Warren has one plan left to make: how to cinch votes. Her supporters know her better than to be worried.
“Donald Trump turned out a lot of people who don’t usually vote because he spoke to the people who were hurting in this country,” said Chambers, her voice adopting Warren’s signature fire. “Elizabeth Warren can do the same thing. She has a vision and that’s what turns people out to vote.”