Elizabeth Warren and her supporters in Denver rejected the notion Sunday that she should drop out of the crowded Democratic presidential race as she electrified a crowd of thousands with her calls for “big, structural change.”
The U.S. senator from Massachusetts has placed third or fourth in each of the first three states to hold votes, including fourth in Saturday’s Nevada caucus. But she’s been buoyed by positive reaction to her methodical takedown of self-funding billionaire candidate Mike Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor, during Wednesday’s nationally televised debate over his non-disclosure agreements with female employees.
Before one supporter asked Warren a question in the Fillmore Auditorium, she referred to the moment, approvingly, as “the trash-can beating.”
“Women can be tough,” Warren responded.
After the rally, which drew an over-capacity crowd of about 4,000, Warren told reporters she was disappointed in her Nevada finish but was ready to compete in the South Carolina primary next Saturday. She cited a surge of campaign donations, totaling $9 million, following the debate. She also placed second in a new CBS News/YouGov national poll taken since the debate, behind U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the front-runner.
“We will not be told that we don’t belong in this race — and we sure as heck won’t step aside for someone else to run for president when we know Elizabeth Warren is the best gal to lead this nation,” said state Sen. Kerry Donovan, addressing the crowd before Warren took the stage.
Warren, speaking and taking questions for nearly an hour during the afternoon rally, focused her fire on the more moderate Bloomberg, who’s also faced questions about civil rights issues, as Democrats’ riskiest choice. The late-entering candidate has skipped the early contests, instead blanketing Colorado and other Super Tuesday states with TV ads ahead of their primaries on March 3.
But Warren declined to criticize Sanders. Asked by a reporter if Sanders, too, offered risks as a nominee, she would only criticize Bloomberg again and say: “I think I am the least risky candidate. … I think it’s clear right now that the Democratic Party wants to see a progressive, and I’m a progressive who’s fought all my life for these values, and who’s actually gotten a lot done.”
In her speech, Warren pitched her plans for immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, and to address gun violence. She talked up her proposals for Medicare for All and a wealth tax that would provide money to pay for several programs, including universal child care.
“I want to go to Washington not just to talk,” she said. “I want to go to Washington to make big, structural change.”
Asked by an audience member about how she’d implement Medicare for All, Warren said it would be gradual. Tens of millions of people, especially the uninsured, would get government-paid coverage as an option first. They’d deal directly with doctors and other medical professionals, she said.
“There’s no insurance company standing in between,” Warren said. “I think a lot of people are going to like that. I think they’re going to tell their friends and neighbors about it. I think there’s going to be a lot of talk about how it works. And then, we vote on it.
“And I want to be clear on this: If we don’t get everything on the very first vote, I will take the win — and then I’ll get up the next morning and fight for more.”
Colorado Republicans criticized Warren’s costly proposals.
“In addition to her failed $32 trillion healthcare plan, Elizabeth Warren has a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to every problem — increase our taxes,” said Kyle Kohli, a Republican National Committee spokesperson in Colorado. “Warren’s extreme socialist agenda will not take her far in a state like Colorado where voters have consistently rejected statewide tax increases.”
Warren would beg to differ with that label. On Sunday, she distinguished herself from Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, by portraying herself as a capitalist reformer who believes in fair markets. The only other contrast she highlighted Sunday was her support for ending the Senate’s filibuster, a mechanism Sanders wants to keep in some form.
Warren last visited Colorado in April. Since then, her campaign has ridden a roller coaster in the polls, reaching the top of the field last fall before dropping to the second tier, overshadowed on the left by Sanders.
Warren just greeted the overflow outside the Fillmore Auditorium. Capacity is 3900 inside. pic.twitter.com/rAKG4EBZsc
— Jon Murray (@JonMurray) February 23, 2020
Ahead of Sunday’s visit, Warren’s campaign announced new endorsements from 14 current and former elected officials and community activists, including state Sen. Tammy Story, former state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and Sal Pace, a former state House leader from Pueblo.
Neatly coinciding with her Colorado visit was Warren’s release of her marijuana policy plan. She said she would seek national legalization of marijuana and would “ensure real equity in access to this emerging industry,” according to a news release from her campaign.
In the crowd Sunday were Erika Haraguchi, 40, and her two young daughters. She’s already returned her vote for Warren, whom she favors after entrepreneur Andrew Yang dropped out of the race earlier this month.
“I wanted to take my girls to see the Democratic process. And I wanted to show them that women have a voice in our democracy,” said Haraguchi, who lives in Centennial.
Elizabeth Grace, 35, of Denver praised Warren’s “advocacy for consumers and her support for American values. She advocates for reproductive rights, equality, immigration rights.”
Jon Marc Moodie, who also lives in Denver, came to hear out the candidate.
“I am also considering Bernie, but I haven’t decided yet,” said Moodie, 42. “I wanted to be open-minded to Elizabeth, too. I think Bernie will really change this country, but I would really love to see a woman president. She’s so strong and debates so well. I think they both could win against Trump.”
Staff writer Linnea Lipson contributed to this story.