BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren won’t face voters for more than a year, but the broad outlines of the effort to unseat the Massachusetts Democrat, and her re-election pitch to voters, are taking shape.
Two Republicans have announced their candidacies, two others are said to be weighing runs, and conservative political groups are chipping away at the candidate.
Still, Warren enjoys enormous advantages, including a national base of support, a fat campaign account and solid poll numbers.
Hanging over everything is the question of whether Warren will run for the White House in 2020.
After she was first elected in 2012, Warren generally shied away from town hall events and the press. With a looming campaign, that’s all changed.
On Friday, the 68-year-old held her 10th public town hall this year in Revere, just north of Boston.
“I love the town meetings. It’s a chance to hear from people all across Massachusetts,” Warren told The Associated Press. “They stand up. They ask questions in the town meeting and I stay afterward for everybody who wants to take a picture, shake hands, tell me something personally that they want me to hear.”
She said the top concern is the same: “Health care, health care, health care.”
“Right now we have huge fights in front of us and we’ve got to say focused on those fights,” she said.
Warren is also busy honing her campaign pitch.
She points to legislation she championed aimed at reducing the cost of hearing aids by letting them be sold over the counter. President Donald Trump was expected to sign the measure.
Warren ran through other wins, from debt relief for Massachusetts students cheated by for-profit colleges to helping secure federal dollars to dredge Boston Harbor, rebuild sea walls, extend the Green Line subway route and pay for firefighting equipment.
She also cited her stiff opposition to the GOP effort to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law — an effort that might not be over.
“Health care could come back at any moment. It’s been the zombie bill that after it’s killed it comes back from the dead,” she said.
Two Republican candidates have officially entered the race, neither of whom are household names in Massachusetts.
State Rep. Geoff Diehl announced his candidacy Tuesday in his hometown of Whitman.
Diehl, who served as co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Massachusetts, criticized Warren for failing to deliver for Massachusetts while pursuing her own agenda in Washington.
“Where are her tangible results?” Diehl said. “She had a record that shows no ability to work with Republicans.”
Shiva Ayyadurai, a Cambridge technology entrepreneur, is also seeking the GOP nomination.
Other possible Republican candidates include former Mitt Romney aide Beth Lindstrom and businessman John Kingston.
THE WAR CHEST
As of the end of June, Warren reported having a hefty $11 million in cash in her campaign account.
Nearly 67 percent of the money she raised during the first half of 2017 came in smaller donations under $200, according to a review of Federal Election Commission records. Since the maximum donation per election is $2,700, Warren can reach out that base of smaller donors for additional contributions.
Donors who gave more than $200, and whose home states are included in the FEC reports, hailed from virtually every state.
By contrast, Diehl had just $260,000 in cash and Ayyadurai just $28,000.
Warren has also been adept at capitalizing on unintended fundraising opportunities.
When Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell silenced her in February for reading from a letter by Coretta Scott King during a debate on the nomination of Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Warren fired off a fundraising appeal, raking in hundreds of thousands in donations.
THE 2020 QUESTION
Warren insists the only campaign she’s focused on is next year’s.
“No. I am not running for president,” she told the AP. “I have a race in 2018 and I take nothing for granted.”
Die-hard supporters and opponents — both of whom view Warren as a fiery liberal alternative to middle-of-the-road Democrats — may not be listening. Both see the 2018 campaign as a prelude for a possible 2020 presidential bid.
The conservative political action committee America Rising has been dogging Warren, most recently charging her with waffling about whether she supports a single payer health plan.
Even Trump, who’s taunted Warren for claiming she’s part Native American, has suggested she may challenge him in 2020 if he seeks a second term.
“I have a feeling that in the next election, you’re going to be swamped with candidates,” Trump said in April. “It may be Pocahontas, remember that.”
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