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In This Fight Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren(D) of Massachusetts opened the New Hampshire leg of her 2020 presidential campaign last weekend in Manchester and Concord.

Though she is one of the loudest critics of President Trump (and she is one of his favorite targets) their messages to voters are similar. Both Warren and Trump claim they are fighting a system set up to favor the rich and powerful on behalf of the average hard-working American. The differentiating factor may be empathy.

While Trump frames his argument in personal terms, Warren argues she is fighting because she understands the daily struggle of the average American and has lived it herself. She told a crowd at Manchester Community College she is in this fight out of gratitude. She has succeeded beyond her own dreams and wants to make sure others have the same opportunity.

Several hours before the event - every detail has been considered.

Many see Warren's candidacy as an extension of the 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders. As a woman, and as a candidate firmly in the Democratic Party, perhaps she is more electable.

At this first rally in Manchester, there was a sense the room was not fully on board. They like Warren and admire her. They like what she had to say about the issues they care about, but it is too early to go all-in. An editor for the New Hampshire Union-Leader remarked this week that New Hampshire voters like to "meet each candidate three times," before making a decision.

The larger feel I took away from last weekend is how motivated Democrats are to replace President Trump. For many, the 2016 campaign never ended. More than 500 came out on a Saturday afternoon - with temperatures in the teens - to volunteer for Warren or at least hear her message. Many see the last presidential election as either a stolen election or the result of making the wrong choice in Hillary Clinton as the party's nominee.

Voters converge on Manchester Community College to hear from Senator Warren. Inside, the organizing for primary day - a year from now - starts with those standing in line to get in.

Officially, Warren's campaign is in the exploratory stage - there is room for her to change her mind, but the operation on display for her first major event was well executed. Nothing was left to chance. There was no room for a first day flub that might define the rest of her campaign. This is not the sign of someone who intends to change her mind and pull out. It's a sign of someone looking to take an early lead.

Backstage

Warren's message is delivered as if by an eyewitness to a crime.

She had always suspected Washington, D.C. was set up to favor the rich and powerful, but now that she has been there and seen it for herself she can confirm it. She says there is a need for systemic change. It begins with demanding higher ethical standards of those who hold public office and an end to lobbying as we know it.

She says a system that allows big companies to write the rules that govern their own practices is by definition corrupt and we cannot be afraid to say so. Once the system is clean it can be harnessed to help everyone not just the elite.

The corruption argument resonated with her audience, but it wasn't clear they made the turn with her on how cleaning up the system helps them personally.

Warren, several times, explained to her audience why she is "in this fight." The imagery of fighting for average hard-working families is a staple of Democratic Party rhetoric, but the crowd seemed much more interested in any specifics she had to offer.

It is not enough to have an enemy or a bad guy to go after. You also need a direction to take once the bad guy has been vanquished. Voters in 2020 may be looking more for a plan than someone to blame. A plan that helps them. A way out. The requirement for a plan may be one of the results of the Trump presidency which seems to be dominated only by fighting.

Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire play a big role in selecting the president. The results of their early voting in January and February of next year will determine who the front-runners are and winnow out weaker candidates.

Warren's first trip to New Hampshire came on the same day Congress and the president set the record for the longest federal government shutdown. In the press there are daily arguments over whether voters are blaming Democrats or Republicans, Congress or the president, for the crisis.

The message of the 2016 presidential race, which included the rise of Trump and Sanders and the ultimate defeat of the establishment in both parties, was that the system is not working for anyone. Voters see no heroes in Washington. They do not look to government to solve their problems. The government shutdown therefore is just one more example to voters that the 2016 election changed nothing and likely made things worse.

Warren is focusing her early message not on the need for change, but on what happens once the change is made. She is not making a case to replace President Trump, because she believes he is making that case on his own. Her opening argument is to use government to level the field to give everyone an equal chance for success.

© Dean Pagani 2019

dean@deanpagani.com deanpagani.com thisdecisivemoment.com

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© Dean Pagani 2019

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