The former secretary of state and likely presidential candidate reached out a hand to the restive base of her party by wrapping her arms around Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a speech in Boston Friday where the two politicians shared a sage.
“I am so pleased to be here with your senior senator, the passionate champion for working people and middle class families, Elizabeth Warren!” Clinton said to applause while campaigning for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley.
“I love watching Elizabeth. You know, give it to those who deserve to get it,” Clinton continued. “Standing up, not only for you, but people with the same needs and the same wants across our country.”
It was effusive praise for a woman being called on to challenge Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016.
The warm words for Warren set Clinton up to launch into the progressive economic message she’s been testing out on the stump while boosting Democrats ahead of next month’s election.
“Don’t let anybody tell you it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” the former first lady said. “You know that old theory – trickle down economics. That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly … Trickle down should be confined to the trashbin of history.”
When offering a an example of how Democratic economic policies can work, she harkened back to her husband’s administration, skipping over the tenure of President Obama. It also allowed her to subtly make a case for experience, against criticism she’s bound to receive that she’s been around Washington too long.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs – they always say that. I’ve been through this. My husband gave workers a raise in the 1990s. I voted to raise the minimum wage and guess what, millions of jobs were created or paid better and more families were secure,” she said.
While stumping for Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton in Minnesota Thursday night, Clinton took on “big banks” in a more direct way than she has in the past.
It’s the first time Clinton and Warren have campaigned together for Democrats this year.
The event comes a time of renewed interest in a potential Warren presidential run as the seantor visits key presidential states like Iowa and New Hampshire to campaign for Democrats. Prominent liberal columnists Ezra Klein and Eugenie Robinson both urged Warren to run this week, while Paul Krugman proposed a joint Clinton-Warren ticket.
Warren has repeatedly denied interest in a bid, and signed a secret letter urging Clinton to run, but she seemed to open the door a bit to a run in an interview this week with People.
Ready for Warren, a group trying to draft the senator into the race, blasted out an email to supporters touting the interview as proof that Warren is “dipping her toes in” the presidential waters. “Wow … She’s thinking about it,” wrote Erica Sagrans, the group’s campaign manager.
“As Hillary Clinton strikes a populist tone and people speculate about Elizabeth Warren’s plans, one thing remains clear: Warren’s economic populist message resonates with voters of all stripes, and her agenda offers a pathway to success for Democrats in 2014 and 2016 – if they choose to take it. That’s why Warren is the most sought after campaigner for Democrats across the country this year,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which was an early support of Warren’s.
“It might be the late October air, but something definitely feels like a change in Warren land,” said one progressive movement insider, who asked not to be named so as to avoid alienating the senator’s team, who maintains that “nothing has changed.”
For her part, Warren was more tepid in her praise of Clinton. “I’m happy to welcome Secretary Clinton back to the commonwealth. We love it,” is all she said.
The senator kept her speech squarely focused on her populist economic message, repeatedly invoking the need to regulate Wall Street and “big banks,” and warning that Coakley’s Republican opponent is favored by the Koch brothers and “big oil.”
Coakley, the state’s attorney general, understands the problem with corporate power and wants to help “level the playing field,” Warren added.
Warren won her seat in the Senate by beating the same Republican to whom Coakley lost two years earlier, former Sen. Scott Brown. Brown is now running for Senate again, but this time from New Hampshire.
In 2010, Coakley was criticized by Democrats for running a lackadaisical campaign, and some have worried about her surprisingly tight gubernatorial race this year. “It should not even be close, but we’re living during an election season where it’s close everywhere,” Clinton said in her remarks.
Three of the parties biggest stars turned out for the event in downtown Boston. Clinton, Warren, and Gov. Deval Patrick, a charismatic African-American whose first campaign helped write the playbook Obama would later use to win the presidency in 2008. Patrick is term-limited, and has been mentioned as a potential presidential contender, but he’s not interested.
There’s a subtle hierarchy in the staging of political events like this, with the biggest draw generally saved for last. Today, Sen. Ed Markey introduced Patrick, who introduced Warren, who introduced Coakley – the honoree of the event – who then introduced Clinton.
The format kept Clinton and Warren from having to introduce each other.
Last night, Warren appeared on a conference call hosted by the liberal group Democracy for America. One of the group’s members asks what she says to people who feel like their vote doesn’t matter. After a long sigh Warren responded, “When people say that, they’ve really lost heart. And if that’s the case, we lose our country.”