Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016.
Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP

Warren kicks off 2020 with presidential exploratory committee


And so it begins.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Monday that she is establishing an exploratory committee to consider a 2020 White House bid, vowing to be a tenacious advocate for economic fairness and rebuilding the middle class.

In filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to allow her to begin raising and spending money to benefit her likely candidacy, Warren becomes the first big-name Democrat to take formal steps to enter what could be a crowded, expensive and extended contest for the party’s presidential nomination.

Her first nationally televised interview since launching her exploratory committee will be with Rachel on tonight’s show.

Warren isn’t literally the first Dem to jump into the race – Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro have taken similar steps – but the Massachusetts senator is the first 2020 candidate generally seen as a top-tier contender to launch a national candidacy.

I don’t imagine anyone is especially surprised by the news. In June 2016, when the Massachusetts Democrat was under consideration as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton, Rachel asked the senator whether she believed she was ready to serve as president. “Yes,” Warren replied, “I do.”

Six months later, she became a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee – a move widely seen as a way to help bolster her foreign policy and national security credentials ahead of a national campaign.

Warren will have quite a bit of time to demonstrate what kind of national campaigner she is, and time will tell how she’ll deal with issues such as Donald Trump’s obsessive interest in her ancestry and persistent misogyny that too often permeates campaign coverage.

But in the meantime, the Democratic senator has a couple of qualities that help her stand out. The first is an unmistakable policy signature: more so than any other prospective candidate, I know exactly what Elizabeth Warren stands for and what her platform is likely to prioritize. There’s nothing vague or amorphous about her governing vision, which is already well defined and broadly popular with her party’s voting base.

The second is a posture we don’t generally see from leading presidential candidates. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel had an interesting response to Warren’s announcement video, noting that she identified “specific sources of trouble” she intends to fight against, “instead of suggesting that a good politician can get everyone to work together.”

It’s an important point. Warren tends not to talk a whole lot about “reaching across the aisle” and “striving to find common ground” with Republicans. Rather, she highlights where she believes the system is broken and what she wants to do to fix it. If those on Wall Street and the far-right disagree, that’s a shame, but she’s confident they’re wrong and there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

To this extent, Warren’s candidacy will apparently be one of a principled fighter, not a unifying political force. It’s a posture that’s likely to be more popular with Democratic primary voters than D.C. pundits, but there are a whole lot more of the former than the latter.

Trump said on New Year’s Eve that he’d “love to” run against Warren. The president should probably be careful what he wishes for.