US senator Elizabeth Warren, a liberal firebrand who has taken on Wall Street and traded barbs with Donald Trump, has announced she is seeking to challenge the Republican President in 2020.
- Elizabeth Warren has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 2013
- She is a high-profile critic of Wall Street and has campaigned for stronger regulation since the GFC
- The Democrat primaries are expected to attract a strong range of candidates
Senator Warren said she had formed an exploratory committee, which will allow her to begin raising money to compete in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic primary field, before the November 2020 presidential election.
Whether that leads to her actually running for president will be decided in the next few months, she said.
Senator Warren, 69, who has represented Massachusetts since 2013, was one of Mr Trump’s fiercest critics during the 2016 presidential race and they have continued to exchange biting insults during his presidency.
He mockingly refers to her as “Pocahontas” because of her claim to Native American ancestry.
Senator Warren has denounced Mr Trump as an “insecure money grubber” with a platform of “racism, sexism and xenophobia” while Mr Trump has described the former Harvard Law School professor as “goofy” and a “low life” with “a nasty mouth”.
Several hours after the announcement, Mr Trump had not responded but Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called Senator Warren “another extreme far-left obstructionist and a total fraud”.
On Monday, Senator Warren released a video in which she outlined her vision of a path to opportunity for all Americans, not just the wealthy.
“America’s middle class is under attack,” she said on the video. “How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie and they enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice.”
Senator Warren is likely to face a crowded field of Democrats, including senators Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as former vice-president Joe Biden.
Former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro — former president Barack Obama’s housing secretary — formed an exploratory committee in December.
In searching for a candidate to run against the President, Democrats will grapple with the tension between the party’s establishment and progressive wings that flared during the 2016 primary between Hillary Clinton and senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who ran under the Democratic banner.
A Warren candidacy will expect opposition from Wall Street; in the US Senate, she has been a strong voice on financial issues and a self-described defender of the ordinary American against powerful interests.
Advocate for stronger banking regulations
Following the 2007-2009 global financial crisis, Senator Warren emerged as a leading critic of Wall Street and continues to advocate for stronger regulation and oversight, including reinstating a rule that would separate banks’ retail business from their riskier investment banking activities.
Senator Warren, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, has fought the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken post-crisis financial rules.
Senator Elizabeth Warren has formed an exploratory committee ahead of the Democratic primaries. (AP: Michael Dwyer)
In a September interview marking 10 years since the financial crisis, she was asked about whether she would break up big banks.
“Oh yeah,” she told the New York Times. “Give me a chance.”
She also has opposed the administration’s efforts to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency she helped create, and has pressured the Federal Reserve to take a tough line on scandal-hit lender Wells Fargo.
Many of Senator Warren’s policy positions have focused on economic inequality. She recently offered legislation calling on the US Government to manufacture generic drugs to reduce their cost.
In 2017 she joined other senators in a proposal to extend the federal Medicare health insurance program for seniors to include everyone.
Crowded field expected for Democrat primaries
Senator Warren will have plenty of competition from women driving the Democratic Party’s resurgence as well as liberals and progressives, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato said.
He said that despite her 80 per cent name recognition, that did not necessarily translate into actual support.
“Some Democrats swear by her and love her blunt style, while others are put off by her and fear she’d lose to Trump. Warren has a lot of convincing to do,” Professor Sabato said, adding the same is true of many other Democratic contenders.
Senator Warren said in September she would take a “hard look” at running for the Democratic nomination in 2020. In October, she released a DNA analysis she said supported her assertion that she had Native American lineage that goes back six to 10 generations.
Mr Trump’s use of the name ‘Pocahontas’, a 17th-century Native American woman associated with the British colony in Jamestown, Virginia, was aimed at drawing attention to a controversy over her heritage raised during Senator Warren’s 2012 Senate race.
His reference has drawn criticism from some Native American groups while others criticised Senator Warren for trying to lay claim to a tribal nation.