Melanie Mason, Tribune News Service
Elizabeth Warren had the crowd going wild over pennies. Halfway through her Wednesday campaign event in Los Angeles, the crowd erupted into a chant of “Two cents! Two cents!” after Warren detailed her signature plan — a 2% tax on the ultra-wealthy that would amount to two cents on every dollar over $50 million.
The Massachusetts senator got a robust reception in the cavernous Shrine Expo Hall near the University of Southern California, as she detailed the litany of programs she says she would fund with the revenue from her tax plan, including universal child care and tuition-free higher education, and preached her message of structural change to combat government corruption.
It was the 127th town hall of her presidential run, according to her campaign, and it borrowed much from the 126 events that came before it. She began with biography, including her emotional recollection of her mother averting foreclosure by taking a minimum-wage job.
Next she was on to the core tenet of her campaign — that government has been derailed by serving corporate interests — and her myriad plans to address it. It ended with the finely tuned “selfie” line, with a queue of thousands snaking around the auditorium waiting for their chance to take home a memento of the evening.
Warren did not introduce new plans, as she did in her last visit to Los Angeles, when she unveiled her universal child care and pre-K proposal. (Earlier this week, her campaign released new plans on addressing the needs of Native Americans and reducing mass incarceration.) Her fans seemed content to watch her increasingly polished stump speech.
“She didn’t say anything new, but she said it really well,” said Andrea Rifelli, 72, as she waited in line to get her photo. The audience was a mix of committed enthusiasts and curious Democrats still shopping for a candidate. “I want to be where people are watching her,” said Sheila Fox, 68, a retiree from the Reseda section of Los Angeles. “I’m all in behind her. I just want to see where everybody else is.”
Tracy Escobedo, 29, entered the event unattached to any particular candidate; afterward, she said she was leaning more toward Warren, although she cautioned it was still early to say definitively. “It was the first time I saw her in person, and now I almost want to see them all in person,” she said.
Alejandra Benavides, 75, was also uncommitted at the outset but gushed about Warren’s speaking style. She thought Warren missed an opportunity, however, not to speak more forcefully against President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. “She didn’t take advantage of the fact this is L.A.,” said Benavides, a court translator from nearby San Gabriel. “In the Latin community, there is raw pain right now.”
Warren has faced some unease among even her most ardent supporters that she would be too liberal to win a general election. One audience member asked how supporters should respond to fears that big-business interests would try to thwart her campaign. “If we don’t get in the fight, that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” she responded. The crowd roared in approval.
She was also asked whether she might nominate Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, President Barack Obama’s 2016 nominee whom Republican Senate leaders refused to consider. “You bet,” Warren replied, before pivoting to speak more broadly of the politicisation of the high court.
Supporters at Wednesday’s events were largely optimistic about her prospects against Trump. “At first, I kind of lumped her in with Hillary Clinton as someone that would not appeal to a lot of the country,” said Kevin Oreck, a 59-year-old architect from Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood. “But I now think she really has branded herself (as) a political outsider, in a similar way to Trump even though the politics are absolutely different. So I think she could appeal to the people who voted for Obama and then voted for Trump.”
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