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Elizabeth Warren is done exploring: She’s officially running for president

Warren enters the 2020 field with a message centered on working people.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a New Hampshire organizing event for her 2020 presidential exploratory committee at Manchester Community College.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A little more than a month after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced she was launching an exploratory committee for president, she’s making her 2020 run official.

The senator made the announcement in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a former mill town that ties into Warren’s longtime message about fighting for the working class. Warren alluded to the Lawrence mill workers who stood up to their rich and powerful bosses to organize for better wages, and to stop child labor.

“Hard-working people are up against a small group that holds far too much power, not just in our economy, but also in our democracy. Like the women of Lawrence, we are here to say enough is enough!” Warren said in her speech. “We are here to take on a fight that will shape our lives, our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s lives, just as surely as the fight that began in these streets more than a century ago.”

Warren’s platform will focus on many of the same issues she’s worked on since she was a Harvard Law School professor who helped President Barack Obama create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the 2008 recession: cracking down on big banks, making corporations more accountable to workers, and expanding health care and housing for the middle class and low-income Americans.

Warren was the first major name in a large field of 2020 Democrats to announce her plans to explore a presidential run. Since then, plenty of other big names have announced, including Senate colleagues Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are expected to make their own announcements soon.

The 2020 Democratic primary is already shaping up to be a race to the left. But early Warren backers believe she will demonstrate she has the long and authentic track record on these issues.

“In terms of the proven track record of success, she has this history of authentically living her politics, standing up to bankers, standing up to pharma,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group endorsing Warren. “She doesn’t stop fighting and she doesn’t stop fighting for regular people. Voters know that and I think they will respond to that.”

What Warren’s platform will look like

Warren’s platform will likely be based on beliefs she’s held since the beginning of her career, even before she became a US senator.

As Vox’s Matt Yglesias explained in a recent piece, the Massachusetts Democrat has always been a “big ideas person”:

As a professor at Harvard Law School, she authored an influential 2007 article calling for the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She came to Washington first as an aide to congressional Democrats doing oversight of the Bush-era bank bailout program, and then shaping the creation of the CFPB on both the legislative and administrative fronts. Later, she was recruited by Massachusetts Democrats to successfully challenge Scott Brown and, from her vantage point in the Senate, served as a frequent thorn in the Obama administration’s side, particularly on matters related to financial regulation and regulatory personnel.

Financial regulation has continued to be Warren’s pet issue in the Senate, but she’s also introduced a slate of ambitious legislation over the past few months that gives us an idea of what she’ll run on for president. She’s released:

  • An affordable housing bill that would dramatically increase the federal government’s investment into affordable housing by $450 billion over 10 years, aiming to create more than a million jobs in the process.
  • The Accountable Capitalism Act, which would redistribute the balance of power from corporate shareholders to workers in the corporations, by requiring more worker representation on a corporation’s board of directors.
  • A sweeping anti-corruption bill to crack down on DC lobbying, in keeping with another of her key tenets: getting money out of politics. (It’s likely she will challenge some of her Democratic competitors on the issue; Warren has already issued a call for her fellow 2020 challengers to disavow corporate PAC money and not self-fund their campaigns.)

“Today, our government works just great for oil companies and defense contractors, great for private prisons, great for Wall Street banks and hedge funds,” Warren said at her announcement speech. “It’s just not working for anyone else.”

Most recently, the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein and Christopher Ingraham reported on Warren’s plan for a “wealth tax,” which would impose a 2 percent tax on Americans with more than $50 million in assets, and a 3 percent tax on those with assets more than $1 billion. Warren’s idea was quickly panned by conservatives, but new polling from Morning Consult suggests the idea is popular with the public — including half of Republican voters.

The poll found 61 percent of voters favored Warren’s tax plan, compared to just 20 percent who didn’t favor it — and 50 percent of Republican voters favored the idea, compared to 30 percent who didn’t like it. That suggests the idea of taxing the superrich is popular with both parties.

It’s also an idea that’s personal for Warren. She often talks about her family’s near brush with financial disaster when she was young: After her father had a near-fatal heart attack and had to stop working, her mother got a job at Sears to make sure the family could keep their house.

“Understand, my mama worked hard,” Warren said in a speech on the trail last month. “She was scared, she pulled herself up, and she worked hard. But a mama today can work just as hard as my mama did and not be able to take care of herself and her baby. And that’s because of rules set in a distant place.”

That sense of financial inequality and a rigged system is personal for Warren. Now, it’s at the heart of her presidential campaign.

Warren continues to face questions about her DNA test

A persistent thorn in Warren’s side has been her own decision to release a DNA test in October that “strongly” suggested she had Native American blood.

The senator is originally from Oklahoma, and as Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained in February, Warren has said that her mother is part Cherokee, even though Warren herself isn’t an enrolled member of the three federally registered Cherokee tribes. Her ancestors don’t appear on the Dawes Rolls, an official list of members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes put together in the early 20th century (having a direct ancestor on the rolls is a requirement for enrollment in the Cherokee Nation).

The DNA analysis, performed by Stanford University professor Carlos Bustamante, concluded that while the “vast majority” of Warren’s ancestry is European, the results “strongly suggest” Native American heritage six to 10 generations ago.

Warren took the test as an attempt to clear up questions about her heritage after persistent questions about her claims of Native American ancestry, including a challenge from Trump this summer to take a test. But the move arguably backfired, causing her to apologize to angry Cherokee Nation leaders and opening up a new line of attack for President Donald Trump and conservatives. Warren has also had to answer more questions after a report from the Washington Post’s Annie Linskey and Amy Gardner found Warren wrote she was American Indian in a 1986 registration card she filled out for the State Bar of Texas. The form says information about her ethnicity was being gathered for statistical purposes; there’s no indication it was used for professional advancement.

“She is sorry that she was not more mindful of this earlier in her career,” Kristen Orthman, a Warren campaign spokesperson, told the Post.

While it appears like an early stumble that Warren has struggled to shake, there’s not a lot of polling to show this has hurt her with voters. A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted in October, the same month Warren initially took her DNA test, showed 49 percent of polled voters said the test didn’t change their opinion of the senator.

But it speaks to the larger debate around race and representation that is sure to play out in the 2020 primary, especially with Harris and Booker — two high-profile candidates of color — in the running.