How'd Elizabeth Warren Do at the DNC?


The second night of the Democratic National Convention ended on another barn-burning note, with former President Clinton expertly waltzing his way through policy points in a speech that went well over his allotted time, but kept the room, and viewers at home, captivated. (The only thing missing was an empty chair strategically placed on stage so Clinton could kick it over at the end of his speech before dropping the mic.)

Leading up to the Clinton show was Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, who got a prime slot in what she reminded the crowd was her first Democratic convention. The room cheered widely as she took the stage, a testament to the fact that the mere idea of a Warren candidacy can put Democrats in a frenzy. They hooted and hollered to the point where she told them, “Enough” in a mom voice (a series of polite “thank yous” while the applause dies down is probably the better bet for next time), then launched into a variation of the speech she’s been giving on the stump. The room lapped up every word.

Warren often speaks quicker on the campaign trail and is more animated, but last night her voice was balanced, not bombastic. She wasn’t pumping her fists and looking up to the nosebleed seats to connect with the delegation from American Samoa. She delivered her salient message against corporate greed, saying that “people feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right.”

Warren didn’t hold back and attacked Mitt Romney directly. Her biggest applause line by far was her response to his claims that “corporations are people.” It’s a setup she’s been trotting out occasionally on the stump, using it recently at an Obama fundraiser at Symphony Hall. “No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people,” she said, as the crowd began cheering. “People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama.”

The pundits didn’t have much time to parse through Warren’s speech last night, as Clinton took the stage shortly after and seemed to turn most of them into putty. But today’s analysis of her time in the national spotlight is mostly positive.

Charlie Pierce at Esquire says that last night was the moment when Warren became a candidate:

Elizabeth Warren is becoming less of an idea and more of a person, and a formidable one for all that.

The Fix at the Washington Post was more introspective, after arguing earlier in the day that the speech was Warren’s all-or-nothing moment:

We struggled with where to fit the Massachusetts Democratic Senate nominee in our winners and losers post…The reaction to Warren in the room made clear that if she winds up in the Senate in 2013, she will immediately become part of the 2016 Democratic presidential conversation. But, the heat with which Warren delivered her speech made us wonder that it might not make it slightly harder for her to get to the Senate this fall. Do conservative Democrats and independents in Massachusetts react to that sort of tenor and tone?

At the Atlantic, Warren got props for being one of the few speakers to rile the crowd:

She was the one of only two speakers during the pre-Clinton heart of the evening to put some fire into the crowd….[with] a mix of grandmotherly concern and rounded Oklahoma vowels on a night whose broad themes appeared to be the white-working class and women voters.

Not surprisingly, the libertarian mag Reason took a harsher tone, saying that her speech fell flat:

When Warren initially walked across the stage she blew the doors off the building without even speaking but somehow failed to feed off the crowd that so desperately wanted her to inspire them to new heights. Warren slogged through her speech and limped flatly to what should have been a dramatic finish.

And finally, the Globe noted that she struck a balance between appealing to the deep blue liberals who packed the convention hall and the independent voters she’s trying to woo back home.

Warren balanced the white-hot rhetoric that marked her tenure — first, as head of the Congressional Oversight Panel overseeing the $700 billion TARP program and, second, as an administration employee setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — with her non-partisan plea for independent votes.

As we look to the end of the week to see if there’s any post-convention bump in the polls for President Obama, it will be interesting to see if the after-effects of this convention speech will help change the game for Warren as well.