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When Hillary Clinton arrived for a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in New York City’s Union Square in June 2014, she was greeted by fans lined up around the block, many of whom had slept outside to have the former secretary of state sign their copy of her memoir “Hard Choices.”
The bookstore was a bit more tame when Arden Andersen arrived after work on Tuesday. She found a spot near the back of the seating area where a primarily Democratic audience was waiting to see Sen. Elizabeth Warren read from her new book, “This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class.”
Still, Andersen left thinking one thing: Warren would make a good Democratic presidential candidate.
“That’s what I was thinking this whole evening,” Andersen said. “Like, ‘Please run for president.'”
Warren’s book tour has inevitably stoked speculation that she is considering a presidential bid in 2020. During an interview on the “Today” show earlier Tuesday, she repeatedly dodged questions about her presidential ambitions, saying only that she was running for reelection in Massachusetts in 2018.
Tuesday’s stop was the Massachusetts senator’s first on a tour promoting her most recent book, which tells several stories of middle-class individuals struggling in an economy beset by rising income inequality. It also promotes the role grassroots activism can play in reversing that tide.
Addressing the crowd for just over 45 minutes, Warren read bits from her book and told a familiar Democratic narrative of the death of the American middle class, which she pinned on the so-called trickle-down economics and deregulation that began in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan.
“None of this was inevitable,” Warren said. “This was not like gravity. This was not caused because suddenly we had technological change … This is not because of international competition. No – this is what the book is about. What happened was a very deliberate effort by corporate CEOs and billionaires who spent billions of dollars in Washington to make government work for themselves.”
But while Warren’s populist economic message has largely remained consistent throughout much of her public life, she cast much of her vision as a repudiation of the Trump administration’s positions on climate change, college affordability, and healthcare.
“President Donald Trump and his Republican buddies are delivering one gut punch after another to hardworking families,” Warren said. “And that’s why I’m fighting back.”
The Massachusetts senator came prepared with several recurring zingers about Trump, whom she repeatedly warned could deliver “the knockout blow” to the American middle class.
She compared him to a “not as cute” version of the dogs distracted by squirrels in the Disney movie “Up!” and promised the audience she wouldn’t use “alternative facts.” Asked about the president’s previous claims of voter fraud, she noted that Trump has previously said the Emmy Awards were rigged against his reality show “The Apprentice.”
She mocked Trump for failing to fulfill some of his campaign promises, including reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, which Warren supports, and repealing the Affordable Care Act on “day one,” which Warren does not support.
“I watched day one come and go, and Obamacare is still here,” Warren said.
Warren’s path to the presidency would be far from clear.
Though she has amassed a massive campaign war chest, early polls suggest she faces a tough reelection campaign in her own state. A poll conducted earlier this year showed that 46% of state residents wanted someone new as their senator.
Further, a Morning Consult poll released in February suggested Trump would beat Warren in a theoretical head-to-head matchup if the race were held then, though many Americans acknowledged they still did not know who she was.
While the senator’s barbs at Trump garnered laughter and applause throughout the evening, not all of the event’s attendees were thrilled about her focus on the president.
Mark, a Queens resident who came to see Warren but did not purchase a copy of her book, said her focus on Trump distracted from economic problems that existed far before his election.
“She should give more detail about how to fix things,” he said.
Asked whether he would support a Warren bid, he shrugged.
“I’m on the fence,” he replied.