Sen. Elizabeth Warren has emerged as a top critic of 2020 presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden, including saying this week that he is betraying female voters by not supporting taxpayer funding for abortions.
Ms. Warren, jockeying with a handful of other Democrats for the No. 2 position in the presidential field, appears to have decided that the best way to stand out is to campaign with a notebook full of policy proposals and, when the opportunities arise, a stern critique of what the former vice president offers.
She tells voters she was fighting corporations when Mr. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was defending credit card companies in bankruptcy legal battles in the 1990s.
She says Mr. Biden is wrong to believe Democrats can, and should, be prepared to work with Republicans once President Trump is out of office.
The flare-up of abortion politics created a new opportunity this week. Ms. Warren said Mr. Biden was wrong to signal support for the Hyde Amendment, a 4-decade-old compromise that says while abortion is legal, taxpayers won’t be forced to pay for elective abortions.
“We do not pass laws that take away that freedom from the women who are most vulnerable,” she said in an MSNBC town hall.
While other Democratic campaigns gripe about the focus on Mr. Biden or seek ways to carve out space, Ms. Warren is eager to lean into the Biden factor.
Analysts said one reason is she is trying to distinguish herself from Sen. Bernard Sanders, another leading contender with far-left proposals.
“She shares a lot of the same space with Bernie Sanders, and I know Sanders people freak out when I make that comparison, but the reality is, policy aside, it is the outsiders who want to fight the institutional players, and since she is competing with Bernie for more of that space, Biden is the ultimate institutional,” said Scott Ferson, a Massachusetts-based Democratic strategist. “I don’t know if there is enough oxygen for Bernie and Warren in the race, if one of them is going to be successful.”
The pressure from Ms. Warren and others appeared to pay off substantively Thursday when Mr. Biden said in a speech at a fundraiser in Atlanta that he had changed his stance on the Hyde Amendment because “circumstances have changed.”
The political side of the battle is likely to play out in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary and which is being viewed as a must-win for Mr. Sanders or Ms. Warren.
“If she can be seen as the alternative to Biden — and a lot has to happen to Sanders for that to happen — then she is much better positioned obviously,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.
Mr. Sanders also has not hesitated to draw contrasts with Mr. Biden, and his camp says it welcomes those who have sincere policy differences with Mr. Biden to make that contrast clear.
“All of Bernie Sanders’ politics come from conviction,” said Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir. “It is not a game. It is not like he is trying to draw contrast with Biden because it would be politically advantageous. They come from deep philosophical differences on how they would approach matters of policy significance.”
Mr. Sanders has pointed out that he was on the opposite side of legislative battles from Mr. Biden on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Iraq War, and that the former vice president has been too timid on climate change and reluctant to embrace “Medicare for All.”
Others, including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sens. Kamala D. Harris of California and Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, have tried to create daylight with Mr. Biden, who has consistently led in early polls.
Ms. Warren, though, has seized the anti-Biden headlines for the moment.
Rod Sullivan, a Johnson County, Iowa, supervisor who described himself as the first elected official in the nation to back Mr. Sanders in 2016, but is backing Ms. Warren this year, said her willingness to mix it up is “one of the qualities that attracted me to her campaign.”
“She does it because that is who she is,” Mr. Sullivan said. “If she thinks anybody is saying something that is incorrect or not going to benefit the average worker, she is going to say it. It doesn’t matter if it is the current president or the former vice president.”
Mr. Sullivan said battling Mr. Biden may make her attractive to voters also interested in Mr. Sanders, “but I really don’t think she makes that decision based on politics as she does based upon a very real difference in policy.”
Ms. Warren had a rough early campaign season, struggling to explain away her previous claims of American Indian ancestry, but now appears to have gained some footing. Though the ancestry issue continues to pop up, she has risen in the polling after becoming the first major candidate to call for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.
She also has kept a packed schedule.
Dan Geldon, her chief of staff, tweeted this week that she has visited more than 20 states and Puerto Rico, has held 90 town halls, and has taken more than 25,000 selfies and 14,000 questions from the press.
Ms. Warren has climbed from 6% to 8.2% in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls since calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, putting her third behind Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders.
© Copyright (c) 2019 News World Communications, Inc.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.