Warren supporters in Virginia hold out hope for Super Tuesday

Backers question diversity of early-state voters

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a town hall in the gymnasium at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. on Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a town hall in the gymnasium at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. on Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 14, 2020 at 5:00am

ARLINGTON, Va. — After a disappointing finish in the nation’s first two nominating contests, Elizabeth Warren took a detour Thursday night from the next two states on the primary calendar.

After voting for a bipartisan resolution to limit President Donald Trump’s power to launch a new war in Iran, the Massachusetts Democrat didn’t jet off to Nevada or South Carolina, she stuck around to campaign in the Washington suburbs. Virginia’s primaries are less than a month away on March 3, after the caucuses in Nevada and primary in South Carolina.

“It’s a little rejuvenation stop,” said Allan Abramson, a strong Warren backer in his late 70s, who said he and his wife were at Thursday’s town hall at an Arlington high school because they wanted to show they still support the senator after the last week. “I think she could use the kick that we’re going to give.”

Once she took the stage, Warren came out swinging against former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, accusing him of trying to buy the nomination and attacking his remarks about the 2008 financial crisis.

Warren supporters in the crowd mostly weren’t worried about her performance in Iowa, where she finished third last week, and New Hampshire, where she finished fourth on Tuesday.

“It’s two states that have no people of color,” said Ysela Bravo, 53, of Frederick, Maryland. “We’re so desperate to beat Trump, we’re just jumping instead of looking.”

“Momentum may be overrated because each state’s demographics are different,” added Kevin Irish, 31, of Rockville, Maryland, adding that he did not care what other states said.

“It makes me want to stick with her more,” said Destiny Smith, 24, who is black and said she’s eager to see what happens in a more diverse state like South Carolina.

And yet, Warren has often trailed former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in support among African American voters. Her campaign has cut ad reservations in Nevada and South Carolina, while arguing that she can finish in the top two in “over half of Super Tuesday states.”

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Friendly crowd

In the Super Tuesday state of Virginia, at least, the enthusiasm for Warren was strong, with the line to get into the school stretching far down the street. Warren said she was nearly an hour late coming onstage because she had to first visit two overflow rooms.

“I had to take off a half day of annual leave,” said Kathryn Young, 76, her lapels adorned with three Warren buttons. She’s supposed to be working at a library until 9 p.m. but said she couldn’t miss this Warren event.

These are Warren’s people — they praised her plans, both their policy specifics and that she even has them at all.

“So I’m going to say something that is very controversial in Congress,” Warren told the crowd. “I believe in science.” Her supporters erupted in cheers of “Science, science, science!”

“I love it. I think that is my first ever ‘Science’ chant,” Warren said before promising to expand funding for basic research.

And in this suburban D.C. crowd, more than one supporter mentioned her doggedness in fighting to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Once onstage, Warren did too: “And it goes to show that when we fight, we can win.”

There were some undecideds in the crowd. More than a few said they were looking at Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, despite their ideological differences. Richard Gordon, an Arlington resident originally from Australia, is supporting Klobuchar, but he was just here for the experience. He’d never been to a political rally before.

Some supporters said the media hasn’t treated Warren fairly — a message that her campaign blasted out in a fundraising email just as attendees were filtering into the high school gym. “Elizabeth hasn’t been getting the same kind of media coverage as candidates she outperformed,” the email read.

Others argued she would have done better in New Hampshire had she had the kind of debate performance Klobuchar did in Manchester.

Abramson, who suggested the Arlington rally would be rejuvenating for Warren, wanted to see her freshen up her campaign slogans.

“When she says that [is] ‘corruption, pure and simple,’ I wince. … It’s too vague,” he said before Warren came onstage. “You can’t introduce yourself with the same shaggy dog story every week.”

He clapped at some of Warren’s biggest crescendo lines. But nearing the end of the event, had he heard any fresh language?

“No, not really,” he said.