SIOUX CITY - Speaking to an enthusiastic Sioux City crowd Saturday to kick off the political year in Siouxland, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., aired her fiery populist message of pushing back on Wall Street advantages and making health care and education more affordable.
Warren said her modest upbringing in Oklahoma and through her career as an academic and later as a U.S. senator, she has pondered one key question, "Why are working people facing such a steep path?"
Warren said she plans to fight in the vein of the people going back a century in America, as was done by union organizers, suffragettes and civil rights activists.
"They organized, they persisted and they made real change. It is time to fight hard, dream big and make real change," Warren said in her final remarks in the 45-minute event.
Warren's stop showed that the 2020 race, in which Republican President Donald Trump plans to seek re-election, was already revved up, as campaign activities started the very first week in Iowa. As usual, the road to the White House starts with the Iowa caucuses, the first test of the 2020 nominating process, which is 13 months off.
Warren moved quickly over the last six days to show she is serious in strongly looking at a 2020 run. On Monday, she announced forming an exploratory committee, the first major step toward launching a widely anticipated campaign. On Tuesday, she announced a swing of Iowa stops that grew to five in number, and by Friday she held the first of those in Council Bluffs.
Warren, 69, is a populist fighter and favorite target of Trump. She advocated for the founding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which took place in 2011, and some Democrats wanted her to run for president in 2016.
Heather Fiedler, of Le Mars, said she already supports Warren's entrance into the presidential election cycle.
"I have always wanted her to run. I wanted her to run the last time...She understands what the average person deals with on a daily basis," Fiedler said.
Warren said she has long supported reducing interest rates on college student loans, as she said a generation has been dogged by tens of thousands of dollars of debt. She said she wants to change the laws for how people can lobby with federal lawmakers, saying there is a need to "close the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington."
"Washington works well for people with lawyers and lobbyists...Washington works great for giant oil companies. It is not working for people who are wondering if their children will have a world to inherit," Warren said.
The Warren event in the downtown Orpheum Theatre drew a crowd of about 500 people. The theater is a longtime city stop for high-profile candidates, drawing such notables during the 2016 cycle as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Warren took six questions from the crowd, and the first questioner was a woman who asked why Warren took a DNA test "to give Donald Trump more fodder to be a bully."
Trump has mocked Warren as "Pocahontas," referring to her claim that she's part Native American. The 2017 DNA test results showed she is, going back perhaps six to 10 generations, somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American.
Warren responded to the question by saying Republicans have aired "a lot of racial slurs," so she took the test to scientifically dig into her ancestry.
"I am not a person of color. I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry," Warren said.
After the Sioux City event, Warren headed to Storm Lake, for a noon roundtable to discuss issues of working families.
In a Journal interview preceding her event, Warren said it is important to campaign broadly statewide in a variety of communities. She said there is no timetable for her to make a decision on moving from exploratory to full candidate status.
In a statement, Woodbury County Republican Party Chairwoman Suzan Stewart said Warren is missing the key issues Iowans want addressed.
"She'll have a difficult time connecting with Iowans. In fact, we welcome her to the Hawkeye state, where her message will fall flat and her unfavorability will probably even increase," Stewart said.
Warren was the first Democratic candidate to speak in Sioux City for the year, but she wasn't the first in the long 2020 election cycle. U.S. Rep. John Delaney, of Maryland, has visited the state more than 20 times, including several trips to Sioux City. Delaney plans to return for five events in eastern and central Iowa through Jan. 12.
The Democratic field could include nearly two dozen candidates.
Warren is the most prominent Democrat so far to make moves toward candidacy, although others such as U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro held events in Siouxland in 2018. Others looking to run include first-tier contenders such as U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.