Sen. Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign didn't exactly catch fire despite jumping in early – her poll numbers sagged, her ancestry controversy hung over the launch and other progressives stole her spotlight.
“It’s early and I'm running the campaign that I want to run,” Warren insisted to Fox News last month, when the Democratic presidential candidate from Massachusetts was averaging in the mid-single digits nationally and in key states.
Perhaps the slow-and-steady approach will pay off.
The populist senator who’s put out one progressive policy proposal after another during the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is enjoying a recent rise in the polls. She now stands at 13 percent in a new Quinnipiac University poll, trailing only former Vice President Joe Biden -- the front-runner at 35 percent in the survey -- and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, at 16 percent.
Also striking is the latest Fox News Poll, which indicates Warren in third place, at 9 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. She’s up from just 4 percent in the previous Fox News Poll, which was conducted in March.
Warren was the first major candidate to jump into the race, announcing her presidential exploratory committee on Dec. 31. While she came out of the gate with a lot of buzz and attention, she was soon hit with media attention over the controversy surrounding her disputed Native American heritage and attacks by President Trump labeling the senator as “Pocahontas.”
“I think there was a lot of unfair negative coverage directed towards Warren, but she just put her head down and put out good and interesting policy positions and campaigning all over the place,” said Kathy Sullivan, a Democratic National Committee member and former New Hampshire Democratic Party chair.
Sullivan, who remains neutral in the battle involving two-dozen candidates for the nomination, said Warren is benefiting from a combination of “ sheer hard work and ... the production of some very well-thought-out policy positions.”
From the opioid epidemic to the student loan debt to sky-high housing prices to early education and child care, Warren’s got a plan, putting out what seems like a policy proposal for everything.
“I’ve got a plan for that” has become her unofficial motto. Her campaign website is selling t-shirts and tote bags that say: “Warren has a plan for that.”
The candidate even made headlines when the catch phrase prompted comedian Ashley Nicole Black to tweet: "Do you think Elizabeth Warren has a plan to fix my love life?"
That prompted a response from Warren, who wrote on Twitter "DM me and let's figure this out.”
Political scientist Dante Scala, a veteran observer of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, noted that Warren’s time away from the spotlight may have helped her regain her footing.
“Sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise for a campaign to get off to a slow start. Away from the spotlight of a front-running campaign, Elizabeth Warren is running a positive, issues-oriented campaign. She is poised to become the progressive alternative to Joe Biden, especially if Bernie Sanders falters,” said Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.
Sullivan highlighted that Warren’s reaction to the negative stories and falling polls was also instrumental.
“It’s not being surprised by, let down by, or bothered by early poll numbers and whatever initial press coverage there may be, but keeping your head down, meeting voters and letting them hear your ideas. And Elizabeth Warren has done that and she’s reaping the rewards for all the work that she’s done,” Sullivan explained.
New Hampshire’s considered a must-win state for Warren. Presidential candidates from the state’s neighbor to the south have a history of winning the New Hampshire primary – most recently Democratic Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012.
Warren – who’s been a very frequent visitor to the Granite State this year – was back in New Hampshire again this past weekend.
Headlining a Rockingham County Democrats annual clambake, she zeroed in on the state’s soaring student loan debt.
“Over the past 10 years in New Hampshire, student loan debt has more than doubled,” Warren spotlighted. “Three-quarters of the students who graduate here in New Hampshire, graduate with debt. So they start the great game of life behind the starting line.”
Even one of Warren’s most vocal Republican critics complimented the senator on her 2020 rebound.
“I’ve long believed those who underestimate Sen. Warren do so at their own peril,” noted veteran GOP strategist Colin Reed. “She will have a second act in this political campaign.”
But as she rises, she can expect renewed tough treatment from Trump and his allies, who are sure to not only revive the ancestry controversy but challenge her government-heavy proposals on health care and more.
Reed, pointing to Warren’s decision not to run for the White House in the 2016 campaign, argued that “her fundamental problem remains unchanged and will never go away: she should have run last time when there was a field of two and a desperate craving from the electorate for a progressive alternative to Secretary Clinton. Timing is everything, and Sen. Warren missed her moment.”