Elizabeth Warren dances in the shadows

Did you hear Elizabeth Warren’s passionate, pointed, and populist speech to the party faithful at the Democratic convention last night? And if you did, do you remember what she said?

Warren had the good fortune to be slotted in prime TV time last night, a chance to offer her vision and rationale for running for the US Senate slot that many Democrats nationally still view as “Teddy’s seat.” But that good fortune was tinged with bad luck when her address began right at the start of the second half of the closely fought NFL season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants on NBC, which also eliminated one broadcast network from showing the speech. (At least she didn’t have to worry about competing with the Red Sox game in Seattle.)

And for those who still dialed in, her words were soon lost in the wake of the stemwinder by former President Bill Clinton, whose 48-minute nomination speech of President Obama will go down as one of the most stirring and powerful political addresses ever. Warren will have to be content with YouTube views of her address, much like her declaration that “nobody got rich on their own” that went viral when she first began running.

Warren’s entrance on stage was greeted wildly by the delegates inside the Time Warner Cable Arena but they weren’t the ones she needed to reach. She had them at “hello.” Her anti-Wall Street, pro-middle class homily was tailor-made for introducing herself to a national audience and tracked the recent move by her campaign to make the race a larger issue about the Republican party rather than her individual battle against Scott Brown.

In fact, Warren mentioned GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (once) more than she referred to Brown (zero). And as a surrogate for Obama, she did a masterful job in riling up the base by lambasting Mitt Romney’s courting of corporations and top earners.

“After all, Mitt Romney’s the guy who said corporations are people,” Warren told the frenzied partisans. “No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die.

“And that matters, and that matters, because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”

The Harvard professor made only passing references to the Bay State, offering a “shout out” to the delegation and relaying a couple anecdotes about people she’s met on the trail. But, again, she used those as a jab at Romney rather than a dagger for Brown.

“I talk to nurses and programmers, salespeople and firefighters — people who bust their tails every day,” she said. “Not one of them – not one – stashes their money in the Cayman Islands to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

The Washington Post sizes up yesterday’s winners and losers, and, yes, Warren was one of the winners. The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper of record for the folks on the receiving end of Warren’s barbs, plays up Warren in a big way: It contrasts Clinton’s performance with
Warren’s “sharp attack,” and devotes a second piece to the meat of Warren’s speech.

The Boston Herald said Warren appeared nervous at the podium of her first convention, reporting “she often stepped on her applause lines and appeared to battle dry mouth.” The tabloid also offered competing partisan takes on the speech from Warren Tolman and Rob Gray. The Herald played up the fact that she declined to meet with Native Americans to talk about the Herald focus on her alleged claim to be part Cherokee. It didn’t escape the conservative punditry either.

But as it has been at nearly every Democratic convention since 1988, when Clinton gave what felt like an interminable nomination speech for Michael Dukakis, the convention was once again the folksy Arkansan’s stage. And Warren had the tough draw to be standing in his never-ending shadow.

                                                                                                                                        –JACK SULLIVAN


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