FAIRFAX, Virginia — Every candidate running for president tries to carve out their own lane.
In the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, there are candidates looking to be transformative, like Bernie Sanders, a breath of fresh air like Pete Buttigieg, single issue candidates like Jay Inslee and Eric Swalwell, and Joe Biden, who is casting himself as the antidote to President Donald Trump.
But the policy wonk persona is quickly becoming the personal brand of Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator rolling out detailed policy proposals almost daily. Warren has it down to a science as well, speaking at length about key policy areas tailored to the cities and towns she visits.
During a rally at George Mason University in Virginia on Thursday, Warren made a point of first talking about ethics reforms for the Department of Defense and the many companies that benefit from lucrative military contracts.
“I have three brothers — they all served in the military and I know the kind of sacrifice that the military make, that their families make,” she said. “I just want to be able to say to them as an American, ‘I guarantee that when a decision is made at the Department of Defense, it’s not a decision to enhance the profitability of a major contractor. It is a decision to protect the safety and security of the United States of America.
Warren’s proposal includes reforms like banning intelligence agency officials from going on to work for foreign governments, placing barriers on officials hopping between lobbying gigs, and public disclosure of which lawmakers are being lobbied.
Warren said there are many “fine people” working for DOD and defense contractors, during which one attendee quipped to another man beside him, “That’s us.” When Warren called for a ban on DOD employees from trading on defense contractors stocks, the same man asked his friend, “Wait, we can do that?”
But the crowd loved the ethics reforms Warren proposed, despite being within miles of the Virginia offices for major defense corporations like BAE Systems, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin. Attendees met each new proposal with cheers and clapping.
Warren has an informal slogan, in which she chants, “I’ve got a plan.” When a question is asked, she repeats the slogan and goes off on a tangent about the nitty gritty details and steps she believes need to be taken.
Since April, when Warren has been dropping more policy plans, she has also witnessed a solid bump in a handful of polls. From April to May, Warren has jumped eight points in Quinnipiac University’s poll from the previous month. She even leapfrogged Sanders to move into second place behind Biden, who maintains a dominate lead in most surveys.
Keeping a strong stature in national and early voting state polls is a major component candidates need if they want to stay in the top tier and fresh in the minds of voters.
Warren keeps ramping up the policy debate in the Democratic field
Warren has made a point of releasing detailed policy proposals on every issue under the sun. But not all have gone over well, especially within the Democratic field.
For instance, Warren’s proposal to break up large technology companies has been met with skepticism among the dozens of Democrats running for president.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke dismissed the idea of breaking up Amazon as not the right path, while candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris of California have said they would have to consider their options.
Warren has piled on the policy proposals, including plans for student loan debt relief, childcare reforms, education policy, housing, abortion, and massive wealth tax for the ultra-rich.
But Warren is not the only candidate to dump policy proposals one after another. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro has made a point of getting ahead of the 2020 field on detailed policy plans.
Castro has proposed sweeping reforms on issues ranging from immigration to education, many of which have been mimicked by others in the Democratic field. He was the first to unveil a broad immigration plan as well as calling for impeachment proceedings for Trump to begin in the House of Representatives.
The candidates are in a heated race where resources are scarce. Establishing oneself as the policy juggernaut might be risky, but its certainly unique way to always have an answer for eager voters.