Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren took her war on billionaires straight to the pair of ultra-rich 2020 candidates, where she equated Michael Bloomberg's plan to ignore early states like South Carolina to fundamentally skipping out on democracy.
Speaking Sunday to more than 800 people at a College of Charleston town hall event, the Massachusetts senator questioned what the state of the Democratic presidential field says about the fairness of America’s current political system.
After broadly stating she believes the long-term goal must be to establish public financing as the only way to finance elections, she cited the recent departure of California Sen. Kamala Harris from the 2020 race as the embodiment of what's wrong with the influence of the mega-rich in politics today.
"She said she couldn’t raise enough money to stay in the race and be competitive on the same day that a billionaire bought his way onto the Democratic stage,” Warren said, referring to billionaire Tom Steyer qualifying for the December debate.
The line elicited boos from the crowd.
"What else have we got? Another billionaire?” Warren continued, before launching into her attack on Bloomberg, the media tycoon and former New York mayor.
"His plan is to skip the early states, as he calls them, the states where you actually go out and meet people, where you do this thing called democracy, where you take questions," she said. "Instead, he's just going to reach into his pocket and drop $37 million in one week."
The barbs came after Warren's campaign tried to make similar appeals in other forums. Hours after Harris announced Tuesday she was ending her run, Warren's camp sent an email to supporters seeking to capitalize on the departure and the continued presence of Steyer and Bloomberg.
"Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — two women senators who, together, won more than 11.5 million votes in their last elections — have been forced out of this race, while billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg have been allowed to buy their way in," the email stated.
Warren has sworn off big-dollar fundraisers in both the primary and the general election. Instead, she talks on the campaign trail about how she will not be giving special access to wealthy donors.
On Sunday, Warren invoked part of the campaign slogan that Harris had championed.
"My campaign is for the people," Warren said, prompting some of the biggest applause of the night.
Ian Schuldt, who stood in Warren's selfie line at the end of the town hall, said he appreciated Warren's comments about Harris' exit. His fiance, Jennifer Koegler, who stood next to him, said she had been considering Harris for some time, along with Warren.
Schuldt wondered what Harris' departure means for the future of the Democratic Party if the field continues to drift all white male.
Warren addressed that concern in comments to reporters after the event.
"I think that tells us something is very wrong with our democracy if in a Democratic primary a woman who has been elected to office, a woman who has such an incredible track record, a woman has a unique voice to bring to this debate gets squeezed out by billionaires buying their way in," she said.
Warren is one of three remaining female Democratic presidential candidates in the race.
The other two are Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Warren and Klobuchar have qualified for the December Democratic presidential debate. No person of color has qualified for that stage so far.