Elizabeth Warren officially launches campaign for Democratic nomination

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has officially launched her campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president in 2020.

Massachusetts senator to run on platform of fighting social and economic injustices

Elizabeth Warren waves at the crowd in Lawrence, Mass., during her announcement that she's seeking the Democratic nomination heading into the 2020 U.S. presidential race. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has officially launched her campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president in 2020.

Warren picked the working-class city of Lawrence, Mass., for the kickoff Saturday, banking on a populist call to fight economic inequality that she hopes will distinguish her in a crowded Democratic field and help her move past the controversy surrounding her past claims to Native American heritage.

The Massachusetts senator made the announcement at a mill site where largely immigrant factory workers went on strike about 100 years ago, providing the longtime consumer advocate a fitting forum to advance her platform of fighting economic inequality.

During the launch, she spoke about fighting a "rigged system" and called the administration of President Donald Trump "the most corrupt in living memory."

"Today, millions and millions of American families are struggling to survive in a system that's been rigged by the wealthy and the well connected," she said.

In a video released before the event, Warren cited Lawrence's "history of working people coming together to make change, where the fight was hard, the battle was uphill, and where a group of women led the charge for all of us."

Watch: Boston Globe political reporter on Warren's bid

CBC News Network host Michael Serapio spoke with Boston Globe political reporter James Pindell about Elizabeth Warren's presidential bid. 6:40

The 69-year-old was scheduled to later visit New Hampshire, home to the nation's first primary, where Warren could have an advantage as a neighbouring-state resident with high name recognition. She intended to spend Sunday in Iowa, where the lead-off caucuses will be the first test of candidates' viability.

Warren was the first high-profile Democrat to signal interest in running for the White House, forming an exploratory committee on New Year's Eve.

Warren is entering the race as one of the party's most recognizable figures. The former Harvard law professor has spent the past decade in the national spotlight, first emerging as a consumer activist during the financial crisis. She later led the congressional panel that oversaw the 2008 financial industry bailout. After Republicans blocked her from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency she helped create, she ran for the Senate in 2012 and unseated a Republican incumbent.

She has $11 million US left over from her commanding 2018 Senate re-election victory that can be used on her presidential run.

More party support for Harris and Biden?

Still, Warren would compete against other popular Democrats who will be able to raise substantial money.

A recent CNN poll found that fewer Democrats said they'd be very likely to support Warren if she runs than said the same of former vice-president Joe Biden — who is still undecided for a nomination bid  or senators Kamala Harris of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Harris has joined the nomination race, while Sanders remains undecided.

Still, about as many Democrats said in the poll that they'd be at least somewhat likely to support Warren as said the same of Harris or Sanders.

Warren picked the working-class city of Lawrence, Mass., for the kickoff Saturday, banking on a populist call to fight economic inequality that she hopes will distinguish her in a crowded Democratic field. (Elise AmendolaéAssociated Press)

That challenge is on display this weekend as Democratic presidential contenders — or those considering a run — fan out across the crucial early-voting states. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is in Iowa while New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is visiting South Carolina. Another possible presidential rival, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, planned to be in New Hampshire on Saturday.

The campaign launch comes at a challenging moment for Warren. She has apologized twice over the past two weeks for claiming Native American identity on multiple occasions early in her career, an episode that has created fodder for Republicans and could overshadow her campaign.

The expected launch will test whether the controversy is simply a Washington obsession or a substantive threat to her candidacy.

Doug Rubin, a Boston-based strategist who advised Warren during her first Senate run in 2012, said in an interview that most voters will respond to "the powerful message she's been talking about," in terms of battling social and economic injustices, rather than the back-and-forth over her personal identity.

Warren not a 2016 Sanders supporter

Another threat could come from Sanders. They're both leaders of the Democrats' liberal vanguard, but some Sanders supporters are still upset she didn't support him during his 2016 primary challenge against Hillary Clinton. And as a senator from Vermont who won the New Hampshire primary, he would likely go into the Granite State as an early favorite if he decided to run again.

Despite their similarities, Warren and Sanders have taken somewhat divergent paths in recent months as they prepare for the primary. After proposing an "ultra-millionaire tax" that would hit the wealthiest 75,000 households in America, Warren told Bloomberg News last week that she continues to "believe in capitalism" but wants to see stricter rules to prevent gaming the system — a marked contrast with the self-described democratic socialism of Sanders.

With files from CBC News