In midst of Clinton-Sanders fight, Warren keeps focus on Trump

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LOWELL — Calling Donald Trump a “small, insecure moneygrubber,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Saturday unleashed her latest blistering attack against the Republican presidential candidate as hundreds of Bay State Democrats gathered for their convention still divided over who will lead their own party into November.

Warren, who has escalated her attacks on Twitter and in recent speeches against the presumptive GOP nominee, has nevertheless remained on the sidelines in the Democratic contest that will drag on at least through next Tuesday.

Her speech came against the backdrop of a Boston Globe report on Friday that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has been actively exploring scenarios for how Massachusetts, led by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, would replace Warren in the Senate should she be tapped by Clinton as her running mate.

“Here’s a man who builds a business to profit off other peoples’ pain. He wants to be Commander in Chief, but he’s only qualified to be Fraudster-in-Chief,” Warren said to cheers.

Trump has repeatedly fired back against Warren, calling her a “basket case” and her career a “fraud” – Trump and others have questioned her Native American ancestry claims.

With no statewide candidates on the ballot this year, the state’s leading Democrats spent the morning focused largely on presidential politics and Trump.

Unlike four years ago when Warren was running her own campaign and state lawmakers, by virtue of their familiarity with his tenure as governor, were playing an outsized role shaping the Democratic narrative against Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the senior senator took the lead Saturday making the case against Trump.

“I’m proud to be a Democrat in this election. Proud of the debate that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have had. Proud that we are a party that doesn’t debate over who has the tiniest hands or who can build the longest, tallest, stupidest wall between us and Mexico,” Warren said. “This election isn’t just about Trump’s ugly racism, his disgusting sexism, or his small-minded vision for America. It’s about the American people. It’s about our values. This election is about our vision of who we are and what kind of a country we are going to build.”

Knocking Trump for wanting to repeal Wall Street banking reform and his positions toward climate change, organized labor and college affordability, Warren referenced recent Trump remarks chastising the media and complaining about the Mexican heritage of the judge in the lawsuit against Trump University.

“Donald, it’s time to stop sniveling and put on your big boy pants because this is what accountability feels like,” Warren said.

Warren also couldn’t resist a slap at former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who she defeated in 2012 and who went on to lose another Senate campaign in New Hampshire.

“Neither Ed Markey nor I are up for reelection this November, and so far Scott Brown has not found another Senate race to lose. But I’m here today to talk about elections anyway,” she said.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg told the News Service he “hasn’t even thought about it” when asked if he would consider changing the Senate vacancies rules to block Baker from appointing a temporary successor to Warren if she were to be tapped for vice president.

Most of the state’s political establishment has lined up behind Hillary Clinton, but her inability to pull away from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has left the party with lingering divisions, even in Massachusetts, whose primary Clinton won by the narrowest of margins.

Many have predicted Clinton will sew up the nomination next Tuesday when six states votes, including delegate-rich California and New Jersey, but her claim to the nomination rests in part on the pledges of superdelegates to support her at the national convention in Philadelphia next month.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh came the closest to calling to an end to the primary cycle, suggesting it was time for Democrats to unite behind a candidate and pivot to the general election and the issues that the party cares about, including income inequality.

“Next Tuesday, this Democratic primary, hopefully, will be locked up,” Walsh said, to some applause. He continued, “Much more unites us in this party than divides us. So I ask, as you leave here today, we go out there and take the fight to the streets and let them know who represents the working class people.”

Democratic Party Chairman Thomas McGee, a state senator from Lynn, was also careful not to inflame party divisions, signs of which were largely subdued on the convention floor with only a scattering of Sanders and Clinton signs, and a cardboard cutout of Clinton.

“Our next President must be someone with the right combination of leadership, experience and temperament – and I’m confident that it will be either Hillary or Bernie,” said McGee, who has officially endorsed Clinton.

Before the start of the convention, Sanders supporters were handing out fliers outside the Tsongas arena encouraging delegates to participate in a phone bank in Lowell for Sanders after the event.

The party had planned to have surrogates from the two presidential campaigns address the convention, but canceled New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s appearance on behalf of Clinton after the Sanders camp failed to respond to the party’s request for a surrogate to speak, according to party officials.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, one of the most prominent elected backers of Sanders, said the party “should have reached out to legislators” that support Sanders to balance a speaking program that included all Clinton supporters.

“I don’t think the division is great here, but I think the Democratic Party missed an opportunity to heal some wounds,” Eldridge said.

Attorney General Maura Healey, another Clinton supporter, said Democrats “have to come together in the weeks and months ahead,” but Eldridge said he would support Sanders going all the way to the convention in July, even if he just holds on to his delegates until then to help shape the party platform. One petition circulating in Lowell on Saturday called for urging the Democratic National Committee to add single-payer health care to its platform.

“As long as he keeps winning some states, I think he should continue to the convention,” Eldridge said.

Almost lost in the day’s rhetoric were critiques of Republican Gov. Baker, who will presumably seek a second term in two years with no clear Democratic challengers on the horizon. In his 17 months in office, Baker has forged close working relationships with Beacon Hill Democrats, and is riding sky-high approval ratings that have made him the most popular governor in the country from either party.

“Charlie Baker has shown status quo leadership that comes with his lack of vision,” McGee said. “This jeopardizes our ability to remain a national leader in areas like education, job creation and innovation. Delegates, we elect a Governor to show real leadership and to make the tough decisions. Twenty-eighteen is just two years away and we are going to be ready. Let Charlie Baker and Republicans tout his poll numbers, because in two years they will be ancient history.”

Delegates, however, were uncertain about their party’s chances against the Republican in two years, citing history and Baker’s moderation as two big factors working against them.

“Too soon to tell,” said Jim Yocum, a delegate from Shirley, when asked to assess Baker’s performance. Yocum also said he didn’t know who he’d like to see challenge Baker in 2018.

Nearly a dozen delegates interviewed on the convention floor had mixed reviews for Baker, with some applauding his decision to support a transgender anti-discrimination bill, and others taking issue with his energy policies and support for charter schools.

“Eh,” said Donene Williams, a Somerville Democrat who said she was worried about Baker’s reluctant approach to the extension of the Green Line trolley line through her city.

Williams said she would love to see Attorney General Maura Healey challenge Baker in 2018, and also mentioned U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano as a suitable challenger. Healey said she plans to seek re-election rather than challenge the governor.

“I think Maura’s destined for big things. She’s our Elizabeth Warren at the state level,” Williams said.

Other delegates mentioned Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Cape Cod Sen. Dan Wolf and even Leland Cheung, a lieutenant governor candidate last cycle who is challenging fellow Democrat Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville for Senate seat this year, as possible statewide candidates.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren, on most short-lists as a possible challenger, spoke shortly before Warren in a prime speaking slot.

“We have to be really careful and have someone dynamic who appeals to the youth of Massachusetts as well as the old geezers like me,” said one Cape Cod delegate who asked not to be identified by name. “I think we have an uphill battle ahead of us. We’re fighting history.”

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service