- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2017

BALTIMORE — With President Obama out of the picture, Democrats are in the market for a new leader, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has catapulted to the top of the list of contenders for many progressive Democrats, courtesy of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Last week’s high-profile dust-up with Mr. McConnell on the Senate floor — the Massachusetts Democrat was silenced after Republicans found her in violation of a little-used rule against insulting other senators — has bolstered Ms. Warren’s image in the eyes of voters who range from die-hard party activists to Republicans searching for a new allegiance after the presidential election of Donald Trump.

“I think that there was something kind of galvanizing about that moment — having an old white guy shut up a woman,” said Kristen Corcoran, a 37-year-old Indiana native who lives in the District of Columbia. “As a woman, it is like, ‘Yeah, we have all been there,’ and I think that is going to strike a chord with people.”

Mrs. Corcoran was among the activists who turned out for a Democratic National Committee forum over the weekend applauding Ms. Warren for putting up a fight. Democrats said the episode is resonating with the grass-roots activists opposed to Mr. Trump and is causing headaches for Republican lawmakers at town hall meetings.

“That was great. I loved it. When Democrats have a strong spine, then people like them,” said Michael Rosenblum, a member of the Baltimore County Progressive Democrats.

Democrats have been working to get past hard feelings from the presidential primary race last year between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, and strategizing to tap into the grass-roots energy.

The field of contenders for DNC chair have tried to put intraparty squabbles behind them by calling for unity.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are also auditioning to help fill the leadership vacuum by taking a firm stance against Mr. Trump.

Ms. Warren, who is up for re-election next year, stole the show last week after Mr. McConnell and his Republican colleagues voted to silence her for the duration of the debate over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation.

Republicans said she broke Senate rules by impugning Mr. Sessions, at the time a fellow senator, by reading a decades-old letter from Coretta Scott King accusing Mr. Sessions of racist motives.

Disputes over arcane Senate rules rarely garner attention outside of political insiders and wonks, but the drama took on a life of its own in the current political environment, revving up activists who want Democrats to resist Mr. Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.

Jaime Harrison, a candidate for DNC chairman, told The Washington Times that Ms. Warren showed the backbone voters want to see in their leaders.

“People are ready for us to show and not tell,” Mr. Harrison said. “People want to know that we are fighting for them, and they want to see it, they want to feel it, they want to taste it, they want to be a part of it.”

Carrying a “Fight. Trump. Every. Inch.” sign through the Baltimore Convention Center, Camille Mihalic, 60, said women are rallying to Ms. Warren.

“That has gone viral all over the internet through all of the women’s groups — the National Organization for Women — everywhere and anywhere,” Ms. Mihalic said. “She has absolutely been elevated, and Mitch McConnell is the devil — the absolute, absolute devil sexist pig.”

Others said Ms. Warren now has a re-election slogan, courtesy of Mr. McConnell’s chastisement: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

“It is our newest empowerment chant,” said Jill Horstein, 42. “The answer for this whole thing is we are not going to give up. Everyone thought the Women’s March was a one and done, and [Mr. McConnell] gave us more desire to kind of show him up and say, ‘Nope, we are still here and we are still going to fight.’”

Paul Booth of the District of Columbia agreed that Ms. Warren’s profile is on the rise but cautioned that it is no accident that Mr. McConnell picked her out.

“I don’t think he does anything by accident — he is a genius,” Mr. Booth said.

Ms. Warren has long been a darling of the progressive wing of the party, but there is some lingering tension over her decision to back Mrs. Clinton in the presidential primary race.

Liberal activists also cried out last month after she backed Ben Carson’s nomination to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and some continue to wonder whether she is committed to their issues.

“She seems to be trying to have a foot in both sides, and I don’t think she is making it work for her,” said Guinevere Boyd, 49, of Alaska.

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