In a small town in West Virginia, staunchly-liberal presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren managed to draw a few cheers and claps from the president’s supporters, raising questions of whether the Massachusetts senator might be able to make inroads with Donald Trump’s reliably conservative base, Politico reports.
Warren’s team was reportedly nervous about how she would be received in towns like Kermit, West Virginia, with less than 400 residents and where four out of five voters favored Trump in 2016. About 150 gathered at the Kermit Fire & Rescue Headquarters Station to hear what Warren had to say. The candidate was there to speak primarily about the nation’s opioid crisis, which has hit towns like Kermit especially hard. Most hands were raised when she asked attendees who among them knew someone who was struggling with addition.
Wilburn Preece, the town’s 63-year-old fire chief, had told Warren not to expect the warmest of welcomes as a liberal Democrat from the northeast, but also indicated that locals were ready to listen to anyone who were willing to address the opioid epidemic with them.
One resident, LeeAnn Blankenship, said that although she voted for Trump in 2016, she may be leaning toward Warren in 2020, should she win the nomination.
“She’s a good ol’ country girl like anyone else,” she said of Oklahoma-born Warren. “She’s earned where she is, it wasn’t given to her. I respect that.”
This is good for Elizabeth Warren and good for the country. https://t.co/00XiFPGdLP
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) May 12, 2019
Realistically, Blankenship’s vote probably won’t have much of an impact on Warren’s candidacy one way or the other, with West Virginia contributing minimally to primary decisions and the state all but sure to remain Republican in the general election. Warren made it clear, however, that she wasn’t in Kermit in search of votes. Rather, she said, she was there to send a message that she takes the prescription drug crisis seriously and that she is ready to help tackle it in the rural communities where its effects are sometimes felt hardest.
Warren argues that the so-called opioid war is not a matter of simply changing behavior or ramping up law enforcement, but rather a medical problem that should be treated as one. Her plan to combat the problem is modeled on the government’s response in the 1990s to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS.
That said, she was also clear in where she places much of the blame for the country’s current situation with respect to opioids.
“But we got a second problem in this country and it’s greed,” she said. “People didn’t get addicted all on their own, they got a lot of corporate help. They got a lot of help from corporations that made big money off getting people addicted and keeping them addicted.”
Some of Warren’s talk garnered sparse applause, even among those displaying “Make America Great Again” stickers.