Live commentary on the 2020 Democratic primary debate

For all the progress Elizabeth Warren has made during in this campaign, she still has work to do to break through with working-class voters, white and black. She has built impressive support among college-educated white voters, upscale liberals and the young. Still, though many of her economic proposals are designed to benefit the middle class and the poor, including the large expansion of Social Security she unveiled today, she’s trailing both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders by eight points among white voters without a college degree.

Biden also has a nearly four-to-one lead over Warren among African-American voters.

So Thursday’s debate in Houston is a propitious homecoming for Warren, whose extraordinary personal journey has roots there. It offers her a chance to shed the hint of elitism that goes along with her status as a longtime Harvard law professor.

Thus it isn’t surprising that early in this debate, Warren has used the setting to recall her early years as a young mother, scraping to put herself through college to become a teacher. 

Warren’s story—her hardscrabble youth in Oklahoma, her years in Houston and, later, as single mother, working her way through law school—is not universally known. Sharing it more often could help lessen the distance between her and the folks who have yet to embrace her candidacy.

If working-class voters come to see Warren as someone who understands struggle because she’s lived it — and less as a know-it-all law prof with all the plans and answers — she will add even more momentum to her formidable bid for the nomination.

David Axelrod, a senior CNN political commentator and host of “The Axe Files,” was senior adviser to President Barack Obama and chief strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama presidential campaigns.