LAS VEGAS — Democrat Elizabeth Warren used her first visit to Nevada as a presidential candidate to describe a squeeze on working families and a political system that she says fails to protect homeowners, including the residents of Las Vegas who were pummeled by the mortgage crisis a decade ago.
The Massachusetts senator spoke about her work as a consumer activist and her role overseeing the bailout of banks and insurers a decade ago, a job that brought her to the city to hear from residents struggling to keep their homes.
Warren said her own family almost lost their home when she was growing up and recalled one man she met in her Las Vegas visit a decade earlier who was one of millions around the country losing his home.
"You better believe one reason that I am in this fight is we can never let this happen again. Never," Warren told about 500 people at a botanical garden and event center northeast of the Las Vegas Strip.
Warren, fresh off a Saturday swing through South Carolina and Georgia, was bundled up in a puffy coat for the unusually chilly Las Vegas weather as she appeared on an outdoor stage with an American flag backdrop and a faux sandstone formation.
Nevada's early presidential caucus is the first in the West and is seen as a key test of a candidate's ability to appeal to a state with powerful labor groups and diverse demographics, including a population that's about 29 percent Latino.
In her speech, Warren condemned predatory mortgages targeted to minorities and said income inequality disproportionately affects communities of color. She also said unions need strengthening and that the country needs comprehensive immigration reform.
The senator described Washington, D.C., as a place that works well for corporations and lobbyists but not families, saying that when a government "only works for the rich and the powerful, that is corruption, plain and simple, and we've got to call it out for what it is."
She called President Donald Trump's administration "the most corrupt administration in living memory" but didn't focus on the president during her speech.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Warren said she was ready to take on the president in 2020.
"I think I've been going toe-to-toe with President Trump for a while," she said with a laugh. "I'm not afraid of him."
In response to Warren's visit, the Republican National Committee released a statement calling her campaign a "full-fledged apology tour" for her past claims of Native American heritage. The statement referred to her as "Fauxcahontas," a reference to Trump's use of the slur "Pocahontas."
Warren's event was about 10 miles away from the site a Las Vegas Strip country music festival that became the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in 2017 when 58 people were killed and hundreds were wounded.
Warren was introduced by a local activist with Moms Demand Action, a nonprofit that works to change gun laws, and the senator used part of her speech to praise Nevada for passing an expanded firearm background check law this past week — the first gun-control move by the state Legislature since the mass shooting.
"We need background checks. Not just in Nevada," Warren said. "We need them all over this country."
Warren also pitched a catalog of progressive ideas, from her 2 percent wealth tax on those with more than $50 million in assets to Medicare for all, universal child care and early preschool, and a need to lower student debt.
She also dismissed what she called "poo-pooing" of the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to address climate change that she and at least five other senators eyeing the White House are supporting.
Warren said the plan is important and time is running out to tackle climate change. She that while the Green New Deal will be "a big, noisy debate," Congress needs to start tackling it and passing it in pieces over the next few years.
Near the stage, the campaign debuted a large, white lighted sign that read "Warren 2020" and offered attendees a spot to pose for selfies.
Carolyn Sakamoto and Helen Henson, 75-year-old retired teachers, took selfies in front of Warren's new lighted sign.
Sakamoto said Warren's message on health care and making people pay "their rightful taxes" has put the senator at the top of her list of those she's interested in backing, but mainly she wants to ensure a Democrat is elected in 2020.
"We just want somebody that can win," Sakamoto said. "A lot of people might be good, but they may not have what it takes to win."
Henson said Warren is in her top tier of 2020 candidates but has some reservations about supporting the senator because of the stumbles she's made over her claims of Native American heritage.13 comments on this story
"I think that it was an honest mistake on her part, but I think that that's provided a lot of bad publicity," Henson said. "She's just spoken out so strongly from the very beginning about the recession and financial crisis and I just feel like she has a lot to offer on that."
Henson said it will be hard for Warren to move past the heritage controversy.
"With anyone else, maybe she could," she said. "But with Trump, I think he's going to pound it to the ground."