PETERBOROUGH — It got warm as hundreds of people crowded into the Peterborough Town House, but the Warren campaign had a plan for that.
Organizers handed out small paper fans that read, “I’M A WARREN FAN.”
The Monday afternoon appearance by Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate, drew about 850 attendees, according to the campaign.
The hall has a capacity of about 650, and an overflow crowd stayed outside on the town house steps to listen through loudspeakers.
“It’s a lot more crowded than it used to be,” said John M. Poltrack of New Ipswich, who has made a habit of photographing candidates since John McCain or so. He attributed part of the increase to “tourists” from Massachusetts.
U.S. Rep. Ann M. Kuster — a Democrat whose district includes the Monadnock Region — introduced Warren, who has risen in the polls in recent weeks.
“She’s got a plan, and you’re gonna love that about her,” Kuster said, referring to Warren’s reputation for detailed policy proposals.
Then Warren launched into her stump speech, a version of which she gave in Keene in April. She described growing up in Oklahoma and seeing her family struggle financially, then going to a cheap commuter college as a young mother. Eventually, she became a law professor focusing on bankruptcy and other aspects of how the middle class had been “hollowed out,” as she put it.
Connecting her personal biography to policy, Warren said government actions have made it harder and harder for middle-class Americans.
“Back when I was a girl, a full-time minimum-wage job in America would support a family of three. It would cover a mortgage, utilities and put food on the table,” she said. “Today, a full-time minimum-wage job in America will not keep a mama and a baby out of poverty.”
She argued big corporations and other powerful interests have used their influence in Washington to drive those changes — a central message of her campaign.
“We have a government that works great — works fabulously — for giant drug companies,” she said. “Just not for people who are trying to get a prescription filled. We have a government that works great for investors in private prisons and immigration detention centers, just not for people whose lives are torn apart.”
She went on to describe elements of her anti-corruption plan and her proposed wealth tax on household net worth above $50 million, which she said would fund college-loan forgiveness and other programs.
Beth Welch, 62, and her nephew Richard Welch, 23, traveled from Newburyport, Mass., to see their senator speak. As they stood in line before the event, they described themselves as big Warren supporters.
“I’m excited about the enthusiasm and the charisma that she brings, and I love how she has a plan for seemingly almost everything,” Richard said. “It makes you feel like she’s someone listening to the issues that are important to you.”
Beth said she’s impressed with how Warren explains policy through her personal story.
“If the voters hear Elizabeth from Oklahoma, not Elizabeth from Harvard, I think she can do it,” she said, referring to Warren’s last academic job before joining the U.S. Senate. “… She enunciates nuance and policy so clearly, eloquently, and it’s been her life.”
Several local voters said similar things after hearing Warren speak Monday.
“I don’t think I expected her to be such a good speaker, so approachable,” said Susan Massin of Fitzwilliam. “I thought she’d be more like — a college professor or something, you know. … I thought she’d be more formal.”
Hank Drury, 85, of Hancock said Warren has a way of “talking about government, but being very clear in the examples she used.”
He said a particularly effective moment was a story about an aunt who helped Warren out with childcare early in her career — an anecdote meant to illustrate the importance of childcare to working parents. “By tying back to her experience, it was very effective,” Drury said.
His wife, Lilla Lyon, 82, called Warren “authentic” and said she found her plans thoughtful. She also liked that Warren talked about unions. Lyon said unions supported her in her career as a doctor and are especially important in securing equal pay for women.
Lyon also commented on the raucous crowd, which had cheered Warren’s populist mantras and booed at her mention of the billionaire Koch brothers.
“The energy in the room for New England — you know, they don’t usually stand and yell and make a huge racket,” Lyon said. “In New England, we’re quiet, we’re reserved.”