Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is up with its first ad of the cycle — a direct response to Crossroads GPS’s ad attacking her for embracing Occupy Wall Street. It’s now clear that Warren will be the number one target for an emerging national conservative strategy: Seizing on the protests to tar Dems as culturally out of touch with struggling blue collar whites and moderates, and to discredit Dem policies designed to address inequality by depicting them as radical and out of the mainstream.

Warren’s response, which will air across Massachusetts tomorrow:

The ad’s emphasis on her modest roots is a sign that Warren and her advisers see the need to aggressively push back on conservative efforts to use her intellectual credentials as a cultural negative. The Crossroads GPS spot went out of its way to sneeringly refer to “Professor Elizabeth Warren” and her “intellectual theories.” National Republicans regularly refer to her as a “professor,” too. The ad’s implicit rebuttal to the “elitist” charge — it talks about her family’s struggles — suggests the Warren camp knows that her bio and alleged cultural elitism will be central to the race.

While Warren doesn’t directly engage attacks on her over the protests, she reiterates that her candidacy — and career — are all about challenging Wall Street:

“For years I worked to expose how Wall Street and the big banks are crushing middle class families. It just isn’t right. I stood up to the big banks and their army of Washington lobbyists. I worked to hold them accountable. I led the fight for a new agency to protect consumers. And we got it. But Washington is still rigged for the big guys. That’s got to change.”

Warren and her advisers recognize the political danger of getting drawn into an all or nothing choice between fully embracing the protests or repudiating them. Instead, as this ad indicates, Warren intends to keep the focus on the broader argument set in motion by the protests — over inequality, excessive Wall Street influence and lack of Wall Street accountability — and on the fact that anxiety and anger over these problems are mainstream public sentiments that go far beyond the diehards camped out in tents.

Indeed, it’s worth asking whether the attacks on Warren constitute a bit of overreach: As Sam Stein notes, her campaign has already brought in over $300,00 in fundraising off the Crossroads attack, and will likely bring in much more.

Bottom line: While Warren does seem to be treading a bit carefully when it comes to the protests’ excesses, it’s clear that the attacks aren’t softening the populist rationale of her candidacy at all. They are doing nothing to distract her campaign from keeping the focus exactly where it belongs: On Wall Street.