Asked whether they agreed that "the economic and political systems in the country are stacked against people like me," 56 percent of respondents in the NBC-WSJ poll agreed. That's a massive increase in the number of people who believe the deck-is-stacked-against-me idea; when NBC-WSJ asked the question in July 2002, just 34 percent of people agreed with the sentiment. In recent years, that number has moved steadily upward — 54 percent said the system was stacked against them in August 2012, and 55 percent said the same in April 2014 in NBC-WSJ polling.
Enter Warren, whose recent career — she helped form the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before running for the Senate in 2012 — has been built on the idea that the average American isn't getting a fair shake (or even the chance at a fair shake) in today's America. Warren has described herself as growing up on the "ragged edge of the middle class" and getting her first job at 9. (She was a babysitter.) And she draws on that background when she speaks, casting herself as a populist warrior for the middle class.
She became a liberal phenomenon — and Republican scourge — back in fall 2011 when, at a house party in the lead-up to her eventual Senate campaign, she said that "there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own."
Since coming to the Senate, she has kept up that rhetorical drumbeat.
"I'm fighting to level that playing field," Warren told Minnesota Democrats this past spring. "I'm fighting to build real opportunity, fighting to give every child a chance to build something extraordinary. And I want you to fight alongside me. We are in this together."
Back in Minnesota campaigning for Sen. Al Franken (D) last month, Warren said: "The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it."
You get the idea. (The New Republic has a list of Warren's 10 most viral videos in case you don't get the idea.)
I've written before that Warren is the liberal liberals thought they were getting when they elected Obama. She is combative and unapologetic in her beliefs — particularly on inequality — in a way liberals believe Obama has never been. And, stylistically and policy-wise, Warren also represents a clear contrast with the more cautious, Wall Street-friendly campaign that most people expect Hillary Clinton to make in 2016. (Make sure you read Noam Scheiber's wonderful piece from November 2013 explaining why Warren is Clinton's biggest nightmare.)
What separates good politicians from great ones is their sense of timing. The NBC-WSJ poll suggests that the time is ripe for Warren to take her fiery populism nationwide. But does Warren see it that way?