Former Penn Law School professor Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently announced that she will run for the U.S. presidency in 2020. Her former Penn Law colleagues have said they are confident about her chances of securing the win.
Penn Law professor Stephen Burbank, who was on the appointments committee that hired Warren, and Colin Diver, the dean of Penn Law at the time, both said they believe the senator could beat President Donald Trump.
“I’m glad she’s running for President. I think she has all the qualifications, all the qualities that one would hope for in a president,” Diver said, noting Warren's "resilience" and sense of humor.
Warren announced her candidacy on Dec. 31 in an email sent to supporters, making the Massachusetts senator the first prominent Democrat to announce their presidential bid.
Burbank said Warren is “enormously smart” and a “master of current policy,” attributes he said would help the candidate when facing off against Trump.
“She would eat [Trump] for lunch in debates,” Burbank said.
Warren started working as a professor at Penn Law in 1987, eventually earning the position of chaired professor of law during her third year. In 1992, Warren left Penn after accepting an offer to teach at Harvard University as a visiting faculty member.
Although Diver and Burbank did not remember Warren mentioning going into politics while she was a professor, Diver said the move was not surprising given Warren’s time at Penn Law and her interest in public policy rather than just legal theory.
“[Many professors] tend to be shy, retiring, introverted, happy to sit in their office and do their research, but Elizabeth always had a big personality,” Diver said. “She was never shy about expressing her opinion. This type of personality would fit with public life.”
Warren's colleagues also said she was well-liked by students.
“She was maybe the best classroom professor on the faculty," Diver said. "Her classes were always extremely popular — students repeatedly told me how much they loved her classes.”
Warren’s former colleague and Penn Law professor Seth Kreimer also described Warren as a "valued" colleague whose career he has admired since she left campus, he wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Despite being a registered Republican during her some of her time at Penn Law, Warren switched parties in 1996. The switch did not shock Burbank and Diver, who noted that centrist and liberal Republicans were more common in that decade. Burbank added that her work as a professor may have played a part in her switch.
“It’s pretty clear that professor Warren’s views about matters of public policy changed in large part because of her scholarship on bankruptcy and her other scholarship showing the disadvantages that the middle class face in light of the existing legal regime,” Burbank said.
Although Warren is one of the most prominent Democrats to enter the presidential race, those who worked with her at Penn Law said she could face criticism from Trump, who frequently labels her "Pocahontas."
Diver said voters might negatively react to this portrayal, as Trump aims to present Warren's claims of Native American heritage as bogus. The senator released a video clarifying her family heritage on Oct. 15.
In recent days, several other political figures have also announced their upcoming campaigns for the 2020 Democratic ticket, including Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.
With fewer than two years until the 2020 general election, Diver said he is confident in Warren's chances of winning the presidency.
The latest Democratic Iowa polls, released before Warren announced her candidacy, showed her in fourth place with eight percent of support — trailing frontrunners such as former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and former Vice President Joe Biden.