Elizabeth Warren to speak before Bill Clinton at Democratic convention, but will not deliver keynote

Elizabeth Warren spoke at the 2012 Massachusetts Democratic Convention in Springfield in June.
Elizabeth Warren spoke at the 2012 Massachusetts Democratic Convention in Springfield in June.Credit: Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Elizabeth Warren will not deliver the keynote speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention, but instead will speak immediately before former President Bill Clinton on what party officials hope will be an energetic penultimate night.

Warren and Clinton will speak in primetime on Wednesday, Sept. 5, and form a one-two punch aimed at crystallizing the choice between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in the general election, the Obama campaign said.

The Massachusetts Senate candidate will contrast the president’s economic plan with Romney’s, and outline the impact it will have on middle-class families across the country.

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“At the president’s side, Elizabeth Warren helped level the playing field for all Americans and put in place safeguards to ensure that everyone, from Wall Street to Main Street, play by the same set of rules,” said Stephanie Cutter, a deputy Obama campaign manager.

Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, added in a statement that Warren “is a leader committed to rebuilding the economy from the middle class out, instead of focusing on the top-down economics of the past.”

Warren said in her own statement that “it will be an honor” to share the stage with Clinton.

“I grew up in a hard-working family, in an America that was investing in kids like me. President Obama is committed to making sure that America has a level playing field for all our families and to ensuring that every kid has the opportunity to make it,” she said. “Mitt Romney and the Republicans want to go back to the same policies that broke this economy. It is time to move forward.”

The Globe reported earlier this month that Warren was under consideration for the high-profile keynote speech, traditionally delivered on Tuesday night.

She is in one of the most hotly contested US Senate races in the country, challenging Republican incumbent Scott Brown. Warren has already outraised all other congressional candidates in the country.

Obama himself used the keynote speech he delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston to vault into the national political consciousness.

The president has taken in recent months to emulating Warren’s pro-middle-class rhetoric, including adopting her theme that government has been a partner with entrepreneurs in building small businesses.

Yet Republicans have attacked the president’s recent “you didn’t build that” comment, prompting speculation that Warren might be bypassed for the keynote speech to avoid a rejuvenation of the issue in the Romney-Obama race.

The Obama campaign insisted that Warren’s different role was not a penalty for the president’s problems, noting that Obama himself continues to make the same argument and is running a television ad rebutting the Republican criticism.

The Brown campaign saw it differently.

“Professor Warren’s radical, anti-free enterprise rhetoric is so far out of the mainstream even within her own political party that she got downgraded from her speaking role at the Democratic convention,” Brown spokesman Colin Reed said in a statement.

Warren previewed convention-style language last month, when she introduced the president at a fund-raiser in Boston.

“Mitt Romney tells us, in his own words, he believes corporations are people. No, Mitt, corporations are NOT people. People have hearts. They have kids. They get jobs. They get sick. They love and they cry and they dance. They live and they die. Learn the difference,” she said.

After Warren finishes her convention remarks at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., Clinton is slated to deliver a speech that culminates with the former president formally nominating Obama for a second term.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will speak back-to-back on Sept. 6 at Bank of America Stadium, an open-air football stadium.

The campaign would not immediately reveal the identity of the keynote speaker, who, like Warren, will speak in an arena being used for two nights before the convention is moved to the football stadium. The convention itself will last three nights instead of the usual four, amid Democratic fund-raising problems.

The party notes that the traditional first night, a Monday, will fall on Labor Day this year.

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