SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Focusing on pocketbook issues like student loan debt, Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren stirred up support for Natalie Tennant's Senate bid in a packed Shepherdstown ballroom Monday.
A crowd of more than 400 cheered on the Massachusetts progressive star in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, a Washington, D.C., commuter community much closer to the nation's capital than the state's. Warren, who says she won't run for president despite rumors and support, tried to hush chants of "2020" and "2016" coming from the crowd.
About 300 miles westward, rival candidate Shelley Moore Capito touted her own high-profile supporter in the state capital of Charleston. Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, blasted President Barack Obama and Democrats during Capito's business round table Monday.
The dueling visits are the biggest campaign cameos so far in a crucial race as Republicans chase a Senate majority. Though Capito and Tennant strive to straddle the moderate middle, opposing parties have labeled Ryan and Warren too extreme for West Virginia.
Both candidates repeated arguments that have been well-rehearsed in West Virginia's open Senate race. Capito is favored to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller in the race.
Tennant, the Democratic Secretary of State, says seventh-term Congresswoman Capito is too close to Wall Street interests.
Capito wants to align Tennant with President Barack Obama whenever possible, particularly focusing on Obama's proposal to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants and how it could affect the state's iconic coal industry. Tennant says she opposes the rules.
Though still a freshman senator, Warren has become a campaign trail staple for Senate Democrats and hopefuls. Since March, she has stumped for candidates in Ohio, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Kentucky and has another trip planned for Michigan this week.
In the Senate, Warren led a charge to refinance some student loans by setting minimum tax rates on people making more than $1 million. Republicans blocked the measure, securing a dependable stump speech issue for Warren.
"(Republicans) have said it's more important to protect tax loopholes for billionaires than it is to help our kids get a college education," Warren said Monday.
Republicans have blasted Tennant's decision to bring in Warren, who supports the carbon emissions rule that is so unpopular in West Virginia coal country. The GOP took similar jabs in Kentucky, where coal has been central to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes' bid to topple Senate GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Grimes and Tennant both say they'll fight Obama on the coal regulations. But Ryan, who called coal America's "secret sauce" to affordable energy, labeled Warren part of the problem.
"Elizabeth Warren is a part of the United States Senate that is blocking legislation to preserve coal jobs, that's blocking legislation to preserve energy jobs in America," Ryan said Monday.
Tennant responded that she doesn't agree with Warren on everything.
"I am pro-coal. I am pro-coal miner. I will stand up to (Warren)," Tennant said Monday. "I will stand up to the President. I will stand up to anyone who tries to hurt our coal jobs."
Tennant, who has about $1.5 million in campaign cash compared to about $5 million for Capito, also hopes to get a fundraising boost from Warren. The senator hosted a Martha's Vineyard reception for Tennant and Grimes this weekend.