CHARLOTTE, N.C.- Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren spearheaded the liberal appeal to blue-collar voters Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention, accusing Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans of rigging the rulebook to favor the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
Warren, who warmed up the crowd here before remarks by President Clinton, was just one of a chorus of Democratic speakers -- including a trio of Maryland lawmakers -- who sought to dismiss the GOP as out of touch with most Americans.
"For many years now, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed and hammered," she said. "People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here's the painful part: They're right."
Warren said that in America today, oil companies receive unnecessary government subsidies, billionaires skirt higher tax rates and Wall Street CEOs demand benefits while expecting adulation from everybody else. That's the way Republicans prefer it, she said.
"The Republican vision is clear: 'I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own,' " she said. "Republicans say they don't believe in government. They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends."
(Read the full text and watch video of Warren's speech)
Warren recounted her days waitressing tables and teaching elementary school, portraying herself as a salt-of-the-earth type in a political environment beholden to special interests.
Warren is entangled in a tight Senate race with Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who, recent polls show, has opened up a 5-point lead.
Warren's class warfare rhetoric picked up where others, such as Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., left off.
"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's obsession with tax breaks for the wealthy is part of a rigid ideology," the Montgomery County lawmaker said in a speech focused on Ryan. "Give people like Mitt Romney a break, and hope something will trickle down and lift others up. But this theory crashed in the real world."
Fellow Maryland lawmakers also made appeals to the Democratic delegates on the penultimate night of the convention.
Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer said the GOP has becoming nothing more than a party of obstructionists.
"Last week, Mr. Romney said he wished President Obama had succeeded when he took office," Hoyer said. "If so, he was alone in his party."
(Read the full text and watch video of Hoyer's speech)
And Sen. Barbara Mikulski looked to make inroads with female voters, saying, "We, the women of the Senate, with President Obama by our side, will keep fighting -- our shoulders square, our lipstick on -- because you deserve equal pay for your hard work."
It was Warren's speech that was designed to rev up the crowd for Clinton, a task that she appeared to carry off effectively. She drew a standing ovation, energy she hopes will carry over into the last stages of a Senate race that has been riddled by self-inflicted wounds, such as her controversial claim of Native American heritage, which critics say was used to gain improper advantages in pursuit of jobs in academia. She hoped to use her most important speech to date to put those gaffes in the rearview mirror.
She focused her attacks on Wall Street -- a common campaign trail pinata for the Democrat.
"Wall Street CEOs -- the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs -- still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them," she said, to rising applause from the party faithful.