WASHINGTON — She took the DNA test President Donald Trump urged, and he mocked her for it. Now Sen. Elizabeth Warren is taking a page from Trump’s playbook, hitting back in personal terms and calling him “creepy” on Twitter.
When it comes to challenging the man who redefined the rules of American political combat, the Massachusetts Democrat, who’s weighing a 2020 presidential run, is often doing it Trump’s way.
And like Trump, she’s getting blowback: Jokes. Objections. And grumblings from her own political party about timing, with midterm elections three weeks away.
A look at how it’s playing out:
THE DNA TEST
Trump’s mockery of Warren’s claim of Native American ancestry — he’s called her “Pocahontas” and said he would offer to pay $1 million to charity if she took a DNA test — clearly got into her head.
In what was a long-planned and heavily produced rollout, Warren on Monday released the results of a DNA test that shows she has Native American ancestry between six and 10 generations ago. That would make her between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American, according to The Boston Globe.
Warren has acknowledged listing her Native American heritage on a directory for years, but she and those who hired her have denied that her background was a factor in advancing her career.
The accusation that the Oklahoma native claimed the ethnic background to get ahead could be politically potent with the party’s black and Hispanic supporters. Among Warren’s possible 2020 competitors are former Vice President Joe Biden and at least four of Warren’s fellow Democratic senators: Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
What’s unclear is whether Warren’s DNA gambit will allow her to put the controversy in the past, or whether it endures in jokes and political lore.
The president’s initial reaction to Warren’s DNA test: “Who cares?” He also denied making the million-dollar donation offer.
Warren promptly tweeted her charity of choice: The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
Asked about the promise to donate to Warren’s charity of choice, Trump said:
“I’ll only do it if I can test her personally. That will not be something I enjoy doing, either.”
DNA tests are typically done using a sample swabbed from the inside of a person’s cheek.
WARREN’S RESPONSE: EWW
“We all know why @realDonaldTrump makes creepy physical threats about me, right? He’s scared. He’s trying to do what he always does to women who scare him: call us names, attack us personally, shrink us down to feel better about himself. It may soothe his ego – but it won’t work,” Warren tweeted.
The “creepy” description carries extra meaning during the nation’s reckoning with sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era. More than a dozen women have accused him of sexual misconduct — all liars, Trump says.
The “creepy” tweet was just one of more than two dozen tweets on Warren’s campaign account Monday, covering Trump and getting behind Democrats running in the Nov. 6 elections.
Trump clearly noticed.
He started Tuesday with three tweets claiming Warren’s DNA test is “bogus” and that she perpetrated a “scam and a lie.”
She fired back at Trump within minutes: “You’ve lost a step, and in 21 days, you’re going to lose Congress.”
Warren said in her video that her ancestry is a matter of family folklore and that she understands that only tribes determine tribal citizenship.
That wasn’t enough for Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr.
“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” he said Monday. “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”
Native Americans also have objected to Trump’s “Pocahontas” nickname for Warren.
“Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did @SenWarren have to do her announcement now? Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???” tweeted Jim Messina, former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager.
Warren is in the midst of her own Senate re-election campaign, as well as a midterm blitz to help other Democrats nationwide win their races. While she has not yet campaigned for Democrats in neighboring New Hampshire, she was among the first elected officials to call gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly on the night of her primary election victory.
Warren also has designated staff to help candidates in the states with early presidential primaries, including former staffers now working for state parties in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Those are among the first states to vote in the presidential primaries beginning in 15 months.
The Warren DNA matter quickly became part of political culture.
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, 84, tweeted a photo of himself looking at his phone, purportedly at his own DNA test results showing he has a small fraction of “T-Rex” ancestry.
“The rest: other dinosaurs,” the tweet reads.
Hashtags abounded, including #WarrenIsNotCherokee and #WarrenSoWhite.
LATE NIGHT HOSTS CARE
Trump’s initial shrug got wide play on the late night comedy shows.
“Who cares? You care! This is the thing you’ve been obsessed about for years,” Trevor Noah said on “The Daily Show.” Deploying an obscenity, he added: “It’s like Kool-Aid man saying, ‘I don’t actually care about Kool-Aid.’”