After Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at a luncheon in Beverly Hills, Calif., last month, women from the audience swarmed around her, many of them asking the same question: will you run for president?
Ms. Warren’s fiery speech at the national A.F.L.-C.I.O. convention this month set off even more excitement, with some union members standing on their chairs applauding and shouting out to her. And when she joined a MoveOn.org conference call this summer to promote her student loan legislation, 10,000 people got on the line — the liberal group’s biggest audience on any conference call in four years.
In Democratic circles, disappointment in the promise of the Obama presidency and unease over a possible restoration of the Clintons have made the senator, who was sworn in just 10 months ago, the object of huge interest and the avatar of a newly assertive, fervently populist left eager for a more confrontational approach to politics.
Ms. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in an interview that she was not interested in seeking the presidency. And despite talk of a draft movement among some activists, it is difficult to imagine her taking on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But in seizing on issues animating her party’s base — the influence of big banks, soaring student loan debt and the widening gulf between the wealthy and the working class — Ms. Warren is challenging the centrist economic approach that has been the de facto Democratic policy since President Bill Clinton and his fellow moderates took control of the party two decades ago.