Clinton or Sanders? Elizabeth Warren isn’t saying
▶ ▶ The Democratic star skipped a presidential run, but she’s stayed in the picture ▶ ▶ “Her prime directive is not to damage the party’s chances in November”
Early last year, the frenzy to enlist Elizabeth Warren inn the 2016 presiden-presidential race grew so intenseense that a Ready for Warren group emergedmerged to lead a draft effort. Reportersrters parsed the Democratic Massachusettsssachusetts senator’s every utteranceerance for clues to her plans. Inn the end, Warren opted to pass.ss. But so far, she hasn’t thrown rown her support behind any of the candidates.
With President Obama bama unlikely to weigh in, , Warren is the most important Democratic atic elected official who has yet to endorse. Her iconic status among the party’sarty’s liberal grass roots, and the national fundraisingg base she commands, would deliver a substantial boost to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders,ders, or Martin O’malley.
Sanders would appearppear to be the most ideologicallygically com-compatible choice for Warren, because his populist, anti-wallall Street rhetoric mirrors her own.n. And indeed, many of her supporters,rters, including the founders of her draft movement, have embraced him.m. But Warren has been noticeably reluctantuctant to lend her name to Sanders’s presidential cam-campaign, because, her advisersadvisers say, she’s determined thathat Democrats should hold on to thehe White House after Obama leaves office and is not convinced Sanders could win. “Her prime directive is notot to damage the party’s chances in November,” says a close Warren associateiate who has dis-discussed the matter withwith her.
Yet, while she signed a 2013 letter urging Clinton to run, Wwarren is the only female Democratic senator who hasn’t backed the formerfo secretarytary of state. Shshe was also the lone senatorialsenator no-show at the Clinton campaign’s Nov. 3030Wwomen for Hillary rallyr near the Capitol.Capitol “Maybe she has a cold,” Maryland SenatorSena Barbara MikulskiMiku deadpannedpann at the time. RepresentativesRepre for Warren,Warre Clinton, and SandersSande declined to comment.comm
WarrenWarr isn’t being entirely silent. She periodicallyperiodica emerges to praise tthe major candidates for espousinging policies shes favors. In December, the Clinton campaignpaign was elated when Warren took to Facebook to applaud the candidate’s call to bblock riders in the yearend budget billbi that would have weakened financialfinanc regulations. “Secretary Clinton is right to fight back against Republrepublicans trying to sneak Wall Street giveawaysgiv into the must-pass govergovernment funding bill,” Warren wrote.wrote “Whether it’s attacking the [Consconsumer Financial Protection Bureau], undermining new rules to rein in unscrupulous retirement advisersadvisers, or rolling back any part of the hard-fought progress we’ve mademad on financial reform, she and I agragree: ‘President Obama and congressionalcongressio Democrats should do everything theyth can to
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stop these efforts.’ ” Sanders has garnered similar approbation. On Jan. 6, Warren unleashed a tweet storm in support of his speech on Wall Street reform: “I’m glad @Berniesanders is out there fighting to hold big banks accountable, make our economy safer, & stop the GOP from rigging the system.”
Warren’s allies argue that she’s been able to shape the primary race by creating a system of incentives that has influenced candidate behavior. “There was almost no oxygen in the room for big, structural Wall Street reform after Dodd-frank until Warren came on the scene,” says Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal group. “The fact that all three Democratic presidential candidates are competing with each other to have the boldest plan for Wall Street reform and accountability—including explicitly calling for jailing Wall Street bankers who broke the law—is testament to Warren’s looming presence and influence in the Democratic primary.”
Warren has extracted some significant policy commitments that will be difficult for a future Democratic president to break. In August, Vice President Joe Biden met privately with Warren while considering a presidential run. A week later, Clinton endorsed a bill that Warren has championed restricting “golden parachute” pay packages for Wall Street bankers who take jobs with the federal government—a development many liberals took as a sign that Clinton feared losing Warren’s support to Biden.
Given the almost Trump-like media fixation with Warren as recently as a year ago, it’s remarkable that she’s disappeared from the presidential race to the degree that she has. While it’s possible that she will be able to maintain her low profile until a nominee emerges, it’s also easy to envision a scenario in which she is thrust right back into the middle of the race: Both Clinton and Sanders backers agree that if Sanders were to prevail in Iowa and New Hampshire, Warren would come under intense pressure from both candidates to deliver an endorsement.
A few liberals say there’s a scenario that could essentially yield two winners: Clinton, as the party’s nominee, and a greatly enhanced Sanders, who would return to the Senate with a celebrity and grass-roots following that might even eclipse Warren’s own. “Sanders has gained stature and ability to be more effective in the Senate,” says Jeff Hauser, who runs the Revolving Door Project, a group focused on getting regulators appointed who are skeptical of the industries they oversee. “His ability to get journalists to write about his senatorial agenda in 2017 will be a lot higher because he’s run. So he’s actually become a lot like Warren herself, with big sway in the Senate. If he isn’t the nominee, he’ll be an even more effective ally for her in the future.”
It’s an added source of comfort to the party’s Warren wing—and a silver lining to the prospect of a Sanders loss—that the two most powerful Senate Democrats in a future Clinton presidency would be committed liberals. Says Charles Lenchner, who co-founded Ready for Warren and went on to establish People for Bernie: “Thank God the movement to break up the big banks isn’t restricted to supporters of one politician or the other.” �Joshua Green
“The fact that all three Democratic presidential candidates are competing with each other to have the boldest plan for Wall Street reform … is testament to Warren’s looming presence. ” �Adam Green The bottom line Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement will mean a big boost among Democratic voters for Clinton or Sanders. Weigh 8.5 pounds on average and often fly
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