War­ren at cross­roads: Slow start nar­rows path to nom­i­na­tion.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­NIE LINSKEY an­[email protected]­post.com Anu Narayan­swamy con­trib­uted to this re­port.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren started her cam­paign with a big gam­ble: She’d build a huge or­ga­ni­za­tion in Iowa that would power her to vic­tory there, pro­pel­ling her to a win in New Hamp­shire and giv­ing her un­stop­pable mo­men­tum to the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

Dis­ap­point­ing fin­ishes in Iowa and New Hamp­shire now sug­gest the gam­ble has failed. And the rapidly shift­ing land­scape has left the reel­ing War­ren cam­paign with one more last-ditch bet: that in a party in­creas­ingly di­vided be­tween demo­cratic so­cial­ist Sen. Bernie San­ders and cen­trists like Pete But­tigieg, she can pitch her­self as the one per­son to bring the sides to­gether.

“We might be headed for an­other one of those long pri­mary fights that last for months,” War­ren (DMass.) said Tues­day at her elec­tion-night party. “We have to fig­ure out as Democrats whether it will be a long, bit­ter re­hash of the same old di­vides in our party, or whether we can find an­other way.”

The cam­paign and its al­lies have sig­naled it is seek­ing to re­tool in sev­eral ways be­yond the strength­ened unity pitch: re­new­ing out­reach to mi­nor­ity vot­ers, es­pe­cially women; sig­nal­ing that War­ren will tell more per­sonal sto­ries on the stump; seek­ing to steadily win del­e­gates even in states where she does not come in first; and re­ly­ing on po­ten­tial al­lies such as the Culi­nary Union.

But time is short and money lim­ited, and it’s not clear whether War­ren, who for much of the past year seemed as good a prospect as any­one to win the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, can re­gain her mo­men­tum in the face of the ris­ing strength of San­ders (I-VT.), But­tigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-minn.), with former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg wait­ing in the wings.

It’s a re­mark­able mo­ment for a can­di­date who en­joyed a steady rise for much of last spring and sum­mer, cul­mi­nat­ing in mas­sive ral­lies in New York, Seat­tle, St. Paul, Minn., and else­where that gave her the ve­neer — and briefly the polling — of a front-run­ner. Her cam­paign says War­ren is push­ing ahead, but her fin­ish in New Hamp­shire be­hind two Sen­ate col­leagues and a 38-year-old ex-mayor of South Bend, Ind., fol­low­ing a third-place fin­ish in Iowa, nar­rows the path sig­nif­i­cantly.

War­ren held a call with her cam­paign team af­ter Tues­day’s de­feat, try­ing to buck them up by say­ing, “These mo­ments are when we find out why we’re on the fight,” ac­cord­ing to a per­son fa­mil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tion who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the pri­vate call. She also hud­dled with her New Hamp­shire staff Tues­day evening to thank them.

Hours be­fore the polls closed, War­ren cam­paign man­ager Roger Lau re­leased a rare memo filled with in­ter­nal data, seek­ing to re­as­sure sup­port­ers and donors that War­ren could re­main vi­able. Lau ar­gued that the Demo­cratic race re­mains highly frac­tured with no clear front-run­ner on the hori­zon, and that War­ren has a good chance of emerg­ing from the mud­dle.

Even without out­right vic­to­ries in many of the early pri­mary states, he con­tended, War­ren could steadily col­lect del­e­gates from sec­ond- and third-place fin­ishes.

War­ren now heads into two con­tests, in Ne­vada and South Carolina, with lit­tle ev­i­dence that she has built mo­men­tum. She ap­pears to be seek­ing an open­ing in both states by con­nect­ing par­tic­u­larly with mi­nor­ity fe­male vot­ers.

The se­na­tor on Wed­nes­day can­celed TV ads in both states and is set to be dark there start­ing Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to Ad­ver­tis­ing An­a­lyt­ics, which tracks ad buy­ing.

For a time, War­ren seemed to split­ting the sup­port of the party’s lib­eral fac­tion with San­ders while at­tract­ing back­ing from some cen­trists. But now San­ders has con­sol­i­dated the left flank, while But­tigieg has be­come a fa­vorite of the col­lege-ed­u­cated and mod­er­ate seg­ments of the party.

That has left War­ren without a siz­able chunk of po­lit­i­cal turf to call her own. But sup­port­ers ar­gue she has a chance to prove her vi­a­bil­ity with a strong per­for­mance on Su­per Tues­day, March 3, when more than a dozen states cast their votes and de­liver the first big sin­gle-day trove of del­e­gates.

“The big kahuna is Su­per Tues­day,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, a lib­eral po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee that backs War­ren. “So it’s im­por­tant that she en­ters Su­per Tues­day with mo­men­tum. And she’ll have a friendly au­di­ence in the up­com­ing racially di­verse states.”

But War­ren has strug­gled to win the af­fec­tions of non­white vot­ers. She gar­nered sup­port from just 9 per­cent of re­spon­dents in a Washington Post/ IP­SOS sur­vey of black Democrats in Jan­uary, com­pared with 48 per­cent for Bi­den and 20 per­cent for San­ders.

The poll sug­gested War­ren has room to grow, since 20 per­cent said she would be their sec­ond choice and roughly the same num­ber said they did not know enough about her to form an opinion.

War­ren’s sup­port­ers say that gives her an open­ing. Green and oth­ers cited a per­for­mance by War­ren at a fo­rum on is­sues con­cern­ing black women, where War­ren re­ceived by far the most en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse. But that event, spon­sored by the group She the Peo­ple, oc­curred last April, and in the en­su­ing 10 months there’s been lit­tle in­di­ca­tion that the burst of en­thu­si­asm for her has trans­lated into sup­port.

As the dis­ap­point­ing fin­ish took shape Tues­day night, War­ren’s team stayed quiet about any plans to over­haul her mes­sage or op­er­a­tion. Sev­eral top staffers milled around a buf­fet dur­ing the elec­tion-night party near the Manchester air­port, but they dis­ap­peared af­ter she spoke and did not talk to re­porters.

“She’s got to have a mo­ment,” said former Vir­ginia gov­er­nor Terry Mcauliffe. “You can’t just talk unity — that’s not go­ing to do it for you.”

Mcauliffe said the next de­bate will test War­ren’s abil­ity to show the tough­ness and grit that Democrats want in a can­di­date fac­ing Pres­i­dent Trump. Even some al­lies agree that War­ren’s last de­bate per­for­mance, on a New Hamp­shire stage, was her worst show­ing to date. They pre­dicted she would do bet­ter in Ne­vada on Feb. 19.

Mean­while, small shifts have started to emerge. On Tues­day, War­ren be­gan to con­trast her­self more ex­plic­itly with San­ders, telling re­porters she had a more prag­matic, less purist ap­proach to gov­ern­ing.

War­ren pointed to her vote in sup­port of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment re­write, which unions sup­ported but en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists op­posed.

“We voted, for ex­am­ple, in dif­fer­ent ways on the trade deal,” she said. “Bernie said, ‘Not good enough,’ and I said, ‘I’ ll take some help and fight for bet­ter.’ And I think that’s a dif­fer­ence.”

Some War­ren al­lies sug­gested that her new­found will­ing­ness to con­trast her­self with San­ders re­flected a recog­ni­tion that she was more likely to poach vot­ers who are now back­ing the mod­er­ate can­di­dates than to win over San­ders loy­al­ists.

War­ren also has taken to telling more per­sonal sto­ries in re­cent days, in­clud­ing an ac­count of a dis­pute she had with her mother over whether she should at­tend col­lege.

“One of the things that I re­al­ized is that vot­ers have a right to know, not just the poli­cies, but also the heart of the per­son they’re go­ing to pick for pres­i­dent of the United States,” War­ren said. “So I put out all the poli­cies, but I also put more of my heart out.”

MELINA MARA/THE WASHINGTON POST

Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren (D-mass.) greets New Hamp­shire pri­mary vot­ers Tues­day at a polling sta­tion in Nashua. Her fourth-place fin­ish in the Gran­ite State, af­ter a third-place show­ing in the Iowa cau­cuses, has nar­rowed her path to the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

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