She had a plan for everything, except winning elections. Elizabeth Warren has exited the presidential race. The Massachusetts senator did not prevail in a single Democratic primary or caucus.
As the contest now narrows to a two-man race, the question is whether the progressive champion throws her support behind Bernie Sanders or, potentially, even joins the ticket with him. In her initial statement of withdrawal, Warren did not tip her hand.
But a national surrogate for Sanders was quick to float the idea of drafting Warren as a running mate. Would the two team up to create a sort of super-progressive candidacy? Nomiki Konst told RealClearPolitics that she hopes so because “Biden can’t defeat a Bernie-Warren ticket. You just can’t.”
Other progressives were also upbeat about the exit. It meant the possibility of unity on the left at a moment that establishment Democrats have rallied behind former Vice President Joe Biden and have run the board.
The Sanders campaign needs to get busy courting Warren supporters, Neil Sroka told RCP. That support, however, “will need to be earned,” said the spokesman of the influential progressive group Democracy for America. “If you’re a Warren supporter who believes in her fight for big structural change, in taking on the billionaire class, and confronting corporate power, it’s pretty clear that Bernie Sanders is offering, while Joe Biden is offering much, much less.”
Both the Sanders and Biden camps will now begin digging into the rubble of the Warren campaign to scrounge for support. They will have to fight over the scraps. Bradley Tusk, a senior adviser to the now suspended campaign of Michael Bloomberg, said that, while “the logical assumption is that her voters default to Sanders,” her base of support “is more mixed than that.”
That is also the opinion of Matt Bennett, vice president of the centrist group Third Way. The idea of a default is wrong, he said, “and it's always been wrong.”
“She has a pretty good chunk of folks who are fairly far left but she also has a bunch of people who were drawn to her because she is principled and smart,” Bennett told RCP. Those voters “are not necessarily going to be interested in a revolution.”
As Sanders and Biden now eye the carcass of her campaign, Warren put the best face on defeat, sounding upbeat during a conference call with her campaign team. She told her staff that she loved them and that their effort wasn’t in vain, that their work “will have ripples for years to come.”
Her goodbye continued, “If you leave with only one thing, it must be this: Choose to fight only righteous fights, because then when things get tough – and they will – you will know that there is only one option ahead of you: Nevertheless, you must persist.”
This was a direct reference to the time that Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used parliamentary procedure to force Warren to take her seat after breaking the decorum rules of the Senate. It also captures Warren’s essence. Opponents and allies call her a fighter, and with good reason. She attacked her enemies and friends alike. Sanders and Mike Bloomberg know this better than most.
Warren and Sanders had met at her Capitol Hill apartment in December of 2018 to discuss presidential ambitions. They were friends. They knew that they might end up running against one another, and during most of the 2020 primary there was an unspoken détente between the two: no friendly fire.
Things changed in January when details of that meeting leaked. And then an ugly family argument happened on national television during the Iowa debate. She said that he said a woman could not win the presidency. He said that what she said was wrong.
After the debate ended, the microphones were still on, capturing an uncomfortable exchange.
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren told Sanders after walking over to his lectern.
“What?” Sanders responded
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she said again.
“Let’s not do it right now,” he replied. “You want to have that discussion; we’ll have that discussion. You called me a liar, you told me – all right, let’s not do it right now.”
He went to shake her hand but she wasn’t having it, and the two candidates left the debate stage on unfriendly terms. Warren would finish third in Iowa while Sanders would win the popular vote in the caucuses. And now he, not Warren, remains in the race as the challenger to Joe Biden, who was the choice of the party establishment all along.
But she can take solace in the fact that Mike Bloomberg isn’t one of the finalists. She scalped the former New York City mayor on national television in his first debate and never let up the pressure. The billionaire had signed multiple non-disclosure agreements with former female employees, and after her attack, Bloomberg said he would allow three of those women to break their agreements.
“If he says there is nothing to hide here, then sign a blanket release and let those women speak,” Warren said at the South Carolina debate. And then she made it personal. She left a teaching job long ago because she got pregnant, Warren said, but “at least I didn’t have a boss who told me to ‘kill it.'”
It was another damaging reference, this time to a conversation Bloomberg allegedly had with a female employee in 1995. She was pregnant, and now claims that he told to have an abortion, “to kill it.”
Bloomberg denied the allegation but never recovered. And by the time Warren had Sanders in her sights, it was too late. In the end, Bernie remained the last progressive champion standing. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts senator, the last viable female candidate, is out of the race.