She’s Running: Elizabeth Warren Announces 2020 Presidential Campaign

Warren

In a move that was surprising only in the timing, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA) released a launch video and a notice of forming an exploratory committee for a 2020 White House bid. The later move allows her to officially begin fundraising, staff a campaign, and become the first of the known “name” candidates to declare.

The question, of course, is where does the senator fit in a crowded primary field.

NY Times:

The race for the 2020 Democratic nomination is poised to be the most wide open since perhaps 1992, with the party leaderless and lacking obvious front-runners. After a midterm election that saw many women, liberals, minorities and young Democrats win, the primaries and caucuses next year are likely to be fought over not only who is the most progressive candidate but also which mix of identities should be reflected in the next nominee.

Ms. Warren, 69, is among the best-known Democrats seeking to take on Mr. Trump, who has already announced his re-election campaign, but she also faces challenges: recent controversy over her claims to Native American heritage, skepticism from the party establishment and a lack of experience in a presidential race.

Two potential top-tier candidates who have run before, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders, are eyeing 2020 and are expected to disclose their plans this winter. Yet both men carry political baggage and would be in their late 70s on Election Day 2020, and many Democrats say they want a fresh face as their next nominee.

More than three dozen Democratic senators, governors, mayors and business leaders are also weighing bids — most of whom have not sought the White House before. The race is expected to draw several women and nonwhite contenders as well as liberal and more moderate politicians — making for the most diverse field in history. Several Senate colleagues of Ms. Warren are likely to enter the race soon: Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

For the former law professor, it is fair to ask just what her messaging niche will be in the coming primary fight. While conservatives have long attacked Sen. Warren as being very liberal, the most high profile of those midterm “women, liberals, minorities and young Democrats,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is both endlessly discussed and to Warren’s left on many issues. While the yet-to-be sworn in congresswoman doesn’t directly impact the senator’s presidential ambitions, the attention is worth noting. There are more than a few voices calling for a more full-throated progressivism than Elizabeth Warren has thus far produced. The senator has made a point of reaching out to minorities, but it is likely that she will face both of her African-American Senate colleagues in Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.

While her numbers amongst Democrats are high and her name recognition is solid, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden best her in both currently. There is also the possibility that some shiny new object, such as Beto O’Rouke, captures the imagination of primary voters and renders credentials and policy positions mute. The messages that brought her to national office, economic and anti-corporate and Wall Street corruption, are pretty standard fair among her competitors.

And then there is the ancestry controversy. What had been mostly relegated to barbs from her right-wing critics exploded in October when Sen Warren released a DNA test she had taken. Vikram Bath recapped at the the time:

Elizabeth Warren got DNA tested. It turns out that on her 10th chromosome she has a good chunk of DNA that is likely Native American in origin. It’s worth nothing that this is not a mound of DNA. The Boston Globe corrected its story and corrected it again to state that Warren has “a potential 10th generation relative” amounting to 1/1024 Native Americanness. You can predict the reactions. Some are latching onto the laughable remoteness of 1/1024. On the other hand, she never claimed to be 100% or even 50%. Instead, she said that she grew up believing there was a Native American ancestor in her family, and that appears to have been true.

But is she Native American?

I’m genuinely torn here. I feel respect should be given to those who have truly suffered for their identities, which Warren has not. If they object, I would like to defer to their views. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to get a true census rather than a handful of tweets I was able to find.

The social media snark almost writes itself, and Twitter memes are not the real world, but in a crowded field where most of the messaging Sen. Warren wants to focus on is already being touted, the issue of her biggest moment of the year being a negative one is a cause of concern for Team Warren. Possibly everyone has moved on and it doesn’t affect her campaign, but in a crowded field with so much similarity and immense pressure to chose a champion that will be able to defeat Donald Trump, things like lingering jokes shrink an already small margin of error.

In the end, Elizabeth Warren’s problem in seeking the presidency might well be that she just doesn’t stand out from the crowd enough to be heard. There will be other women candidates, other anti-Wall Street crusaders, more progressive policy adherents, more reconciliatory centrists, more charismatic speakers, candidates with better name recognition, and on and on the list could go. After years of telegraphing a run for the presidency, one really wonders if Elizabeth Warren has any path to get there.


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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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69 thoughts on “She’s Running: Elizabeth Warren Announces 2020 Presidential Campaign

  1. I read somewhere that she was announcing specifically to be thrown to the wolves. Dunno if that is the case, but it would explain announcing this early.

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          • Mmm the scenario for why she’d agree is pretty conventional. She’s in a solid position as a Senator and if her goal is the role of liberal Senatorial lion then getting flattened in a stalking horse primary bid would not hurt her in the Senate at all and would earn great credit with the party actors. Think Ted Kennedy without the car crash scandal.
            Basically:
            Unlikely Worst case scenario: she gets humiliated and goes back to a secure position in the Senate with her reputation damaged.
            Likely Worst case scenario: she gets beat up and goes back to a secure position in the Senate reputation scuffed but ok.
            Neutral: She influences policy in her direction, takes a lot of right wing flak for other candidates and returns to the Senate with a grateful party and a pocket full of favors to cash in.
            Good: She does very well, maybe comes close to winning, influences the conversation and returns to the Senate with a grateful party and probably a good shot at leadership.
            Best case: The stars align and she’s elected President.

            The worst is pretty mild compared to the best case outcomes.

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            • Neutral through best case seem to be “she doesn’t think she’s a stalking horse”. I understand that mentality pretty well.

              It’s the “going into it knowing that she’s going to lose *AND* replay the whole Indian Ancestry thing *AND* probably have to deal with someone asking her if she still considers herself a person of color every freaking day for the next year and a half” that I don’t see her signing up for.

              (Though I can certainly see why someone else would sign her up for it.)

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              • It depends on her willingness to absorb public punishment for personal gain. She’s a politician so we already know Warren has that inclination. I certainly am not *SAYING* Warren is running a stalking horse candidacy, it’s just not as unthinkable that she’d willingly and knowingly do so than you may think.

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        • Also, if she’s serious and my geographic thinking is correct, she’s going to need a ton of money starting in mid-February 2020 in the run-up to March 3, 10, and 17. At least half the delegates will be in play those three days, most of the big states, expensive media markets. Better to find out early that the donors won’t support that. An exploratory committee is a necessary thing for collecting money prior to actually declaring.

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          • Yeah this primary is going to be like none we’ve had before. It may end up being a sprint instead of the marathon we’re accustomed to. It may be that the politicians jumping in early are making a wiser move than we, thinking about them in term of the traditional more truncated primaries, give them credit for.

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    • I suspect she was likely promised a shot at the big chair as part of the deal that pulled her fully into the party and toeing the party line. In 2011, she was serious wild card that the Democrats had to get under control. Seeing her sign on to the party and give up her independent platform for a Senate seat seemed a poor choice to me unless there was more.

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    • The more I think about this, the stalking horse idea is half right. Basically, she was a contender, to a greater or lesser degree. Her stumbling block was the Native American history, a stumbling block Trump pretty successfully used. Now she thinks she can get the momentum back so she is declaring first to set her self apart.

      The stalking horse aspect comes from the fact that no one serious should be the first to go. It’s like arriving at a party first. Gauch. If she were still a viable candidate, the party would pull her back, as the funding would come with handlers.

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      • She’s smart and seems more concerned with getting ideas out and supported than with personal ambition (which is part of why she probably won’t make it: she’s not vain and driven enough) so she may well be declaring early just to set a theme and tone for others in the party. But honestly don’t care if it’s calculated or not. I like her approach infinitely more than Bernie’s and trust her a LOT more too, so if all her candidacy does is steal his thunder and keep him from blowing things for us in 2020, I’m all for it.

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  2. “In the end, Elizabeth Warren’s problem in seeking the presidency might well be that she just doesn’t stand out from the crowd enough to be heard”

    How could someone who lied to advance themselves before they got into politics not stand out in the crowd…oh wait…..

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    • Meh, she fails the likeability test.

      She has the earnestness and sincerity of a PSA for Gonorrhea… which admittedly might be appropriate tone for the election… but I’d be surprised if it gets her very far. But then I’m not a Dem primary voter… so surprise me.

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          • Who is?
            In any conversation related to Trump, who would use “likeability” as a deciding metric?

            Even his staunchest defenders seem to admit he is an asshole, but a useful one.

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            • Well, I’ll say this again:

              Well, there are three groups of voters.

              1. People who, if they vote, will vote for our guy no matter what.
              2. People who, if they vote, will vote for the other guy no matter what.
              3. People who could swing back or forth either way.

              What you want is to energize the #1s, depress the #2s, and get the #3s to swing your way.

              It’s the #3s that likability matters for.

              If you’re a #1, likability doesn’t matter. Being a #1, arguing that likability doesn’t matter for #2s either is technically true… but it doesn’t really address that likability is a factor for #3s.

              Edit: I suppose likability technically matters for #1s and #2s when it comes to turnout.

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              • I believe that #3s exist; I don’t believe they use likeability as a metric.

                “Well, she’s nice and pleasant and all, but she can’t compete with the charm, grace and sheer electric charisma of Donald J. Trump!”

                Likeability might help with turnout, but I think the term “passion” would be more appropriate.
                E.G., does Liz Warren inspire more passionate turnout than say, Kamala Harris.

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                  • Well, the conservatives/Republicans I talk to face-to-face do not say things like “I really like Trump”. They say things like, “well, he’s ok, and we have to do something about how much our jobs suck”.

                    So, I kind of think that the people who find Trump likeable are not people who are on the fence, and winnable by a Dem.

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                    • I think that’s a valid observation… Trump’s likeability (like all likeability) is contingent and also judged comparatively… so even if Likeability as a concept plays some role in any given election, it isn’t the case that the President is therefore – a sort of Dos Equis man – the Most Likeable Person in the World.

                      I think it *is* the case that the President qua President has made himself less likeable to various segments that will make his re-election more difficult.

                      Pending the nomination of his opponent, of course.

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                    • Oh, I wouldn’t dream of being in a conversation with someone who would conceivably say “I like Trump”.

                      Certainly not after four years of the guy tweeting every day.

                      That said, there are still matchups where I don’t know that he’d come out behind if he were put next to (insert prominent politician here).

                      (And I still think that “shy Trump voter” is something that we’re going to have to worry about in 2020.)

                      But we had a Blue Wave in 2018. Maybe that’s a good indicator of what’s to come.

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                • I would add to that, “Does Liz Warren inspire more passionate turnout than say, Kamala Harris, in the right places.” Passionate turnout for a (D) candidate in California or NY doesn’t count. Passionate turnout for a (D) candidate in Arkansas or Mississippi probably doesn’t count. Passionate turnout in Pennsylvania or Michigan counts. Really passionate turnout in Arizona or Georgia might count.

                  Of course, we all know my belief that to a first approximation these days, (D) voters’ passion for candidates from the NE urban corridor declines steadily with distance. That may well be true for candidates from the West Coast as well these days, but we haven’t seen that particular experiment yet.

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        • In my mind I was thinking for all the new crossover Dems when compared to other Dems (who haven’t officially announced) and then finally v. Trump in the States that matter… so a combo of what Jay and Mr. Cain had to say.

          I was also upfront that my likability calibration from a Dem primary voter point of view might not be great… but its my hunch that she’s not as likeable among some Dem segments as others (TBD) will be.

          Should it come down to Warren v. Trump… I shall afflict you with those thoughts at the appropriate time after I’ve had opportunity to see which gameboard we’re using.

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          • I posted that over at LGM. Almost did here but got distracted.

            Yeah, I think it will be interesting/ depressing to see how many absurd excuses people will come up with to justify how they were totally going to vote for the Dem, but if only she hadn’t done that one thing, you know, that thing that creates questions-troubling-questions and forced them to vote Trump even though they take it as a deep and uncivil personal affront to suggest they may actually like what Trump has to offer.

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            • I wonder, if we surveyed the readership here on their votes in the 2008 Dem primary, would there be more sexists, who supported the male candidate over the female one, or more racists, who supported the white candidate over the black one?

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              • I was totally, absolutely open to voting for John McCain in 2008.

                But he was, like, so grouchy and unlikable, y’know? And Obama had that star power charisma- when he smiled, it was like starbursts flew around the room!

                And in 2012, I was completely going to vote Romney. But then his manner was so, I don’t know, like a school principal or something, and his hair- God, don’t even get me started on that hair! So I felt like I had no choice but to vote Obama.

                And in 2016, I was all set to vote for Trump, I really was. But he was sort of crude and boorish, I couldn’t see myself wanting to have a beer with him. And his suits were so laughably poor, his tie always hanging below his belt. So really, my vote for HRC was actually his fault for running such a bad campaign.

                But this time in 2020, I will be wide open, completely open minded to voting Republican!

                Just not that one.

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                • Actually, a lot of McCain’s popularity was based on likability. He’d go on the Daily Show and joke with Jon Stewart, or have a dialogue with reporters instead of being evasive or contemptuous. And it killed him. Nothing says “RINO” more than being liked by the wrong people. You know who has 90% approval within his party? The biggest asshole in North America.

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                  • Sure, see my comment above… I don’t think Likeability is a universal singularity, its contingent, comparative and contextual. Likeability might even be a term that we’ve used influenced by WJC, GWB, and BHO rather than a generic term like Charisma.

                    Before Likeability we used to ask about Gravitas.

                    So its even likely that this generic Charisma needs to match a national “mood” of what leadership is or should be… so maybe Likeability is now a liability and there’s a new mood that will appeal to various segments.

                    If you are in Politics and can’t read moods, you’re going to rise as far as the political machine that doesn’t need to read moods will place you.

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              • I would have voted for Edwards (and I would have been very sorry about that later) but he had dropped out by the time the primary was held here in CA. So I voted for Hillary.

                But that was ok. I was ok with any of them, politically.

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            • I guess we’ll find out if Klobuchar runs. As someone remarked yesterday the only female candidate who has any chance at the White House is ‘Yes, I’d Vote For a Woman, Just Not That One.’

              Though quite honestly I’m sure the liberal part is the big factor for most Republicans. If they lined up behind Trump, I’m sure they’d line up behind a woman, or a drag queen, or a nudist hermaphrodite, if one could manage to win their primary.

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              • Well, if there were one state that has a less successful record going up against The Republicans than “The Northeast” in the Modern Era, it’s Minnesota.

                That said, I’ve got an n of 2, so I’m not sure how meaningful that is.

                I’m looking forward to the Democratic Primary. It’s going to be feisty and, without a presumed frontrunner, we’re going to see one emerge Democratically. (Well, with some help from The Media… see the really effective takedown of Sanders for a good example of that.)

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                • Sample size wrt presidential trends will always be an issue. Especially since there are almost no truly independent variables as most are heavily influenced by ever changing trends in society. When Warren ran for senator, MA, despite it’s liberal reputation, had never had a female senator. (It still hasn’t had a female governor).

                  The primary will be interesting. Personally, I hope Sanders gets shot down early. I have a bunch of relatives up near VT, so from where I sit, it felt like the media and everyone else was treating him with kid gloves last time around. There are metric tons of crap (which I’m sure the GOP would have been happy to use) that would have made him look like a less savory lefty version of Trump if he’d been the candidate.

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                  • Looks like Sanders has already been wounded and he hasn’t even announced yet.

                    That said, what made Sanders dangerous to the Establishment Candidate was not Sanders Himself.

                    AOC seems to be playing the role of Sanders this election. (How many candidates have you seen in their kitchens so far this year? Prepare to see more kitchens!)

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                    • I think Sanders’s biggest problem is going to be that no one is clearing the rest of the field for him. If he’s going to be in, he has to declare early and change his party affiliation early. And will no doubt be told by the party, “You can’t just be about Bernie this time. You have to do a bunch of the dreary party things, like fund-raising for the Senate.”

                      I’ve thought it’s always been a serious weakness in his aspirations to be President: he’s a “Democrat” when it suits him, but not when being a senior Democrat means he has to do a lot of the dreary party things.

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                      • I think Sanders’s biggest problem is going to be that no one is clearing the rest of the field for him.

                        Oh, yeah. This time around he’d be the crank that would be easily dismissed. He’s not going to benefit from being the only alternative to the Clinton.

                        But there *WILL* be an Establishment Candidate again this time around. And there will be pushback to the Establishment Candidate based on silly things like “actually believing shit”.

                        To the extent that it was about Bernie, hey. No problem.

                        To the extent that it was about “actually believing shit”? Killing Bernie ain’t gonna do a damn thing.

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                    • Yes, but Sanders acted like it was Himself.

                      I’ll be glad to see the party dragged away from a lot of Establishment nonsense. If AOC can do that, more power to her. Esp. since she won’t be running for president and if she ever does, hopefully won’t have the same massive hypocrisy, history of nepotism, and Bros causing #metoo type issues in her campaign.

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      • For whom?

        Personally, I find her likeable. But I guess my impression doesn’t count. (After all, I’m an over 50 female with a graduate degree, which seems to be the definition of ‘unlikeable’ for a lot of people…)

        Snark aside, I am well and truly sick of ‘likeability’ being such a litmus test for office. The woman on the morning shows who said “It’s not about running for prom queen, it about running for president” is right. One of GWB’s big selling points was supposedly that he was ‘a guy you’d want to have a beer with’. How did that work out?

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  3. I don’t think Warren would be as “socialist” as her supporters or her detractors think she would be. She seems wonkish in a better way that most who are portrayed as such. (Specifically, her decision heuristics seem much better than Hillary Clinton’s, as well as most of the projected Dem field).

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  4. Well, I would contend that if “likeability” means “comes across well in media”, then yeah, it’s really important.

    Can Warren do that? I guess we’ll find out. I know I like her policies, and that I like her smarts, and I think she has a good, unapologetic rhetorical stance. But my questions are about her age and how she can handle media. It’s the litmus test.

    I too would like a younger candidate.

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  5. I would like to thank Marchmaine for digging up old thoughts. I’ll repeat what I said back then:

    …the likability thing always struck me as a really weird measuring stick.

    If I am hiring an accountant, is “likability” somewhere near the top of my list? Odds are, it isn’t because I care more about stuff like “does she know how to be an accountant?” with a side of “is she going to embezzle from me?”

    If I’m hiring a coder, do I want her to be “likable”? My first thought will probably be something like “does she know C?”

    Now, of course, this is not to say “SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT YOU’RE OKAY WITH SOMEONE WHO COMES IN AND SHOOTS HER CO-WORKERS!!!” which would not be a fair restatement of my argument. It’s more that I’d rather have a bit of a cold fish, or a bit of a jerk, who knows how to do the job than one who gives great anecdote around the water cooler and makes me say “I want to hang out with this person after work!” (who happens to have read a “use Perl to be an accountant!” book once).

    Now, if I’m hiring for sales? Sure. Charisma is probably a requirement. Or, you’d think it’d be. I’ve met my fair share of Herb Tarlek types (and if you don’t know who that is, just pretend I said “greasy used car salesman from the commercials in your town” (and, seriously, if you want to tell me a story about how your hometown’s used car salesman commercials come across as honest and earnest gentlemen who sincerely want to put you in a nicer, newer car and make you happy, then I guess I’ll ask you to google Herb Tarlek)).

    There’s a bare minimum of charisma required for a hell of a lot of jobs out there (we’ve worked with those people, don’t tell me you haven’t) and I don’t know why “President” isn’t a lot more like an accountant than anything else.

    I suppose I could see the argument that the job of the president is “sales” (or, heck, “upper management”) and, as such, we need a president who has as much charisma as an Obama or a Reagan. I dunno. I don’t know how delighted I should be with either of those guys’s accomplishments. (And they strike me as being the ceiling of charismatic presidents in the modern era.) If I’m hiring a president, I think I’d want someone who has demonstrated good executive skills a lot more than I’d want a drinking buddy.

    I already have drinking buddies. I need a good president.

    Now, I’ve changed my mind a little bit. Likability is important when it comes to retaining qualified staff and getting people to work for you despite the culture of Warshington DC (and, hell, in getting the culture in Warshington DC to not mind that you work for the guy/gal in the White House despite them not being on Team Good).

    I also have changed my mind on “getting stuff done”. I’ve switched to that it’s kinda overrated.

    But if I were a fan of wonky technocratic leadership and didn’t understand human beings who weren’t me or mine at all, I’d still put “likability” as a third-tier trait. A good trait to have, no doubt, but one to discuss long after we discuss 6 or 7 other traits first.

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