Analysis: The Judgment of Elizabeth Warren Cometh…
Some days ago a piece of mail arrived at a nondescript municipal building in mid-Cambridge. It would eventually find its way to a school north of Harvard Square where its contents were fed into a voting machine, disappearing into the anonymity of the ballots cast in precinct 10-2 on Super Tuesday. That absentee ballot alone might have offered the best evidence of US Senator Elizabeth Warren’s stance in the Democratic presidential nominating contest.
Signs of Warren’s choice are appearing nonetheless. Moreover, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s revolution begins to flag, the pressure on the Massachusetts senator to step forward with an endorsement will only intensify.
Warren has kept her cards close throughout this election cycle and remains the only member of Congress from Massachusetts that has not endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Yet, her diehard supporters may not be thrilled with her eventual choice, which, if declared early enough, could end Sanders’s campaign well before the last primary votes are cast.
Her reasons to wait are likely many, but the ostensible indecisiveness has helped fan Sanders’s flames. His supporters gleefully shared 12 year-old B-roll of Warren filleting Clinton’s flip-flop on a 2001 bankruptcy bill—Clinton opposed the bill in 2005 when it actually became law without child support provisions she secured in 2001. Warren’s rhetoric on the big banks further validated those feeling the Bern who deem Clinton a Wall Street sellout.
But Sanders and his supporters, especially those outside of Massachusetts, may have misread Warren’s signals all along. The question may be whether they greet Warren’s decision with angry denunciations of their guiding light or recognize her as a shrewd tactician gaming out how to further her causes.
Indeed, Politico reported last weekend that Warren is all but negotiating with Clinton’s camp to ensure her priorities are the top of a President Hillary Clinton’s to-do list.
A spokesperson for Warren declined to comment on what, if any timetable, Senator Warren has for a presidential endorsement.
Warren’s Swiss posture on the presidential race is partly geared toward fundraising for Senate candidates without alienating anyone, according to those familiar with the battle for the Senate. Though still effective in the minority, Warren appreciates the importance of a Democratic majority in the Upper House, as the Supreme Court battle has plainly demonstrated.
Relatedly, Clinton’s support for state parties might animate Warren, too, having had a good one backing her in 2012. Democrats will need stronger state parties to secure the Senate and one day—or decade—retake the House.
As Politico observed, prominet Clinton folks like Gary Gensler and Mandy Grunwald are close to Warren, but some top Warren staff in Massachusetts are historically Clinton people. For example, Warren State Director Roger Lau worked for Clinton in in 2008 as did other Warren staff past and present.
Veterans of the 2012 campaign, if not national politicos, might have seen further signs of Warren’s acquiescence—if not endorsement—at Clinton’s Springfield event. Warren people were helping out at the Springfield History Museum. Many also had ties to US Rep. Richard Neal, perhaps Clinton’s top surrogate in the 413 (his hometown swung hard for Clinton on Tuesday). But the presence of some Warren supporters and operatives could not have occurred without the blessing of her inner circle.
Still, while there is no apparent schedule for an endorsement, Clinton’s win in Massachusetts could become a factor in timing.
Sanders supporters’ calls for superdelegates—elected Democrats and party elders who may vote as they please at national convention—to back voters’ choice may have backfired here. The only undecided elected Bay State superdelegate, Warren, could now observe that admonition…and back Clinton.
Furthermore, while Sanders kept the race close in cities like Holyoke and Worcester, the communities that went hard for Clinton also helped deliver Warren’s 2012 victory. This held true in Springfield, for example, even though the 2016 primary electorate is much whiter than the 2012 general election electorate due to lower turnout. (24% in this past Tuesday versus 55% in November 2012).
Put another way, Warren owes her seat partly to building and relying on the diversity of the Democratic party’s coalition in Massachusetts. Sanders has not proven he can while Clinton has.
Notably, while Sanders swept many college towns, the revolution bypassed the People’s Republican of Cambridge. Clinton beat Sanders by a little over 2000 votes in Cambridge yielding a 53-46 margin and in Warren’s precinct 784 votes to 536.
If Sanders supporters wanted to blame an establishment for that, Harvard’s might be a candidate. However, that may not go very far. Both Warren and her husband have taught there for years.