Here comes Elizabeth Warren, who says that she is not—at the moment—running for president. However, rhetorically, she sure sounds like she’s trying to influence who is nominated. What if nobody she likes is nominated? Warren, who was featured in Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story when she was a professor at Harvard, is the consummate voice of the left (some would say the tea party left), and she more than anyone in the Democrat Party poses a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders has not the charisma nor the articulate appeal that Warren does, and he carries the identification of “socialist” around as a proud badge, and that’s immediate disqualification for a majority of the voters in the general.
Warren, however, has a populist appeal that could get her far into the primary, and she appeals to the Democratic base when she is not obligated to do so, particularly among those who believe Obama has betrayed them. As a result, Warren is garnering much attention:
Interviews with more than a dozen attendees, along with comments from panelists, suggest that Clinton — who many on the left view as too hawkish and soft on Wall Street — is still struggling to generate enthusiasm among progressives, even as she’s all but certain to announce a 2016 bid within a few months. The lack of excitement is especially palpable among younger liberals, the set that helped power Barack Obama to the Democratic nod over Clinton in 2008.
Warren keeps saying she is not (in the present) running. But that is true until she says she’s running (and for the record, Hillary is not running either at the moment). In other words, she has not ruled it out:
As NPR’s Steve Inskeep and many other observers have noticed, Warren always answers the presidential query in the present tense and assiduously avoids any deviation that might rule out a future bid.
Warren may not be “running for president” at the moment, but neither is anyone else, for that matter.
Far more relevant is the question that she has repeatedly chooses not to answer: Might she run for president, after the 2016 campaign official kicks off next year?
Can Warren win, as David Brooks recently opined in the affirmative in the NYT? He concludes:
Clinton is obviously tough, but she just can’t speak with a clear voice against Wall Street and Washington insiders. Warren’s wing shows increasing passion and strength, both in opposing certain Obama nominees and in last week’s budget fight.
The history of populist candidates is that they never actually get the nomination. The establishment wins. That’s still likely. But there is something in the air. The fundamental truth is that every structural and historical advantage favors Clinton, but every day more Democrats embrace the emotion and view defined by Warren.
Brooks is too optimistic for the moment, but there is a conceivable path to Warren winning with Clinton’s continued mis-steps and the base’s continued anger at Obama and the prior Clinton administration’s forays into the center.