Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator whose brand of big tech-busting, corruption-fighting progressive politics at one time made her a frontrunner in the race for president, is ending her campaign.
Warren told reporters outside her Cambridge, Massachusetts, home that she would not endorse a candidate yet.
“Not today,” she said when asked about an endorsement. “I need some space around this and a little time to think a little more.”
Warren’s departure from the Democratic primary comes after a disastrous Super Tuesday where didn’t finish above third in any state, building her streak to 19 contests that she lost. She even lost her home state, finishing a distant third in Massachusetts.
Warren campaigned on a mantra of “big structural change” to tackle political corruption and money in politics, while championing a slew of liberal causes such as Medicare for All, retiring student debt, and breaking up big tech such as Facebook.
But the 70-year-old second-term senator, who led in national polls as recently as November, faced a serious setback with the rocky rollout of a plan to pay for her $20.5 trillion health care overhaul. It undercut one of her strengths – that she’s in command, well prepared and an expert on policy. “I’ve got a plan for that,” she often said in speeches.
She never rebounded, finishing third in the Iowa caucuses before a dismal fourth-place showing in neighboring New Hampshire, and the same for Nevada and South Carolina.
Her exit comes as the primary is now a two-person race between new frontunner Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders following the former vice president’s dominating Super Tuesday, where he coalesced support among the party’s establishment, moderates and African-American voters.
An official with Biden’s campaign confirms that Biden spoke with Warren by phone yesterday. The official would not comment on Warren’s political plans, including an endorsement.
Sanders said he spoke to Warren on Wednesday, saying, “We spoke on the phone a few hours ago and what Sen. Warren told me is she’s assessing her campaign. She has not made any decisions at this point.”
A Morning Consult poll found Sanders and Biden would benefit roughly equally from Warren’s departure. The poll said 43% of Warren’s supporters chose Sanders as their second choice, compared to 36% who said Biden was their second option. The margin of error in the poll was 4%.
A Democratic friend of Sanders who has worked with him said people shouldn’t assume he will win the endorsement of Warren. There is a definite party shift to Biden, he said, and Warren has her own future to think about: “If she wants to stay viable, she’ll endorse Biden.”
Warren, a former Harvard law professor who led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under President Obama, was squeezed from competing sides within the Democratic electorate.
Her onetime advantage among college-educated Democrats eroded with some in this camp choosing the bipartisan, unity-driven message of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former mayor Pete Buttigieg to Warren’s pitch to lead the “fight” to bring about change.
At the same time, Warren lost the party’s far left, in particular young progressives 18 to 29 years old, overwhelmingly to Sanders. These were the voters most likely to gravitate toward Warren’s economic populist message, but in Sanders, they picked a democratic socialist pitching much the same. Throughout the campaign, Warren struggled attracting support from African-Americans and other minority voters.
It left Warren without a reliable base and among a sea of contenders. The campaign-spending onslaught of former billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed Warren further out of the picture.
Bloomberg, Buttigieg and Klobuchar each endorsed Biden after exiting the race.
Warren’s first election came in 2012 when she challenged and unseated Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, who held the former Senate seat of Ted Kennedy following his death three years earlier.
Warren entered the race against Brown down double-digits in polling but ended up winning 54%-46% in the Democratic-leaning state. She was reelected to second term in 2016, easily defeating Geoff Diehl, a Republican state representative.
Warren was encouraged by many progressive activists to run for president in 2016, but she ultimately passed, opening a lane for Sanders to launch a campaign to the left of Hillary Clinton. Although he lost, the support Sanders coalesced among the party’s left carried over into his current run at the expense of Warren.
Warren’y entry into the 2020 election was prefaced by her highly criticized decision in October 2018 to release DNA results that showed “strong evidence” she had Native American heritage dating back six to 10 generations.
It was an attempt to get ahead of continued attacks she would face in the presidential race for claiming Native American heritage in the past. Republicans and Trump relentlessly mocked Warren as “Pocahontas.” Trump promised a $1 million donation to a charity of Warren’s choice if DNA results proved her claims.
But her release of the DNA results set off a backlash itself from Native American groups, including the Cherokee Nation, which slammed her decision to use DNA testing to claim Native American heritage as “inappropriate and wrong.” They said Warren is “undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.” Warren later apologized.
The issue over Warren’s ancestry goes back to the 1980s, when as a law professor at the University of Texas, she started listing herself as a minority professor in the the Association of American Law Schools. No evidence exists that she listed herself as Native American during when she was hired by the University of Pennsylvania and later Harvard.
Known to jog on stage to address her supporters, the energetic Warren began her speeches by discussing her humble upbringing in Oklahoma, marriage to her high school sweetheart, and her quick divorce that left her a single-mother in Texas. She graduated from the University of Houston and later remarried to Bruce Mann, who was hired at Harvard as a law professor several years after Warren.
Warren cast herself as a lifelong “fighter,” from her time growing up to her challenge of Brown, as she made the case she’s the Democrat best equipped to take the “fight” to Trump.
She reminded voters of the tagline “Nevertheless she persisted,” which Senate Majority Mitch McConnell made referring to Warren’s objectin to Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general. It became a rally cry for many Democrats.
As she stumbled out of the gate, Warren tweaked her pitch by also calling herself also the candidate who can unite the fragmented Democratic coalition in the general election. It seemed to be a subtle dig at Sanders, who has faced questions about his ability to unify all factions of the party against Trump.
Although Warren’s bid for president fell short, she will still be considered among the leading liberals in the Senate, where she still has four years left in her second term.