There were five Democratic candidates, back-to-back on the same stage at CNN’s epic youth-centered town hall in New Hampshire, and all five candidates had to answer the same question: What do you think of Elizabeth’s Warren policies?
On impeachment, she makes Bernie Sanders look like a calculating squish. (She called on the House to begin hearings, Sanders said Democrats need to focus on ousting President Donald Trump through any means necessary – but cautioned that might not be impeachment.)
On almost every issue, she makes Pete Buttigieg look like the kid who showed up to class without his homework (but who has very articulate reasons as to why homework really isn’t as important as one might think).
She even had some veiled shade for soon-to-be candidate Joe Biden on a bankruptcy bill he sponsored that favored credit card companies.
And yet, at least for now, Warren is lagging in the polls and in fundraising.
The headline out of a new Monmouth University poll provides a snapshot of the 2020 field: Biden stable, Bernie sags, Buttigieg surges. The poll shows Biden with the support of 28% of voters, Sanders with 20% and Buttigieg leapfrogging out of the bottom of the field to tie with Harris at 8%.
Warren captures only 6% of the electorate right now, even as she leads much more of the policy debate.
When Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary to Barack Obama, she referenced making 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling (one for each of her votes). But “progress” isn’t always linear, history has taught us. With Clinton’s upset loss in 2016, it could be that the glass ceiling got an additional layer, with women presidential candidates facing a more desperate, but skeptical electorate who are laser-focused on defeating Trump – even among Democrats who just came off of the year of the woman.
It was only a few years ago that Warren was the media darling on the left, going viral with her grilling of bank regulators and executives. In 2014, there was the “Ready for Warren” draft movement, a year that also saw her campaign in West Virginia and Kentucky for Democratic Senate candidates – yes, West Virginia and Kentucky.
The Politics of Us
Her masterful stump speeches balanced progressive populism with aspiration. Bill Clinton even praised her stem-winder speaking style and worried what her rhetorical gifts might mean for his wife’s candidacy.
Of course, Warren didn’t run in 2016. But Bernie Sanders did. That has made a big difference, with Sanders capturing much of the ground and electorate that Warren used to dominate.
Even with bolder and clearer policies, Warren has yet to make inroads with Sanders’ voters who shunned Hillary Clinton, in part over her lack of policy boldness. At the town hall, Warren was asked about any fears or lessons from 2016 about being “Hillary’d.”
She talked about how Democrats encouraged her to run and also said she would lose because Massachusetts wasn’t ready for a woman senator. With that, Warren was clearly talking about her current run as well, suggesting that some Democrats still hold this view. With six women running, and none of them in double digits, she likely has a point.
“You stay after it every day,” she said. “One might say you persist. Organize, build a grassroots movement, fight for working people, and that’s how I am going to be the first woman elected president of the United States.”