Warren vs. Clinton: Dems say 'Why not?'

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The Democratic field in 2016 has more than enough room for two women competing to be the nation’s first female president, according to liberal activists.

They pour scorn on the notion that Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDems offering bill aimed at curbing stock buybacks Lessons from Dan Lipinski’s victory Michael Moore: Russia, Stormy Daniels stories are 'shiny keys to distract us' MORE (D-Mass.), or any other woman, ought to step aside if former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump can save Republicans and restore sanity to California in 2018 Breitbart News denies readership drop, alt-right label Mellman: The next war MORE launches a second quest for the White House.

"The idea that you can't run because there's somebody else who looks like you running? Oh my God, what would all the white men do?" quipped Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

"I think the argument that two women shouldn't compete in a primary is insulting to voters — both women and men," said Robert Borosage, the director and co-founder of the progressive Campaign For America's Future. "This isn't a gender contest. This is a race to determine the best leader for our country. Anyone making that argument in public would be hooted off the stage."

A former senior Democratic staffer who supports Clinton also decried the notion.

"I'm sick of the political boys’ club," said the former staffer, who is female. "We always have several men running at the same time. The more women who run for public office, the better. I want nothing more than to have Hillary as the first female president ... [but] people don't become president because they deserve it — who becomes president is up to the voters."

Representatives for Clinton and Warren did not respond to requests for comment.

Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign was largely perceived as shying away — at least in its initial stages — from highlighting that she'd be the first female president, said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Walsh said Clinton had fully embraced the historic nature of her candidacy by the end of her campaign, perhaps most notably in her June 2008 concession speech.

Clinton referred in that address to the numbers of cracks her campaign had put in the “glass ceiling” that restricts women’s ascent.

She also said, "I am a woman and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us."

Walsh said that if Warren and Clinton were to both run, it would likely "reshape and change the nature of the conversation" for Democrats during the primary.

"[Clinton] could talk about the importance and historic nature of her candidacy," Walsh said, "but she'd likely have to run more on her experience, too."

That reflects one potential worry for the Clinton campaign — that a Warren candidacy would provide voters with a chance to get behind another Democratic woman with a credible shot at making it to the White House.

Maybe that simply won’t happen. Warren joined all the other female Democratic senators in October 2013 in a letter encouraging Clinton to run for president. 

But Warren has signaled in recent weeks that she could indeed run, despite having previously insisted she wasn't interested.

“I don’t think so,” Warren first told People magazine when asked if she'd run for president recently. But she then added, “If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in the last five years, it's don't be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open.”

Other prominent female Democrats have also indicated that they're ready to rally behind Clinton, who holds a dominant lead in early 2016 polls.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told Time magazine in March that "Hillary Clinton will be our first female president." 

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) backed the pro-Clinton super-PAC Ready For Hillary in June 2013.

And Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said at a Washington forum in May that Americans would elect a female president "in a couple of cycles" if Clinton didn't run for president, as reported by the The Christian Science Monitor, which sponsored the event.

When asked to clarify her remarks, Schultz appeared to back off through a spokeswoman.

"Right now, there is no shortage of Democratic women who are ready to run and win at every level — from the state house the White House," said DNC spokeswoman Lily Adams.

NOW endorsed Clinton early in the 2008 Democratic primary, when Clinton was battling then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for the nomination. 

But O'Neill, who called both Warren and Clinton "fabulous," pushed back against the notion that Warren would have to step aside for the Clinton candidacy.

"Sen. Warren is entitled to run for president if she wants, and I think she's a great candidate," O'Neill said. "There's no reason she shouldn't run for president. We need to have a conversation about where we want this country to go. Do we really want the .01 percent controlling everything?"

O'Neill added, “More women need to run against each other in all races to show it's not a big deal. That says to other women on the sidelines, 'Well, maybe I could jump in, too.' "