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Markos Moulitsas: No Warren in 2016

Greg Nash

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a liberal champion, skyrocketing to near-iconic status in just a few short years. So it’s not surprising that many in the Democratic Party’s liberal wing are agitating for a Warren presidential bid. But Warren ‘16 simply ain’t happening. And that’s not a bad thing. 

For one, Warren has no desire to mount a bid. Supporters might ignore the dozens of times she’s stated unambiguously that she’s happy in the Senate, but the fact is, she’s been clear. “I am not running for president,” she told The Boston Globe. “Do you want to put an exclamation point at the end of that?”

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That’s no surprise. Warren had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Senate race in Massachusetts, a state so compact that she could campaign all over and still sleep in her bed every night. If Senate Republicans had confirmed her as chairwoman of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau — the job she really wanted — Scott Brown would still be holding her seat, because Warren never would have left the CFPB. So, if she didn’t want to run for Senate, what makes anyone think she has the outsized ego to run for president? 

If she were to run, her chances would be laughable. As much as critics might hate it, Hillary Clinton is extremely popular among the Democratic Party base. ABC News has pegged a Clinton-Warren match-up at 69-7. Fox News had it at 69-6. It’s not close.

But wasn’t Clinton “inevitable” in the 2008 cycle as well? Not like this. At this stage of the contest in late 2006, Clinton’s lead over Barack Obama was a paltry 31-19, according to Gallup. People who could read the data knew Clinton was nowhere near “inevitable.” (In December 2006, I wrote a piece titled “2008: If Obama runs, he wins.”) The data is just as clear today — if Clinton runs, she wins. 

Well, why shouldn’t Warren run to “push Hillary to the left”? Clinton certainly is misaligned with her party’s populist base on key issues like Wall Street reform and war. But a challenger only “pushes” a candidate if she presents a serious electoral threat. With Warren 40-50 points behind, it’s safer for Clinton to maintain the status quo. 

Furthermore, while Warren is more in tune with her party on the issues, Clinton would win a hypothetical match-up on the force of her personality and history. But that wouldn’t stop people from attempting to marginalize Warren and her supporters by pointing to the election results. In fact, it would give Warren’s critics a great cudgel to dent her influence, further harming her ability to positively influence the national agenda.

The thing is, Warren can move Clinton to the left, but she doesn’t need to run for president. She has the perfect platform right now, in the Senate, to rhetorically push Clinton on the issues. Her videos and the media stories about her are Internet sensations, near-guaranteed viral hits. She draws big crowds wherever she goes, even in solidly red states like Kentucky and West Virginia. She uniquely generates the kind of fervor and enthusiasm that Clinton will want and need to maximize her turnout in 2016. In short, Clinton needs Warren to shore up her left flank.

Warren doesn’t just hold Ted Kennedy’s seat, she is filling his shoes as the conscience of the Democratic Party. And Ted Kennedy didn’t become Ted Kennedy until he quit trying to be president. 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos. 

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