Warren struggles to gain traction amid Sanders surge

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is struggling to gain traction in her bid for the White House as she faces stiff competition from fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the hearts, minds and support of the progressive lane in the contest.

Warren was the first top-tier candidate to signal she was jumping into the race, a move that in the best-case scenario would have given her a leg up on Sanders and other potential rivals.

But her poll numbers have lagged behind not only Sanders but Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a comparatively new face whose background as the child of Jamaican and Indian immigrants is also striking.

{mosads}Warren has been a stellar fundraiser in her relatively short political career but has seen Sanders steal headlines by raising $10 million in his first week on the campaign trail. That compared to the $300,000 Warren pulled in during her first 24 hours. 

Some of Warren’s problems predate Sanders’s entry into the presidential race.

Even before she launched an exploratory committee on New Year’s Eve, Warren was grappling with the controversy over her Native American ancestry, which has made her one of President Trump’s favorite targets.

Days before the midterms, Warren released the results of a DNA test that confirmed her ancestry but led to complaints from members of the Cherokee Nation and others — for which she eventually apologized.

She became more entrenched in the storyline after her application for the State Bar of Texas surfaced showing she had written that she was Native American.

“She never really recovered after that,” said one Democratic strategist. “It poured cold water on her campaign almost right away.”

Another strategist who had considered supporting her campaign dubbed it “How to lose elections 101.” 

But Democrats say Sanders’s candidacy — which shows no sign of slowing down — is her biggest obstacle at the moment.

“She and Bernie share the same base of younger populist progressives in the Democratic Party. That makes it harder for her to raise money and recruit activists,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist and opinion contributor to The Hill. “At some point she’ll have to go after Sanders to advance.”

Warren has won attention in the race with the introduction of expansive policy proposals that underline the seriousness of her campaign and set her apart from other candidates in the crowded 2020 field.

On Friday, she announced a plan that seeks to break up tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. The proposal also would roll back some of the tech company acquisitions that have occurred recently. 

“To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies,” Warren said in a post on Medium.

Besides showing off Warren’s policy bona fides, the proposal also highlighted her willingness to shun Silicon Valley and its executives, who have played major roles in funding campaigns. 

The decision to wave off any corporate donations is something Warren shares with Sanders, and that is meant to be a contrast with other candidates in the race.

“Monopolies are a corruption of the marketplace. Breaking them up — allowing entrepreneurs to enter the market, giving consumers more choices, and giving workers more jobs — turns the Republican socialism attack on its head,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, an organization that has endorsed Warren for president.

“With today’s truly historic anti-monopoly plan, Elizabeth Warren is continuing her promise to be a transformational president who tackles big structural issues and fights powerful interests on behalf of everyday Americans,” he continued.

In January, Warren also put forth a proposal for a wealth tax, which would impose a tax for Americans with fortunes of more than $50 million. 

On Friday, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, who co-hosts the popular “Pod Save America,” wrote on Twitter that Warren “is really driving the policy debate among the 2020 candidates.” 

Democratic strategist Jim Manley said he has also been impressed with Warren’s proposals. 

“She’s laying out a vision and following it up with policy proposals,” Manley said. “A lot of it is big, heavy stuff that’s not easily digestible on the campaign trail, but I find it intriguing.” 

“She’s not just talking the talk. She’s walking the walk,” Manley said. “The question is, can she get traction? And I think she can because it’s still a wide-open race.” 

A Morning Consult poll out this week showed Warren in fourth place, winning 7 percent support compared to 31 percent for former Vice President Joe Biden, 27 percent for Sanders and 11 percent for Harris.

CNN lowered her in its monthly power rankings of candidates this week from No. 4 to No. 7.

“When the Massachusetts senator finally entered the race last month, there just wasn’t all that much buzz around her candidacy,” Chris Cillizza and Harry Enten wrote. 

But the presidential cycle is still young, Democrats say, pointing to the fact that Biden and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) have yet to enter the fray. More and more Democrats, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), also have announced they won’t be running in the presidential election. 

“It’s too early to write Warren off,” Bannon said, adding that she has built a solid organization in the early primary and caucus states. 

“She has a better chance of inheriting the large populist presence in the party if Sanders falters now that Sherrod Brown has taken himself out of consideration,” he added. “There’s still plenty of time.”