Warren avoids attacks while building momentum

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is employing a strategy in the Democratic primary her rivals aren’t: She’s not taking swipes at them.

At rallies, town halls and even the most recent presidential debates, Warren has talked up her policy proposals but rarely, if ever, launched any attacks on other candidates.

Aides and allies say it’s a strategy that has worked for her — at least so far.

{mosads}They say that every time a candidate goes on the attack against another candidate, there’s a risk that both will see their numbers decline.

And they say the senator would much rather be using the time to talk about her own positions and the “big structural change” she’s been pushing. 

The tack doesn’t just apply to the candidate herself, either.

It is a campaignwide strategy-turned-philosophy that can be extended down to her aides, who don’t use Twitter as a platform to troll aides from other campaigns — a contrast with other campaigns and their teams.

For example, after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) hit former Vice President Joe Biden hard over his past opposition to school busing at the first Democratic debate in June, aides from both camps traded barbs on Twitter.

Those observing the campaign from the outside say the thinking behind the tactics makes sense.

“It’s a really smart strategy, I think, for two reasons,” Democratic strategist Eddie Vale explained. “One, it’s making her campaign about her, not attacking someone else, and so all of the gains and movement she is having is from people being excited to support her and her ideas. 

“And by not attacking the other candidates, she’s also not turning off people who are considering multiple people, leaving her as the preferred second choice of many of them, which is useful as people drop off and even more useful for the Iowa caucuses when candidates who don’t meet the delegate support have their supporters able to reallocate themselves to their next preferred person,” he said.

Warren’s numbers in polls have surged in recent weeks after a relatively slow start. 

An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll out earlier this week showed Warren gaining on Biden. While Biden remains the front-runner at 31 percent, up 5 points from July, Warren was up 6 points to 25 percent.

Her ascending campaign has given her latitude to run a campaign that is very much on the offensive instead of the defensive, particularly against Biden.

“She’s not attacking because she doesn’t need to,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “As an insurgent candidate who’s rising in the polls, she gets to enjoy positive press about her rise without facing questions about why she’s not doing better.” 

“It’s a beautiful thing for a candidate. Positive press generally begets positive press, and the reverse is also true. Why mess with success?” she said.

This week, on a swing through Iowa, Warren focused on her main proposals on corruption in government, a wealth tax and a constitutional amendment to pass voting rights. 

“I just want three things,” Warren said, according to The Daily Iowan. “Attack the corruption head-on, make a couple of structural changes in our economy, and protect our democracy, so that our government truly reflects the will of the people.” 

The policy proposals have given Warren’s campaign a sense of purpose, strategists say, rather than simply pitting her against others. 

“I think it is really very on-brand for Senator Warren to focus on the substantive policy vision and refrain from wading into personal politics,” said Democratic strategist Lynda Tran. 

“‘I’ve got a plan for that’ is a fun catch phrase for a T-shirt, but it is also her actual orientation and strategy,” Tran added. “The reason it works for her is specifically because it is authentically who she is — Senator Warren’s history aligns squarely with this approach as the advocate, professor and champion for working people who would rather focus on the detailed solutions she is fighting for than to throw bombs at her opponents.”

It doesn’t mean that Warren hasn’t thrown in the occasional jab. 

This week, at a rally that drew 20,000 people to Washington Square Park in New York City, she made a veiled swipe at Biden while making the case for own electability, a factor which stands in her way to the nomination.

“There’s a lot at stake in this election, and I know people are scared,” Warren told the thick crowd. “But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in just because we’re too scared to do anything else. And Democrats can’t win if we’re scared and looking backward.” 

Allies also say Warren may be willing to throw more punches as the campaign evolves.

“I think if things get really ugly, all bets are off,” one ally said.

Tags Democratic primary Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden
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