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Women ask 'if not now when?' after Warren exits presidential race

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE's exit from the presidential race was a bitter disappointment not only to her supporters, but to all of those hoping she would become the nation's first female president. 

Her departure leaves two white men in their late 70s as the last major candidates standing in the Democratic primary, battling to defeat President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE, another white man in his 70s.

Warren was seen as a leading candidate in the race and was briefly the frontrunner last fall before her momentum slowed. She had disappointing results in the first four contests of the cycle, finishing no higher than third. On Super Tuesday she won only 56 delegates and finished third in her home state of Massachusetts.

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“This woman’s campaign had deep preparation, incredible outreach, the most comprehensive in the entire primary, and one of the most comprehensive platforms in modern history, and took down an arrogant, bigoted billionaire on national television, just like she would Trump if she were the nominee,” said Charlotte Clymer, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and activist, who raised over $170,000 for Warren on Twitter last week. “And yet, she still got passed over for, frankly, less qualified men.” 

The role gender played in Warren's lack of success is likely to be debated not just over the next few weeks and months but for years to come, and Warren herself said she'd have more to say on the issue in the near future. 

“Gender in this race, you know that is the trap question for every woman. If you say yeah there was sexism in this race, everyone says ‘whiner.’ And if you say there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, ‘what planet do you live on?’” Warren told reporters after she dropped out on Thursday. 

Female activists, lawmakers, and groups were quick to react to the news, questioning what comes next for Americans hoping to elect a female president in the future.

“This election cycle, in particular, has also presented very legitimate questions about the challenges of women running for president of the United States,” former 2020 contender Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris takes up temporary residence at Blair House Amanda Gorman captures national interest after inauguration performance Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday after hearing the news of Warren's departure. 

Harris’s niece, Meena Harris, illustrated how much women’s in the primary field have dwindled, posting a photograph on Twitter  with five of the female candidates at the beginning of the primary.

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“Remember how we started,” she wrote.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils virus plan and urges patience | Fauci says it's 'liberating' working under Biden | House to move quickly on COVID-19 relief Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 On The Money: Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief | Biden faces backlash over debt | 900,000 more Americans file for unemployment benefits MORE (D-Calif.), the first woman in U.S. history to hold her title, told reporters she wishes there was a higher ranking woman than her in government.

“I so wish that we had a woman president of the United States and we came so close to doing that,” she said.

She added, “Every time I get introduced as the most powerful woman, I almost cry, because I wish it was not true.” 

Critics have laid blame particularly on the narrative that men are more electable women, especially when going against Trump in a general election four years he after he defeated Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSamantha Power's Herculean task: Turning a screw with a rubber screwdriver Beau Biden Foundation to deny lobbyist donations, make major donors public Whoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration MORE, the first woman to lead a major party ticket.

“In a year in which primary voters' top concerns is electability - the media has had a massive impact on how voters perceived the candidates - and when Warren was on the top of the polls, the main narrative driven by the media was that she was not electable. That’s unacceptable,” the co-founder of liberal women’s group, Ultraviolet, Shaunna Thomas said in a statement. 

NBC News reported on Thursday that Clinton has been in touch with Warren and Klobuchar since they both dropped out of the primary. 

A USA Today/Ipsos survey released last month showed that 56 percent of Americans and 68 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they believed the U.S. was ready to elect a woman president, however those findings were seven points lower than they were six months ago. 

Meanwhile, a YouGov national survey of likely Democratic primary voters found late last month that 65 percent of voters prioritized electability. 

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“I do think the effect of Hillary Clinton having lost in 2016 continues to sort of raise that electability issue,” Betsy Fischer Martin, the executive director of American University’s Women and Politics Institute, said. “This election cycle, more than any other in recent times, has been so focused on figuring out who the best candidate to win in the fall is because of the strong dislike and disapproval of President Trump.” 

To be sure, Warren did come under scrutiny for what some considered campaign missteps, from releasing a DNA test to justify past claims of Native American heritage to a questions about her “Medicare for All” proposal.

But critics argue that Warren was also essentially erased from the national discussion surrounding the election late last year as candidates like Biden, Sanders, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden signs order to require masks on planes and public transportation Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden hits the ground running on COVID MORE, and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergEverytown calls on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to resign Biden selects Gina Raimondo for Commerce chief: reports 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics MORE rose in the polls. 

In fact, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in January notably left Warren out of a head-to-head match up of the Democratic candidates against Trump in January.

However, Warren’s supporters remained steadfast in their support, donning t-shirts reading “She’s electable, if you vote for her.” 

Pelosi said she believed America is ready for a woman president, but said women, like Warren, still face misogyny on the campaign trail. 

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“I do think there is a certain element of misogyny that is there,” Pelosi said. “Some of it isn’t really mean spirited, it’s just their own experience. Many of them will tell you they have a strong mom, they have strong sisters, they have strong daughters, but they have their own insecurities.” 

Despite the loss of nearly all of the candidates from the field, the sheer number of women candidates at the start of the primary was historic. Others have also pointed to the groundswell of women elected to Congress in 2018. 

“Having a woman in that executive position is much different in a voter’s mind than in a more collaborative, legislative type of position,” Fischer Martin said. “The executive position, like a governor and obviously the president, you see different factors at play [from voters] than I think you’d see in congressional and senatorial races.” 

The dwindling number of women will ultimately play a role in motivating other women to run for office from the local level to the presidential election, said A'shanti Gholar, president of Emerge America, a group dedicated to recruiting Democratic women to run for office.

“I call it the Hillary-effect that she inspired so many women to run for office,” Gholar said.  “Women said if not Hillary, then who? Then me, it has to be me.” 

“In our network, what we’re seeing now is that the women who Hillary inspired to run, they ran and they won, and we’re now seeing those women bring other women to run,” she continued. “It’s going to be the same thing with Senator Warren,” she continued. 

“I think there is something just so special about Senator Warren, and it’s really her pinky-promises that she made with young girls, saying my name is Elizabeth and I’m running for office because that’s what girls do.”