Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road

Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road
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Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE (D-Mass.) says she's not running for president. 

Her office says she's focused on her Senate reelection bid. 

But she has the public schedule of a future presidential candidate.

Warren will speak Sunday to the NAACP in Detroit, and next month she will deliver the keynote address to an annual gala held by EMILY's List, which aims to elect female candidates who support abortion rights. 

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Both groups represent important Democratic constituencies, and the NAACP speech will bring Warren to Michigan, a key swing state President Trump wrested from Democrats last year. 

Warren, who is running for reelection in 2018, raised $5.2 million in the first quarter, more than any other member of the Senate. 

She has also released a new book, “This Fight is our Fight,” which she touts as being about the battle to save the middle class. It’s the kind of book one would expect to see from a presidential candidate. 

Warren is in the midst of a publicity tour for the book, which ended last week at number four on Amazon’s best-seller list. 

She has held four town hall-type events in the past six weeks, and conducted lengthy interviews with talk show host Charlie Rose and New Yorker editor David Remnick.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, Warren said she was not running for president in 2020. 

But political experts say Warren nonetheless appears to be building toward a potential run if she changes her mind. 

“She senses the time is right. There’s a fired-up base and the base is very kindly disposed for her,” said Ross K. Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University, who recently served as a Senate fellow.

“It keeps her in the eye of the party base,” he said. “It’s a long way off until the late winter or spring of 2020. It’s good to get a good start on it. There are people who in the past who started early and created an almost unstoppable momentum.”

Warren, 67, hired Kristen Orthman last month to join her political operation. Orthman served as a senior advisor to former Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' MORE (Nev.), who has urged Warren to run for president. 

A Democratic strategist who worked for one of the 2016 presidential campaigns said Warren appears to be testing her national political brand.

“It certainly seems like she’s testing the waters to see if she could put together the kind of enthusiasm that would allow one to run for president,” said the source, who requested anonymity in case he ends up working on another national campaign.

Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who worked on Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin suggests pausing talks on .5 trillion package until 2022: report Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Sanders calls deadly Afghan drone strike 'unacceptable' MORE’s (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, said he doesn’t know what Warren is planning. But he said someone hoping to run for the White House needs to start early. 

Sanders road-tested his message nationally in 2014 when he traveled to California, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.

“If you’re going to run for president, the more visibility you get the better. Raising money is critically important,” Devine said. 

Warren has been seen as a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020. 

She got a huge boost in publicity early this year, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeking challenger to McConnell as Senate GOP leader: report Budget chairman: Debt ceiling fight 'a ridiculous position to be in' Buckle up for more Trump, courtesy of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ky.) rebuked her on the Senate floor for criticizing now-Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE over his record on race. 

Warren was stopped mid-speech while reading a 30-year-old letter from Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr., that protested Sessions’s earlier nomination to a federal court.

McConnell gave Warren a rallying call when he said that she had been warned for breaking Senate rules by criticizing Sessions, who at the time was also a senator, yet “nevertheless, she persisted.”

The phrase quickly spread on social media and turned Warren into a symbol of the resistance to Trump, something that has energized the Democratic Party’s liberal base. Warren ended up doing 27 separate interviews the day after the Senate rebuke. 

Republicans say they would love to make Warren the national face of the Democratic Party, arguing that she’s too far left for most of the country.

“Having the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts run in the Democrat primary and be the Democrat nominee would not make me unhappy,” said Chip Saltsman, a GOP strategist who managed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“If an Elizabeth Warren type is the nominee, Democrats write off whole regions of the country automatically,” he added, pointing to 2020 swing states North Carolina and Virginia as states that would likely go Republican if Warren ran.

Trump told Fox News in an interview last month that Warren’s nomination would be “a dream come true,” predicting that “she would lose so badly” in the general election.

In a meeting with several centrist Senate Democrats at the White House in February, Trump urged them to “go ahead, run Pocahontas against me,” making a disparaging reference to Warren’s claim that she is part Native American, according to a Democratic source familiar with the meeting.

But not all Republicans are so quick to dismiss Warren.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke prepping run for governor in Texas: report Support for Abbott plunging in Texas: poll White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE (R-Texas) warned supporters last week that she could beat Trump if he fails to enact his agenda of reforming healthcare and the tax code.

Despite the GOP trash talk, Warren’s allies note that she has among the highest approval ratings of any politician, with a better favorable to unfavorable ratio than Trump.

Warren has an average favorable rating of 37.6 percent and an average unfavorable measure of 33.3 percent, according to The Huffington Post’s poll tracker. By comparison, Trump has an average unfavorable rating of 52.3 percent and a favorable rating of 42.9 percent. 

Two Democratic heavyweights score higher than Warren: Sanders, with a 55.7 average favorable rating, and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE, who has a 55.6 percent approval rating. 

But Biden is 74 and Sanders is 75, which raises questions about whether they’d run for the White House in 2020. 

It could be argued that Warren is just gearing up for reelection in Massachusetts — a race expected to be a slam dunk — or that she is jockeying to become a guiding voice of the party, like Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (N.Y.) or House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

But even as Warren told Maddow she wasn’t running for the White House, she admitted that she wouldn’t want to talk about it if she were.