For months, I’ve heard rumors that Elizabeth Warren wants to take on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. The rumors are plausible. Warren is 66 years old. It’s probably now or never, if she wants to become president. And why would we doubt that Warren wants to become president?
On the other hand, running for president against the Clinton machine takes guts. What has Warren ever done that demonstrates that level of fortitude? Becoming a law professor isn’t a gutsy move. Neither is running for the Senate as a liberal Democrat in Massachusetts.
By contrast, Barack Obama risked obscurity, low status, and a relatively low income by becoming a “community organizer.” And when he first ran for office, it was against a popular incumbent Black Democrat (Obama lost). Clearly, Elizabeth Warren is no Barack Obama.
Given recent developments, however, taking on Hillary Clinton in 2015 doesn’t require Obama-like chutzpah. John Fund reports that at Saturday’s White House correspondent’s dinner, he heard serious rumblings of discontent about Clinton from Democratic operatives and expressions of doubt about her strength as a candidate from reporters.
Among the comments were:
It’s not that she’s too old — she just can’t relate to younger generations.
A couple more scandals, and you’ll wonder if they will start to define her campaign.
Younger women know a female will become president in their lifetime; many of them don’t think it has to be or even should be Hillary.
How can she possibly distance herself from the Obama administration she served for four years, but whose policies increasingly alienate independent voters she needs?
My instinct is to bet against the conventional political wisdom, especially when expressed at an event like the correspondent’s dinner. But, as Fund points out, a recent Quinnipiac poll found that 54 percent of Americans say Clinton is not honest or trustworthy, and among independents the number was 61 percent. As I understand it, moreover, the poll was taken before Peter Schweizer’s “Clinton cash” allegations became public. Certainly it was taken before they gained currency (if, in fact, they have gained it yet).
It’s easy to believe Fund when he says that numbers like these have many Democrats hoping that Hillary Clinton will be challenged by a formidable rival.
In this context, “formidable rival” means Elizabeth Warren. As Fund observes, only a woman has a plausible chance of derailing Hillary’s nomination bid, and Warren is the only plausible female alternative.
But what about the Massachusetts Senator? Are Clinton’s increasing vulnerability and the resulting Democratic doubts about her candidacy about to pull Warren into the race?
At a minimum, Warren is making it clear she hasn’t ruled out running. Byron York reports:
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is starting a publicity tour for her new campaign-style book, “A Fighting Chance.” As she talks to the press, Warren is repeating previous statements that she will not run for president in 2016. But her denials aren’t really denials, and her party’s unique presidential circumstances give Warren plenty of room to run. Judging by what she has said publicly, there’s no reason to rule out a Warren candidacy.
First, the non-denial denials. This week ABC’s David Muir asked Warren, “Are you going to run for president?” Warren’s response was, “I’m not running for president.”
That’s the oldest lawyerly evasion in the book. Warren, a former law professor, did not say, “I am not going to run for president.” Instead, she said she is “not running,” which could, in some sense, be true when she spoke the words but no longer true by, say, later this year.
A book tour and a non-denial denial are exactly what one would expect from someone thinking very seriously about entering the race.
Whether Warren has the courage to move from “thinking about it” to pulling the trigger remains to be seen. But if Clinton can’t reverse the conventional wisdom about her candidacy that Fund heard this weekend, Warren will be strongly pushed, and sorely tempted, to take the plunge.