A new cover story on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s potential as a presidential candidate has created another wave of speculation about the liberal darling’s ambitions, and forced the Massachusetts Democrat to issue another denial to the Globe on Monday that she is not planning to run.
The article in this week’s New Republic has an especially provocative cover, a sea of people behind masks of Warren’s face, a riff on the poster for the movie “Being John Malkovich.” The article, by Noam Scheiber, poses the question of whether Warren would run for president in the event that presumptive favorite Hillary Clinton fails to aggressively fight Wall Street. It follows a recent front page story in the New York Times that speculated on a Warren run, noting her popularity with the left.
The interest in Warren, which will probably remain for some time, raises several questions about the freshman senator:
1.Will Warren run?
Warren has said no, several times, including a May interview with the Globe, when she began her answer with an exaggerated laugh.
“No, no, no, no,” she said.
When a reporter asked her if that was a “definite no,” she responded like this: “No, no, no, no, no.” (Notice the extra “no.”)
“I like being in the Senate,” she added. “I like the chance to move the needle, the days where it feels like maybe, just maybe, we move things just a little bit. Those are the days that I walk with a real swing in my step.”
2. Is she leaving herself wiggle room to run?
Warren’s aides have said privately that she is not contemplating a run—at least for now. The Times article, which ran in late September, noted that Warren, in an interview, “said twice that she had no interest in running for president.”
The New Republic article did not answer the question head-on. Scheiber wrote that “Warren refused to tell me what would happen if the likely 2016 nominee is wrong on her issues.”
Then it quoted Warren saying “You’ve asked me about the politics. All I can do is take you back to the principle part of this. I know what I am in Washington to do: I’m here to fight for hardworking families.”
On Monday, Warren’s spokeswoman, Lacey Rose, added another denial to the Globe: “As Senator Warren has said many times, she is not running for president.”
Still, that statement leaves Warren plenty of room to start running, if she chooses.
3. Would Warren support Hillary Clinton for president?
Warren has had beefs with Clinton, criticizing the former New York senator in a 2003 book for supporting a bankruptcy bill that was backed by the credit card industry.
“I called it the way I see it,’’ Warren told the Globe during last year’s campaign, when asked about her prior criticism. “I always have. I do that regardless of political party, regardless of how powerful someone is.’’
But more recently, Warren joined other Democratic Senators in signing a letter urging Clinton to run for president, according to ABC News, which reported on the secret letter in October. (Warren’s office pointed to the letter, written earlier this year, on Monday as further evidence that Warren is not contemplating her own run.)
4. Could Warren win the Democratic nomination for president?
It depends on who’s running. A Quinnipiac poll released last month showed Warren a distant third place in a presumptive Democratic field, with 7 percent among Democrats, compared with 61 percent for Clinton and 11 percent for Vice President Joe Biden. No other candidate got more than 1 percent.
That’s a fairly strong showing, considering that Clinton was the party’s frontrunner in 2008 and Biden is the sitting vice president. Warren, after all, is only in her first year of elected office.
Warren has also shown an incredible ability to raise money, leading all Senate candidates in last year’s election with $42 million. Warren’s online fundraising remains powerful. Her name on an email significantly enhances efforts by other candidates or groups, liberal activists have said.
5. What if Clinton does run? Could Warren mount a challenge?
Scheiber and others have begun speculating that the Democratic grassroots might urge Warren to run if they feel that Clinton is too closely tied to Wall Street. They point to President Obama’s successful 2008 primary victory over Clinton—fueled by the party’s left—as precedent. But she could also wind up like Howard Dean in 2004—a darling of the left who fails to win broader support.
6. Is this a distraction for Warren?
Warren has spent less than a year in office, after a bruising campaign against Senator Scott Brown. She has yet to pass any significant legislation. Any suggestion that she is considering higher office could anger constituents in Massachusetts.
Former Governor Mitt Romney saw his popularity in the state drop dramatically when, as governor, he was believed to be pursuing the presidency.
Though Warren has taken no known visible steps toward running, she could upset voters if she is seen fueling speculation on the left.
Warren continues to raise money, deliver fiery floor speeches, and appear in some high-profile places. But she has not traveled to Iowa or New Hampshire. And she is limiting her public exposure to some degree by, for example, declining hallway interviews in the Senate.Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.