There's been a lot of chatter about a potential challenger to Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. And thus far, there has only been one viable contender. But if U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has made one thing clear, it is that Warren is not running for president.
Semantics don't always mean a lot in politics. Take ol' Dick Nixon: "I am not a crook." Or Bill Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Both ostensible lies. But Warren seemed pretty clear in her interview with Steve Inskeep Monday morning.
Inskeep: Sen. Warren, as you must know, that even as you were fighting over this in the Senate, there was a group called Ready for Warren that wants you to run for president, that released a letter signed by more than 300 people who describe themselves as former Obama campaign workers and staffers and aides. They want you to run. What do you say to them?
Warren: I'm not running for president. That's not what we're doing. We had a really important fight in the United States Congress just this past week. And I'm putting all my energy into that fight and to what happens after this.
Inskeep: Would you tell these independent groups, "Give it up!" You're just never going to run.
Warren: I told them, "I'm not running for president."
Inskeep: You're putting that in the present tense, though. Are you never going to run?
Warren: I am not running for president.
Inskeep: You're not putting a "never" on that.
Warren: I am not running for president. You want me to put an exclamation point at the end?
So, okay. That clears things up, right? But media analysts persist in picking Warren's language apart, clinging to the fact that she never completely ruled out any presidential bids. And that's fine. Warren isn't obligated to sign on to any future plans, but the nebulous nature of anything beyond 2016 keeps her name in the hat, which is a smart political move.
But there is a fair point in her language. She has only positioned herself to say that she is not currently running for president, not that she wouldn't announce something even for the next election cycle. I don't think that's her plan, though. Even though Warren isn't afraid of going head-to-head with people in her own party, going up against Clinton would be an uphill battle. Current Democratic polls have Clinton far-and-above her next imagined opponent, which is Warren, by a 51.4 percent spread.
Warren running, while putting two great candidates in the ring for the Democrats, would needlessly split votes for Clinton. The major benefit that Democrats have for 2016 is that they have a clear-cut choice for their candidate, and they can begin building that base way before the primaries. The Republicans, on the other hand, have a few candidates with weak support. They're currently fragmented in their choice for a nominee, which is the political equivalent of *shrug* "This'll do."
Still, I don't even think that's the big deterrent to Warren running in 2016. As she mentioned in her interview with NPR, Warren has some big fish to fry in the Senate. She's taking on Wall Street reform above and beyond what her own party has even imagined. She opposed an omnibus spending bill, which received bipartisan support because it loosened the regulations to the fat cats she wants to fight. Bringing down Wall Street is going to happen overnight, and it doesn't seem as if Warren is willing to let her work go unfinished. In the Senate, she can continue that battle. From the Oval Office? If Obama's administration has shown us anything, it is that she will be able to do little more than express her wishes and wait.
I think it behooves both Clinton and Warren for Clinton to step up to the plate for Democrats in 2016. Meanwhile, Warren can spend more time in the Senate, making friends, proving her effectiveness, and getting ready to be able to coax action out of a gridlocked Congress. Not to say that Clinton is free of those same challenges, but she has certainly spent way more time shaking hands than Warren, who was elected to the Senate in 2013.
I believe Warren when she says she isn't running for president. And for the Democrats' sake, I hope it's true.
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