Don’t worry, Hillary. You have nothing to fear from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber wrote a piece yesterday arguing that Warren (D-Mass.) could pose a significant challenge to frontrunner Hillary Clinton, if she chooses to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. But Warren’s not going to run, and if she did, she would lose.
Warren is the leader of a new populist movement in the Democratic Party that is motivated by rising income inequality and a strong belief that Wall St. has not been reigned in enough. She has garnered significant attention for her scathing questions directed at federal regulators, as well as her successful campaign to prevent Larry Summers from becoming the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. Her populist appeal is connecting with liberal Democrats, but she still poses little threat to Clinton for the following reasons.
First, Warren is one of 16 senators who signed a secret letter earlier this year, outlining her support for Clinton and encouraging her to run. (Original article wrongly stated that Scheiber didn’t mention this in his piece. He did under footnote 4). Most politicians who are considering a run for president do not indicate it by urging their toughest challenger to run as well.
In this vein, Warren has repeatedly said she does not want to run for president. An academic by nature, she entered the Massachusetts race after President Obama bypassed her for head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As Scheiber notes, Warren is not a natural politician and is more concerned with making an impact than winning elections.
Second, Clinton is currently polling well ahead of Warren right now, even if it is only 2013. In its most recent poll, Public Policy Polling found that 67% of Democrats favoured Clinton, with just 4% supporting Warren. Even when Hillary is removed from the possible choices, Democrats favour Vice-President Joe Biden.
The fact that Biden leads Warren in a potential race reflects the fact that the populist revival in the Democratic Party is still in its infant stages. A Biden presidency would be seen as a continuation of Barack Obama while Warren is a sharp break from him. Right now, Democrats still favour the current establishment.
Clinton’s lead is gigantic in New Hampshire, where Scheiber notes that Warren could have a particular advantage thanks to her status as a senator from a neighbouring state. A recent poll from the University of New Hampshire shows this:
Warren polls at just six per cent.
This is the point where political commentators will argue that Clinton was the early leader for the 2008 nomination and lost it so she also may be vulnerable now. But Clinton is in much better shape for the 2016 nomination than she was for the 2008 one.
PollingReport.com has a database of the polls from 2005 through 2006. Clinton was the leader, but she never crossed the 50% threshold amongst Democratic voters. In fact, in most polls from that period, Clinton earned around 35-45% of Democratic votes and had a 20-30 point lead over other potential nominees. Right now, Clinton has the support of 60-70% of the party and has almost a 50 point advantage. She is way ahead of where she was in 2005.
Plus, Clinton has a structural advantage now that she didn’t enjoy last time. In 2008, President Barack Obama could easily run to the left of Clinton because George W. Bush was in the White House. Now, to a great extent, Clinton’s record is Obama’s record. If Warren wants to criticise Clinton as not-left-enough, she’ll have to at least implicitly criticise Obama in the same way. That is likely to be a delicate matter with a primary electorate that adores Obama.
Warren will also spend the next three years working in Congress, which is one of the most despised institutions on the planet. Clinton, on the other hand, has the ability to plan her life out and carefully choose her agenda until the primary heats up.
Many liberals want Warren to pose a real challenge to Clinton. She is the leader of the left wing of the party that is not happy with how cozy its leaders have gotten to Wall Street.
But at the moment, Clinton has nothing to fear.
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