Fast forward. It’s the last night of the 2016 Democratic Party nominating convention. The first woman presidential nominee takes the stage to claim her hard fought prize. Balloons drop and confetti fills the air as the crowd begins to chant — wait for it – “Win, Liz, Win.”
Since she says she is not running, some might call that scenario improbable or even a pipedream. The reality is Elizabeth Warren is not a candidate only until she is. History is filled with publicly reluctant politicians who determine, after much soul searching and the urging of passionate supporters, that they have no choice but to launch their candidacy because no one is offering their solutions to the challenges facing America.
Conventional wisdom has Hillary Clinton as the odds on favorite for the nomination for reasons ranging from her years of experience to the vaunted Clinton machine to the simple assumption that it’s her turn. But to paraphrase what one former staffer of President Barack Obama-turned-Warren activist wrote, improbable isn’t the same as impossible.
Ask Obama who defied the polls of 2007 and defeated Clinton for the nomination. Like now, Clinton, then, was the clear front-runner, beating Obama 41 percent to 17 percent in a January, 2007 ABC News/The Washington Post poll. In Gallup’s late October Election Review that year, the research company wrote its “national presidential polling strongly points to Clinton winning the 2008 Democratic nomination.” Oops.
Early polling has meaning but it’s not necessarily a reliable predictor of the future. The more important polls may be those that paint a more macro picture of what voters want from their next president, and 71 percent of voters in a December 2014 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll said they wanted “a different approach from Obama.”
That’s a big problem for Clinton who not only served four years in the Obama administration but since leaving, has come to the president’s defense on a raft of issues. Are voters, especially Democrat voters, more likely to see Clinton or Warren as a genuine change agent and does Clinton have the political skills to finesse what may be her biggest challenge?
The jury is out. Clinton has bungled front-runner status before; and given her stumble-filled book tour, it’s just possible she could do it again if faced with a tough opponent.
And “tough” is a pretty good description of Warren, the new grand inquisitor of the U.S. Senate and the last best hope of far-left progressives everywhere. Nobody bashes Wall Street like Sen. Warren and when it comes to the current hot button issue — income inequality — Clinton has been a “pale pastel” to Warren’s hot neon rhetoric.
So, while Democrat activists desperately seek a progressive to unleash Armageddon against big banks and the ever evil Wall Street, Clinton seems incapable or unwilling to articulate even a modestly inspiring vision that connects with these crucial voters.
On the other hand, Warren’s “the system is rigged” ideological assault is a verbal battle cry for these left wing activists who never met a grievance they didn’t love. When it comes to delivering an economic message that resonates with Democrat voters, Warren beats Clinton hands down.
You could almost feel the buzz in left wing circles over the past few weeks as a number of liberal activists and organizations grab their golden tickets for a seat on the “Draft Warren” bus. Between 200-300 former Obama campaign staffers signed an open letter begging the Massachusetts senator to run. Digital outreach efforts by supporters are rallying volunteers to organize for Warren.
Liberal activist organizations such as Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have become big megaphones for all things Warren. And one of the granddaddies of liberal activism, MoveOn.org, is ponying up a million dollars to bankroll efforts to get the supposedly reluctant Warren into the race.
Clinton’s relations with the media have never been good and her political foray into politics over the last year was an endless gaffe-a-thon for the media and an unexpected gift to Republicans. If Warren gets in, Clinton can kiss the media “vote” goodbye.
Sixties counterculture icon Ken Kesey wrote about being part of a group saying, “You’re either on the bus or off the bus.” Democrats are beginning to line up for 2016. Clinton may be the conventional choice today, but deep down, it’s a seat on the Warren party bus Democrats really want.
David Avella is chairman of GOPAC. Want More Stories Like This? Subscribe to our Thought Leaders Newsletter.