What if you entered a presidential race and no one really cared?
That was the ho-hum reaction to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s New Year’s Eve announcement that she was forming a presidential exploratory committee.
She’s the first Democrat to take the step and so the media widely covered it, but she will have a lot of competition. Is she an odds-on favorite? Probably not.
First, politicians, like athletes in a long-distance race, can peak too soon and find themselves fading as competitors pass them by. That may be one of Warren’s problems.
Four years ago she was the darling of the Democratic Party’s small but growing progressive wing. Dissatisfied with Hillary Clinton, progressives urged Warren to enter the 2016 presidential race.
However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a strong Clinton supporter, reportedly offered Warren a Senate leadership position if she’d stay out of the race. Warren accepted, disappointing her supporters at the time.
Recent polls show Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders as the three top Democratic presidential contenders. Economic forecaster and publisher Kiplinger puts Warren in eighth place. And a recent poll published by The Hill has her in low single digits.
In other words, she’s gone from top to flop — or close to it. The election is two years off so Warren may be able to regain her mojo, but beer soirees and dubious ancestry claims haven’t helped.
Which brings us to the second point: genuineness.
Warren is considered a little cold and aloof — a criticism both she and Clinton share — so she’s trying to prove she’s “one of us.”
When Democrats run in deep red states, they often appear in a political ad shooting a gun. It’s an effort to identify with red-state voters.
Warren’s in a blue state so the former Harvard professor decided to host an Instagram Live chat drinking a bottle of beer. It was painful to watch.
People who have never handled a gun look awkward — and staged — when they try. That’s how Warren looked with her beer bottle, asking her off-camera husband if he wanted one.
Elizabeth Warren is a successful, intelligent woman who worked her way up from a lower-middle class childhood. She has a good narrative.
But presidential campaigns are about energizing voters and attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions. If a candidate can’t do those things, then he or she needs to bow out early.
Warren has time to prove she can do both and take the lead. But for now she seems to be chasing the progressive movement rather than leading it.