As her DNA test still reverberates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s political operation shows fissures
Already battling controversy over her claimed Native American heritage, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is nearing a decision whether to seek the presidency with a second problem: fissures in the tightknit political operation that has guided her throughout her career.
Mindy Myers, who was one of the primary architects of Warren’s political rise and has remained one of her close advisers, had been expected to play a senior role in the senator’s campaign. But she has been in talks with several rival campaigns and is planning to meet soon with Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), who is considering a presidential run.
Myers ran Warren’s 2012 U.S. Senate campaign and then served as her senate chief of staff, giving her a deep understanding of Warren’s strengths and weaknesses.
Since Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016, Warren has been among the top-ranked potential candidates for the 2020 election. She built a massive strategic and get-out-the-vote team to help candidates in the 2018 elections, a move widely seen as a way to both ensure Democratic wins and build alliances in key early presidential states.
But she also stumbled notably in October, when she attempted to put to rest a controversy over her claim to Native American ancestors by releasing DNA results — a move that enraged tribal groups and other minorities concerned about her reliance on a test to measure ethnicity.
That episode injected uncertainty over the decision-making by Warren and her campaign staff and subjected her to both anger and mockery just as she was gearing up for a potential presidential effort.
Those close to Warren have warned recently that while she is still widely expected to enter the race, there remains a chance that she decides against it.
“I don’t have any sense she’s made a final decision that she’s running,” said one Massachusetts Democrat close to her.
Adding to the pressures on her was a cutting editorial Thursday by Warren’s hometown newspaper, the Boston Globe, suggesting she rethink whether to enter the race. The Globe editorial page had called on Warren to run in 2016.
“Warren missed her moment in 2016, and there’s reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020,” the editorial board wrote, pointing out that Republican Gov. Charlie Baker won more votes than she did in their November reelection campaigns.
A recent survey asking Massachusetts voters which candidate they would support in 2020 had Warren in third at just 11 percent even in her home state, which rival campaigns read as a sign of weakness. She trailed former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). O’Rourke was behind her by only one percentage point.
“Those are warning signs from the voters who know her best,” the Globe wrote in its editorial. “While Warren is an effective and impactful senator with an important voice nationally, she has become a divisive figure. A unifying voice is what the country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump.”
Myers, as well as other top Warren’s top aides, declined to comment for this article. Some close to the senator said it is possible that she could still have a role in a Warren campaign, but likely not the top job of campaign manager.
That role would likely be filled by another longtime Warren aide, Dan Geldon. Geldon, who was a student in Warren’s class at Harvard Law School, has worked for her in a variety of capacities and has built deep ties among liberal groups that have formed Warren’s base of support. He was director of youth outreach for the Democratic National Committee in 2004, and ran a 2008 House campaign for Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).
When Warren first ran for Senate and burst onto the national scene by defeating Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), she hired Myers as campaign manager and Geldon as senior adviser.
After she won, Myers became her chief of staff and Geldon was her deputy chief of staff. Myers left in December 2015 to work on electing Senate Democrats, becoming the first woman to lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But she remained in the core nucleus of advisers that Warren relied upon, and was widely expected to return to her operation for the presidential campaign.
“Mindy has been wonderful, and I can’t overstate the positive influence she’s had over the last four years,” Warren said when Myers left her office. “I’m incredibly grateful to Mindy — for helping me win the Senate seat and for working every day to help me use this seat to level the playing field for hard-working families.”
In a large crop of potential candidates, Warren is one of the few whose presidential decision could significantly affect the rest of the field.
New York magazine in July put her on the cover — jogging to a campaign rally, with the headline “Front Runner?” — and she would enter the race with one of the most daunting fundraising operations. At the end of her Senate reelection, she still had $12.5 million left in her campaign account, giving her an advantage in raising the kind of money needed.
But one of the biggest hurdles she has had to clear is explaining her claim of Native American heritage, which Republican critics, including President Trump, have used to argue she was seeking unfair advantage. A Globe review earlier this year found that ethnicity was not a factor in her career advancements.
In October, she took the extraordinary step of releasing the result of a DNA test that showed that Warren had a Native American ancestor between six and 10 generations ago. She sought to cast it as an ultimate act of transparency, and used it to call on Trump to release his tax returns.
That triggered both blowback from minorities and Native Americans and also criticism that she had submitted to a bully — precisely the opposite of her statements that she would be best positioned to aggressively take Trump on. So far, though, she has not expressed any regrets.
“I put it out there. It’s on the Internet for anybody to see,” she told the New York Times in a recent interview. “People can make of it what they will. I’m going to continue fighting on the issues that brought me to Washington.”
Trump ‘embraces dictators of all stripes,’ Elizabeth Warren says
In a step toward a potential 2020 White House bid, Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Thursday delivered a blistering critique of President Trump’s foreign policy, accusing him of emulating dictators and emboldening white supremacists.
“We must face reality head-on: President Trump’s actions and instincts align with those of authoritarian regimes around the globe,” Warren said in the speech at American University in Washington. “He embraces dictators of all stripes. He cozies up to white nationalists. He undermines the free press and incites violence against journalists. He attacks the independence of our judiciary. He wraps himself in the flag and co-opts the military for partisan purposes — but he can’t be bothered to visit our troops in harm’s way.”
She accused Republicans in Washington of backing Trump at the expense of “fundamental American values.” And she prompted applause from the crowd when she declared, “The time for holding back is over.”
The top 15 Democratic presidential candidates for 2020, ranked--#1 is Elizabeth Warren
WP 11-9-18 Aaron Blake
15. Rep. John Delaney (Md.):
14. Michael Avenatti: Democrats are starting to warm to his brash, in-your-face style, and some, like Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder, are even newly embracing a version of it themselves.
13. Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick: Patrick admitted a couple months ago that he’s not sure he sees a place for himself in the 2020 race. I still think he would be formidable if he did run — especially given the enthusiasm among some Obama types. [young, black male]
12. Hillary Clinton
11. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.): If Democrats want a pragmatic, smart pick, she’s making a case for it. She’s not the liberal fire-breather some want, though.
10. Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe
9. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg
8. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Tex.)
7. Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
6. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) [young, blonde femaile]
5. Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) very outspoken against Kavanaugh hearting
4. Former vice president Joe Biden [bland]
3. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.): Perhaps nobody on this list has Harris’s upside -- if she puts it all together
2. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.): Sanders ran a somewhat sleepy reelection race (which was all that was required), and I keep half-expecting him to assert himself as a national leader of the Democrats — kind of how he attempted to during that tour with DNC Chairman Tom Perez. Maybe he recognizes that he doesn’t need all that, and he can just turn his base on the moment he starts running again. We’ll see.
1. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)
Elizabeth Warren: Democrats Will Keep Losing Until the Entire Party Is 'Willing to Take on the Billionaire Class'
"Money is going to drown our democracy, and if we don't start fighting back, and fighting back more aggressively, then we are part of the problem as well."
byJake Johnson, Sunday, June 10, 2018 byCommon Dreams
Several Senate Democrats were deeply offended when their colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) publicly called them out by name for backing a bank deregulation bill that will heighten the chances of yet another devastating financial crisis, but that hasn't deterred the Massachusetts senator from continuing to denounce members of her own party for cozying up to corporate power.
In a new interview on Mehdi Hasan's "Deconstructed" podcast, Warren said she agrees with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that too many Democrats lack the "guts" to take on Wall Street and argued that her party's struggles will continue until all of its members are "willing to take on the billionaire class."
"Until we have all of the Democrats who are willing to fight for the American people and not for a handful of billionaires and giant corporations, then it's going to stay an uphill fight," Warren argued.
The Massachusetts senator went on to note that Democrats' refusal to take on Wall Street greed and criminality is part of a broader, systemic crisis that has infected the entire American political system.
"Citizens United is taking the legs out from underneath democracy. And we have to be willing to overturn Citizens United," Warren said. "I get it that it's hard. But we can't give up on it, because money is going to drown our democracy. And if we don't start fighting back and fighting back more aggressively, then we are part of the problem as well."
Elizabeth Warren builds expansive Democratic campaign effort ahead of likely 2020 bid WP<10-14-18P> BOSTON — During the past six months, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has built a shadow war room designed to elect Democrats across the country in the midterm elections, overtaking some of the traditional duties of Democratic Party campaign committees and further positioning herself for an all-but-certain 2020 presidential bid.
Her effort, which goes far beyond the fundraising and endorsement speeches in which prospective presidential candidates typically engage, has encompassed work in all 50 states and close coordination with more than 150 campaigns. The result is a wide-ranging network that includes those running for state treasurer in Nevada, state legislature in Iowa and congressional offices across the country.
It is unmistakably aimed at some of the early-primary states that Warren would need to contest in a presidential campaign. She has deployed staffers to all four early primary states — two to New Hampshire and one each to Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada — as well as to traditional powerhouses such as Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“I feel the urgency of the moment nationally,” Warren said in an interview. “It’s two parts: It’s holding Donald Trump accountable for what he does. It’s also trying to push this country toward working better for hard-working families.”
The Warren effort, while beneficial to a presidential campaign she said she will “take a hard look” at after the midterms, also signals how decentralized the national Democratic Party has become as most of the energy is being generated by individuals who are building their own operations.
On the fundraising front alone, scores of Democrats have raised more than $1 million each in pursuit of House seats this year; in Texas, Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke pulled in more than $38 million in the most recent fundraising quarter.
Warren is still helping the official campaign committees — donating and raising money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, for example — but much of her work is independent of them and appears aimed at restocking a Democratic bench that has become woefully thin in recent years.
Warren, who has built a prodigious fundraising network for her Senate campaign, also has raised or donated $7.6 million for other candidates and committees this cycle. On Monday, one of her aides said, she plans to donate an additional $460,000, which appears to place her ahead of most of her potential 2020 rivals except for Michael Bloomberg, who is spending $100 million of his own money on the midterms.
“I speak a lot to candidates who are running this year,” said David Axelrod, a top political adviser to former president Barack Obama. “She’s the first call they get after a primary. It’s not just the winners she’s calling, she’s calling the losers, too. .?.?. The scale is pretty impressive.”
“This is how you go about building relationships and acquiring chits for a future project. It’s very smart,” he added. “If you were advising someone who had the resources of someone who was going to run for president, this is what you would do.”
Warren’s midterm operation is housed in a back office of her Senate reelection headquarters here. Every day, about a half-dozen staffers report to work, picking at salads and pecking away on laptops, sending messages to the campaigns across the country to which they are assigned. Whiteboards on the wall list the various races they are tracking, a map shows the places Warren has visited or where staffers are based, and there’s a list of candidates Warren needs to follow up with personally.
The operation — which internally is called the Democratic Outreach Team, or DOT — began in early 2018 when Warren’s staff started researching individual races in all 50 states, examining candidates and evaluating polling, fundraising and on-the-ground dynamics.
“We know every single district,” a Warren aide involved in the effort said. “We’ve researched every district. We’re granularly paying attention to every place on the map.”
Warren deliberately stayed out of almost every Democratic primary. But shortly after a winner was declared, Warren placed a congratulatory call — something she did for 172 candidates, by her staff’s tally — and offered campaign assistance. Someone from her staff was then assigned to the candidate to provide help or solicit requests.
After Nevada’s primary in June, Warren was on the phone with Zach Conine, who is running for state treasurer. “She was the only elected official outside of the state of Nevada who called,” he said.
When Deidre DeJear, who is running for secretary of state in Iowa, came to Washington a few weeks ago, Warren’s staff made sure they had time to meet. “She was super encouraging, and said, ‘Don’t let up,’?” DeJear said. “I said, ‘Yes ma’am.’?”
In June, when Liuba Grechen Shirley won her House primary in New York, Warren was among the first to call.
About once a week since then, Warren’s team has been in touch with Shirley’s campaign manager, Anna Brichacek. They share policy memos, craft fundraising emails and discuss ways to amplify their social media messages. When one of Shirley’s field directors was hospitalized, Warren called to wish her well.
“A lot of people are being helpful,” said Shirley, who is running against Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) in a district that most have expected to remain in Republicans’ hands. “But no one has been more helpful than Elizabeth Warren.”
She said Warren is helping fill a void and able to energize the wave of first-time candidates running this year.
“The Republicans are really good at building a bench,” Shirley said. “This is something the Democratic Party hasn’t done a great job of. I really appreciate that she is taking the time to build a bench.”
Warren insists she is not ignoring her race in Massachusetts, in which she is the runaway favorite. She did her 37th town hall on Saturday and is slated for three debates with her Republican opponent, Geoff Diehl.
It is largely because she is on such firm political territory that she can look elsewhere. Warren insists that her efforts now are not about laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign and that she’d be doing the same thing regardless of any national plans.
“This is about the urgency of now — of the importance of the midterms. And the long arc here is about investing in democracy, which stretches way beyond 2020,” she said.
“I said I’d take a hard look after the election,” she said of a presidential race. “But not now. That’s not what this is about.”
The 2020 contest, though, is expected to begin in earnest almost immediately after the midterms. With a fluid Democratic race that has potential candidates numbering in the dozens, candidates are doing anything they can to gain an advantage.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has raised more than $7 million for other candidates and traveled to 21 states. Former vice president Joe Biden has traveled or raised money for 24 candidates and offered endorsements to an additional 74 candidates. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, is launching a nine-state tour later this week.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California has raised or contributed more than $6.5 million and has traveled to 10 states this year to campaign with Democratic candidates and has plans for more. Like Warren, she has been calling candidates and offering assistance. One of her staffers left to work for Abby Finkenauer, a congressional candidate in Iowa.
What seems to set Warren apart is the breadth of the operation.
Warren’s team has offered to send out emails to her list (180 times), given contributions (167 times) or provided policy documents (63 times). She also has met with candidates one-on-one (61 times) and done videos (36 times) and fundraisers (41 times).
Most of those she has helped are running for Congress, but she’s also met with candidates in key 2020 states — such as Mark Smith, running for reelection to the Iowa House, and Catherine Byrne, who is running for controller in Nevada.
“The energizing part of the new 2018 candidates is they’re running hard and they’re running for something,” Warren said. “And they’re not apologizing to anybody for it.”
Elizabeth Warren's Homepage as Senator
The Woman Who Knew Too Much "Millions of Americans hoped President Obama would nominate Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer financial watchdog agency she had created. Instead, she was pushed aside...A Harvard law professor, one of the nation’s leading bankruptcy experts and consumer advocates, the 62-year-old Warren had come up with the idea for the agency in 2007... she had become like a modern-day Mr. Smith, giving voice to regular citizens astonished at the failure of Washington to protect Main Street"
America Without a Middle Class by Elizabeth Warren, Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the banking bailouts.
Elizabeth Warren On What A Presidential Bid Would Mean "This is about concentrated money and power on one side, but it's about our values, our voices and our votes on our side."
Elizabeth Warren isn’t running for president. Just ask (and ask and ask ) her
Why Elizabeth Warren is perfectly positioned for 2016 (if she wanted to run [for president]). "But there is one thing that will keep the pilot light of the Warren for President speculation aflame: the almost-gaping hole in the Democratic primary that seems tailor-made for her... Look no further than the new Washington Post-ABC News poll for a little glimpse into that void. The poll shows that a huge portion of the Democratic base not only dislikes Wall Street and big business; its voters actually think these institutions are inflicting harm on them personally.
Did Elizabeth Warren Just Open the Door to a White House Run? After months of insisting that a 2016 bid is off the table, the Massachusetts senator sounds a different note.
Colby Glass, MLIS