BOSTON – Recently, a prominent Massachusetts Democrat spotted Sen. Elizabeth Warren at an airport and saw an opportunity.
Have you read the New Republic, Philip W. Johnston asked Warren playfully, showing her the cover of the magazine he had just purchased. It was devoted to whether Warren would run for president.
Warren wasn’t having any of it. She answered with an exaggerated eye roll that cut short any further talk of the 2016 presidential race.
“She doesn’t want to talk about it in any serious way,” said Johnston, a supporter.
On Wednesday, Warren became so sick of media speculation that she might run as a populist alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton that she made her most definitive statement to date in an attempt to put the issue to rest, promising to remain in the Senate.
‘’I pledge to serve out my term,” which ends at the beginning of 2019, she said, when pressed during a news conference in downtown Boston with mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh.
In a fiery appearance before reporters, Warren acknowledged that the interest in her potential as a presidential candidate could help her advance her agenda in the Senate. But she insisted she would not fuel more speculation.
“I am not running for president,” Warren said. “I am working as hard as I can to be the best possible senator that I can be and to fight for the things that I promised during my campaign to fight for.”
For weeks, speculation about a Warren run for president has buzzed in Washington and beyond – and for weeks those around Warren have tried to tamp it down. They insist that the matter had been settled with prior statements that she had no plans to run for president.
She has done nothing, for example, to curry favor in early primary states or to build her foreign policy credentials by traveling abroad. And she has signed a letter urging Clinton to run. It’s the subject that must not be broached in Warrenland. Several confidants and party activists say that Warren greets even passing references to the notion of a White House run with a derisive laugh or a cutting scowl.
The affection for Warren among liberal groups is likely to persist regardless. One liberal group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is selling onesies for Christmas, so parents can advertise that their wriggling newborns hail from the “Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.”
The same group lashed out this week at members of a centrist Democratic group who suggested in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Warren’s ascendancy would be bad for the party.
Warren has won the hearts of liberals across the country with a full-throated embrace of government as an instrument to combat income inequality against a system that is “rigged” for the rich and powerful. She has embraced an expansion of Social Security, fought against the power of big banks, put public pressure on government regulators to crack down on financial institutions, and spoken in favor of raising the minimum wage.
Her speeches, including a passionate keynote address at the AFL-CIO conference in September, have helped make her the face of liberal populism that has partially reshaped the Democratic Party.
How well all that would translate to a national presidential campaign is unclear. While she could be a serious factor in a Democratic primary, her message likely would be received more skeptically on the broader national stage than in the liberal bastions of the Northeast.
There are potential risks as well as rewards with the recent frenzy of publicity about her noncandidacy – which has included front page articles in the Washington Post and New York Times in addition to the cover story in liberal magazine the New Republic and endless speculation on liberal blogs. The attention gives Warren outsized stature for a freshman senator, further raising her influence on the populist anti-Wall Street issues that have been her life’s work.