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For a brief moment, Elizabeth Warren looked like she might be on the path to the Democratic presidential nomination. After lagging in the early months of the campaign, the Massachusetts senator gained steam over the summer and rose to the top spot in national polls by October.
But Warren’s fortunes turned quickly. By the Iowa caucuses — where she finished third — her polling numbers had been cut nearly in half. On Tuesday, she came in a distant fourth in the New Hampshire primary and took home no delegates.
In a speech Tuesday night, Warren emphasized how much of the primary is still to come and vowed to stay in the race. “We still have 98 percent of the delegates for our nomination up for grabs, and Americans in every part of our country are going to make their voices heard,” she said. Even though the bulk of the country is still up for grabs, one forecaster puts Warren’s odds of winning the nomination at 3 percent.
Why there’s debate
Warren’s decline has been attributed to a number of factors — some of them strategic missteps and others beyond her control. When she was rising in the polls, Warren appeared to have carved out a space as the candidate who could deliver on a progressive policy agenda that liberals in the party wanted without the perceived radicalism that made moderates turn away from Bernie Sanders. But that strategy may have left her stuck in a space where she’s not quite left enough to peel votes away from Sanders yet still too progressive to appeal to centrists. Others say she was hurt by her ambivalent responses to questions about Medicare for All, which undercut her persona as the candidate with “a plan for that.”
Some posit that her rise in October was a bit of smoke and mirrors caused by Sanders supporters who were concerned about his health after a heart attack, but who ultimately returned to his camp. Another frequently cited reason is sexism, both in its typical form and in a form unique to the Democratic race. Some pundits say there’s what could be called a “Hillary hangover” that makes voters worry about the electability of any woman going up against Donald Trump in the general election after Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016.
Warren appears committed to staying in the race at least until Super Tuesday on March 3, when the major prizes of California and Texas will be on the line. Strong performances in the two primaries left in February, Nevada and South Carolina, could give her a boost. But she’s currently polling behind Joe Biden and Sanders in those states.
She was stuck between the two flanks of the party
“Warren’s progressive policies and folksy demeanor also framed her for many as a sort of second-tier Sanders, not far enough left for the progressives and too far left for gun-shy moderates.” — Kathleen Walsh, The Week
Warren bungled her health care pitch
“Why was Medicare for All such a quagmire for Warren? The simple, obvious answer is that it shredded her core pitch to voters. Warren was supposed to be the candidate with a plan to fix America. Her catchphrase was actually “I have a plan for that.” Except on health care — the single most important policy issue for most Democrats — she evidently did not.” — Jordan Weissman, Slate
Her campaign didn’t reflect her strengths
“The candidate herself is among the ranks of those who have sold her short. She is a deep and original political thinker. Over her time in academia and in the Senate, she has evolved a distinctive critique of American capitalism as presently practiced, and a lyrical vision of what might replace it. Based on her presidential campaign, however, you wouldn’t really know it.” — Franklin Feor, Atlantic
Her progressive policies never squared with her attempts to be the unifying candidate
“Warren has pressed the case that she’s best-positioned to bring together warring party factions as a populist left seeks to wrest power from a business-friendly establishment. … But to many Democrats, the message is difficult to square with Warren’s central pitch of imposing ‘big, structural change’ by taking on wealthy and entrenched interests who she says have a corrupting influence on both parties.” — Sahil Kapur and Ali Vitali, NBC News
Warren’s economic message didn’t break through
“Warren has characterized the economy in gloomy terms that just don’t ring true to a lot of voters at a time of record-low unemployment, rising wages and booming stock values.” — Rick Newman, Yahoo Finance
Fears about a woman’s ability to beat Trump have hurt her
“Her campaign is being hampered, ever so slightly, by a quintessentially Democratic paranoia: a stubbornly persistent belief that Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 is proof that misogyny remains a latent but potent force in American politics and that, in an election all about beating Donald Trump, resurfacing that might not be worth the risk.” — Sam Stein, Daily Beast
Warren doesn’t have a strong, reliable constituency, like Biden has with black voters
“The problem for Warren is that her campaign relied on Iowa and New Hampshire to give her the political momentum necessary to win the Democratic nomination. Joe Biden also flopped in the first two primary states, but he has South Carolina to look to. … Warren, on the other hand, is looking at a bleak campaign trail from here on out.” — Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner
An unwillingness to criticize her opponents has held her back
“I don’t know who is advising her, but this strategy of refusing to take the fight to the opposition right in front of her is not working.” — Charles P. Pierce, Esquire
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