DANIEL VAUGHAN: Elizabeth Warren’s 1/2020th Presidential Campaign

January 4, 2019

The only people who are surprised that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is running for president are the people she lines up for ads when she does her faux-humility act, pretending she doesn’t want to run. To everyone else, Warren’s entry into the Democratic primaries for president was about as predictable as Alabama and Clemson ending up in the College Football Playoff finals.

What’s also pretty predictable about Warren: she’s a sure-fire loser, both in the primaries and in the general election.

Let’s start with Warren’s most obvious problem: right now, most Democrats don’t even want her in the primaries field. We’re a long way off, and these are far from the final results. But it is telling that right now, in a wide-open field, Warren can’t even top Beto O’Rourke in a CNN poll of Iowa Democrats — the guy who lost his Senate race in Texas.

Warren’s next problem is likability.

Her defenders scoff at the notion that she’s an unlikable person. Anyone who dares to suggest that Warren won’t relate well to voters is written off as sexist.

But this browbeating routine should sound familiar if you’ve followed politics for any length of time; it’s the same playbook used by Hillary Clinton’s most ardent fans.

Throughout Clinton’s 2016 campaign, whenever people made fun of her robotic answers, awkward mannerisms, and inability to relate to ordinary Americans, they were branded as sexists or misogynists.

It’s apparently impossible for a female politician to be unlikeable.

But just as Clinton was historically unlikeable — which was proved in the polls — Warren is similarly difficult to like. Right now, in the RealClearPolitics compendium of polls on Warren’s favorability, she’s underwater. Most polls there show more people disliking her than liking her by 3-7 points.

The only polls where she shows a net positive are from CNN and NBC, both of which show her as being more likable than not by only 2 points.

And it’s not just polling that can give you that data. The 2018 midterms were a blue wave year, and Democrats had momentum everywhere, meaning that Elizabeth Warren had all the advantages going into the 2018 midterms. She easily won re-election to her Senate seat with more than 1.6 million total votes to her name.

But do you know who got more votes than her in the race, and won his race even more easily? Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican running his re-election campaign. He won by a more significant margin and with more votes than Warren by almost 150,000. And whereas Warren won her seat with 60 percent of the overall vote, he earned his race with 67 percent, or two-thirds, of the entire vote.

Are we going to call the entire state of Massachusetts sexist just because they seem to like the Republican governor more than her? Is everyone there a misogynist for not running up her totals in a blue year?

Of course not.

Warren’s unlikability is a real threat to her 2020 campaign. But the trait that will more than likely sink her election prospects, in either a primary or a general election, is her political instinct.

Warren’s best shot at running for president was in 2016 when the Democrats, desperate for anyone to challenge Hillary Clinton, begged her to run. She declined. And now the party has moved on to different flavors of the month.

Warren blew it then, and she’s in the process of blowing it now. Her campaign kickoff was an entire video explaining that she’s Native American based on a DNA test she took. She proudly staked her flag on her Native American history — even though the test said that she’s hardly, if at all, (1/64th to 1/1,024th) Native American — but she doesn’t seem to claim she’s a minority of any kind anymore.

That utter disaster proved two things about Warren: first, that she has lousy political instincts. She was stupid enough to take President Donald Trump and the Republicans’ bait on the DNA test, and it blew up in her face. All she had to do was ignore it, or issue a simple statement moving on from it. She failed that test miserably.

Second, it proved that Warren is enamored with her own story. She wants to have a cult of supporters who rally around her tale of rising through the ranks and being the first woman senator from Massachusetts. But in reality, Democrats view Warren as one of the “idea people” in their party, a policy wonk. She lacks all the charisma of the real personalities in the Democratic Party like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, or even other 2020 hopefuls like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

Warren, like Hillary Clinton, wants to be the big personality in the party, and she’s trying hard to be something she’s not. And if that isn’t enough, the entire Democratic Party has shifted to Warren’s left. She’s both too white and too conservative for a modern Democratic Party that’s challenging leaders like Nancy Pelosi with socialist upstarts.

Indeed, the Democrats have surged so far left, they’ve let in socialists to dictate policy while people like Elizabeth Warren, who is more aptly labeld neoliberal or progressive, have been left with no power. Add to that the fact that Warren is as white as the Antarctic snow, and she quickly fails to check off any of the identity politics boxes that Democrats want right now.

Is it impossible for Warren to win? No, of course not. The Democratic Party is highly fractured and teetering on the edge of an internal civil war. The final nominee only needs a plurality.

But Warren has to figure out how to not beat herself and overcome her flaws — a task for which she and her advisors seem ill-prepared.

Right now, the odds of her winning are about as long as the odds of her being Native American.


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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.