The Massachusetts senator’s presidential race choreography is unmistakable.
At a town hall meeting last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren finally revealed she was taking “a hard look” at running for president.
Now it’s clear just how hard she’s looking.
Monday’s grandiose, made-for-media detailing of her Native American ancestry — complete with DNA documentation — erased any questions about the Massachusetts Democrat‘s intent.
Something approaching a 2020 campaign slogan is beginning to take shape: “Persist.” Her political team rolled out a nationwide “PERSIST Project” campaign on Facebook this past June, hawking free state-specific “Persist” bumper stickers. At the progressive conference Netroots Nation in August, Warren’s team distributed signs with the single word to the audience to wave during her speech. The front page of her website currently includes a mosaic slideshow of supporters wearing “She Persisted” T-shirts.
The breadth of her national political operation was made clear in an exhaustive account on Sunday. In recent months, Warren has released 10 years of tax returns, introduced a major anti-corruption legislative package, published policy papers and even shifted from her studied avoidance of the press to stopping in the Senate hallway to take questions and taking private, off-the-record meetings with national reporters in New York and Washington.
All along, Warren has supported a sprawling network of Democratic candidates, pouring $8 million into campaigns across the country, placing staff in key races and making personal contacts with winning and losing candidates in pivotal states.
And if the 2020 choreography wasn’t unmistakable enough, Monday’s video rollout sent a clear sign to any Democrat who wondered whether Warren would fight back against President Donald Trump, who has taunted her as “Pocahontas” and stated he would donate $1 million to Warren’s charity of choice if she took a DNA test that proved her claims of Native American ancestry.
By taking the test, demanding that Trump pay the money he publicly wagered against her and wrapping it all with an expertly produced video that detailed her roots to Oklahoma Republicans, Warren went about as far toward announcing her candidacy as she could without actually saying the words.
Jim Demers, a New Hampshire-based strategist on presidential campaigns, called Warren’s moves “smart” in today’s environment.
“Once the 2018 election is over, I think the presidential race is going to bust wide open,” Demers said. “That’s mainly because the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary will literally be less than a year and a half away. That’s not a lot of time to be organizing and campaigning. Any of the potential candidates who has laid the groundwork now will see it pay off. This campaign is going to move very fast.”
While some Democrats criticized Warren for distracting from November‘s midterms, her moves were in keeping with a flurry of recent positioning moves by potential 2020 candidates.
“You want to get out early enough so you can raise the money you need and lock in the political support you need but you also don’t want to appear getting out too early before a midterm election,” former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said. “I assume that’s the needle they’re trying to thread here.”
Democratic strategist and former adviser to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Patti Solis Doyle called the video release a savvy play by Warren, allowing her to get out her message, signal she would stand up to Trump and take potential backers on a tour of her family background and professional credentials.
But Doyle also questioned Warren’s timing, saying her actions are different than other 2020 contenders who are laying the groundwork by campaigning in early presidential states.