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Could Elizabeth Warren Beat Hillary Clinton?


Noam Scheiber says yes:

Which brings us to the probable face of the insurgency. In addition to being strongly identified with the party’s populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets. The candidate would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats’ desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little effort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren.

I hope this is right. But I think Jamelle probably has the stronger case:

Or, at least, she could represent an existential threat. But I don’t think she will. It’s noteworthy that, in his piece, Scheiber doesn’t say much about Warren’s signature on a secret letter urging Clinton to run for the Democratic nomination. At most, he argues, it’s a pledge that won’t stand if Warren decides the presidency is key to advancing her policy agenda.

But, to my eyes, that letter says everything about where Clinton stands vis a vis the rest of the Democratic Party. In short, 2016 won’t be 2008, where Clinton was a powerful but contentious figure in the party, and a well-organized challenger could capitalize on grassroots anger and establishment discontent to derail her path to the nomination. Now, Clinton is a wildly popular figure, with one of the highest statures in American politics. Among Democrats, 67 percent favor her for the nomination (compared to 4 percent for Warren) , and in an early poll of potential New Hampshire primary voters, she has the highest favorability ratings—near 80 percent—of any potential candidate. This is a far cry from 2006, where—at most—she had support from a plurality of Democrats.

One thing to add is that the younger voters who are more supportive of economic populism are also the least likely to vote in primaries, which will make it harder to break Clinton’s hold on the party’s base. And as admirable as Warren is as a public figure, given that she ran 7 points behind Obama in Massachusetts whether she can appeal to a broad enough based of Democratic voters in a wide enough variety of states to pose a serious threat to Clinton is an open question.

Still, while I take Scheiber’s point that it’s too early to declare anyone inevitable, it’s just going to be very difficult for anyone to beat Clinton. Clinton is a much more popular figure than Christine Quinn, so I don’t think the de Blasio example gets you very far. Since I don’t see a better possible candidate to challenge Clinton at this point, I hope Warren runs, but she’d have to be considered a massive underdog against Clinton.

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