Politics 2016: Is there a White House bid for Sen. Elizabeth Warren?

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |  Nov. 17, 2013 at 5:01 AM
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There's a movement afoot not to allow Hillary Clinton -- who hasn't even announced whether she'll make a second stab at the White House -- to march unchallenged to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Never mind the woman whose name is being bandied about -- U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. -- hasn't said boo about what she wants to do three years hence, either.

Just a shade less than three years before U.S. voters head to the polls to select President Obama's successor, Clinton has been criss-crossing the country making speeches and accepting awards while being mum about her future.

When she bowed out as the nation's top diplomat and left the State Department, Clinton -- a former U.S. first lady and Democratic U.S. senator from New York -- said she was "not inclined" to run for president in 2016 but did not rule out the prospect entirely.

Her comments came days before the Ready for Hillary super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission.

However, Clinton seriously teased folks in October during a speech before a business group when she said she wouldn't begin to think seriously about it until next year.

"I will think about it because it's something on a lot of people's minds," she said. "And it's on my mind as well."

The fight in 2016 won't be about Iraq or hope or change and won't have Obama's charismatic -- almost messianic -- speechifying.

But it will have a bunch of Democratic voters who feel disillusioned, lied to and downright angry with Obama, who has watched his job approval ratings plunge to less than 40 percent in recent weeks.

Clinton is a Washington insider, having lived or worked at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and being married to former President Bill Clinton, a political catalyst and rainmaker in his own right. She also believes, among other things, the U.S. economy does best with a robust financial sector.

And that, The New Republic wrote, could be her Achilles heel.

"Many of her best friends, her intellectual brain trust [on economics], all come out of that world," a longtime Democratic operative who worked on Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and later for Hillary Clinton in the White House, told The New Republic. "She doesn't have a problem on the fighting-for-working-class-folks side but it will be hard, really wrenching for her to be that populist on [finance] issues."

Enter Elizabeth Warren: The Harvard prof is passionate about tough financial reform. She ran point on the bank bailout, was appointed to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Congress approved in the watered-down Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, upended Sen. Scott Brown two years ago and became the Bay State's senior senator when Obama tapped John Kerry to be his secretary of state.

Polling indicates the Democratic Party is becoming more populist and would more readily embrace someone such as Warren, a prodigious fundraiser in the vein of Obama. Gallup said it found the percentage of Democrats holding "very negative" views of the banking industry rose sharply since 2007, while the percentage of those with positive views fell from 51 percent to 31 percent. The percentage of Democrats who were unhappy with the "size and influence of major corporations" rose from 51 percent to a near stratospheric 79 percent from 2001 to 2011.

"I don't think there's anyone out there who can break out of just that left coalition like Warren could," one Democratic operative told The New Republic. "She's got a real message tailored to the middle-class and working-class people."

Most pundits, insiders and campaign donor figure Warren won't run for the party's presidential nomination in 2016 if Clinton does -- saying she'd lose, probably badly, in what could be a career-ending move.

Swanee Hunt, who donated to both women's campaigns said she knows of three women, besides Clinton, "who would be very credible primary candidates. But none of them is going to challenge Hillary."

"These women are not stupid," Hunt told The New Republic.

A Quinnipiac University poll released in October indicated Warren was third in a hypothetical Democratic field, drawing 7 percent, compared with 61 percent for Clinton and 11 percent for Vice President Joe Biden.

If Clinton represents the head of the Democratic Party, Warren is its heart, a Washington Post commentary said, because Warren represents the liberal populist liberals thought they were getting in Obama in 2008.

But, the Post points out, there are two really, really big stumbling blocks to all the Warren candidacy talk: One, Warren and her people insist she isn't interested and has signed a letter supporting Clinton for president. Two, she's a neophyte on the national political stage who hasn't run against an opponent as formidable as Clinton.

After the New Republic article ran, Warren's representative, Lacey Rose, told The Boston Globe the senator would stay put.

"As Senator Warren has said many times, she is not running for president," Rose said.

Observers told Politico even a hint of a Warren candidacy could send chills down Wall Street, given her passion to rein in financial institutions. A possible Warren candidacy, observers say, could push Clinton to the left in the primaries and revive arguments about breaking up the nation's largest banks, raising taxes on the wealthy and other populist issues that likely would be in play in the Republican primaries.

"The nightmare scenario for banks is to hear these arguments from a candidate on the far left and on the far right," Jaret Seiberg, a financial services industry analyst at Guggenheim Partners, told Politico, squeezing out the middle.

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