Will Elizabeth Warren Endorse a Candidate? She Has a Few Options

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s departure from the presidential race on Thursday instantly made her endorsement one of the most coveted in the Democratic Party. She said she would not back anyone right away, but both Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. want her blessing as she and her supporters assess their options.

Her political future is also a subject of interest, given her passionate following nationwide and the possibility that she could run for president again. Here are some of the choices that Ms. Warren could consider in the coming days.

Ms. Warren was a liberal ally of Mr. Sanders for much of the race, aligning herself with him and some of their shared priorities, like “Medicare for all.” Many progressives are eager for her help in coalescing support behind the Vermont senator, just as moderates have largely united behind Mr. Biden.

But in January, their relationship appeared to cool after she confirmed a report that Mr. Sanders had told her in private that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency in 2020. He denied that at a debate, to which she replied afterward, “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” She and her allies faced a torrent of backlash online from supporters of Mr. Sanders, and while he has condemned such vitriol, some Warren voters are wary of boosting the Vermont senator’s campaign.

While Ms. Warren, 70, is more ideologically aligned with Mr. Sanders than she is with Mr. Biden, that doesn’t apply to all of her supporters. Many are college-educated women who were drawn to Ms. Warren for her energetic, intellectual style and long list of credentials. While her supporters generally embraced her leftward message, some may be uncomfortable with Mr. Sanders’s calls for political revolution.

“I do not think it’s a foregone conclusion they all go to Bernie,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, a progressive strategist who worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “Or that even if Warren endorses Bernie, that all of her voters consolidate. Some of them might go with Joe Biden. More of them than people understand are up for grabs. This is a close race. Candidates should work hard to get their vote.”

Ms. Warren and Mr. Biden have had strong, longstanding disagreements over issues ranging from bankruptcy law to health care. In the fall, they traded sharp words more directly: He cast her as a “my way or the highway” elitist, and she suggested he was running in the wrong party. And they hold fundamentally different views about how to govern in Washington: She has called for “big, structural change,” and he has advocated a more incremental approach rooted in bipartisan compromise.

An endorsement of Mr. Biden would be deeply disappointing to some of her supporters who relish her persona as a “fighter.”

“Progressives are going to want her to back the progressive,” said Rebecca Kirszner Katz, a veteran Democratic strategist. “This is a movement she has always been part of. They will want her to continue to be a leader in that movement.”

Yet a central part of Mr. Biden’s pitch is that he could defeat President Trump and help Democrats running in tough down-ballot races, with an eye on reclaiming the Senate. That plan faces many hurdles — but if it worked, an endorsement of Mr. Biden now could make Ms. Warren an enormously influential figure in Washington down the road, with real political capital on hand.

“Elizabeth Warren is a very logical progressive,” Ms. Katz said. “She’s always wanted to get her policies enacted. My guess is, she’s looking at all the numbers right now and seeing the best way to get her goals accomplished.”

If Ms. Warren sees both Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders as deeply flawed, she could sit out the primary and promise to strongly support the eventual Democratic nominee. That decision could set Ms. Warren up to be a unifying figure later — but it could also be seen as a rebuke to Mr. Sanders. Still, neutrality is the route a number of other prominent former presidential candidates have taken so far, including Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

“She doesn’t owe anyone anything,” Ms. Morales Rocketto said. “She should take her sweet time.”

President Barack Obama had Organizing for America. Mr. Sanders has Our Revolution. Does Ms. Warren create a political organization that wades into campaigns or policy battles, keeping her brand prominent in the process?

In Iowa especially, the Warren campaign was famous for its extensive, creative political organizing efforts — does her team tap that knowledge to advance causes or candidates she cares about?

Ms. Warren is younger than Mr. Biden, 77, and Mr. Sanders, 78. She has national name recognition now. And politicians often run for president multiple times — this is Mr. Biden’s third bid, and Mr. Sanders’s second.

If Ms. Warren is considering another run down the road, what steps does she take to keep that door open? Starting a political organization is one way to do that. Maintaining relationships in early-voting states is another.

More immediately, both of the leading candidates have expressed openness to including her as part of their administration should they win (though in a tweet on Thursday, Mr. Biden said, “we need her continued work in the Senate”). Does she have vice-presidential or cabinet potential in the meantime?

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