What is Elizabeth Warren's endgame?
Posted February 24, 2020 2:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2020 2:40 p.m. EST
CNN — With Bernie Sanders emerging as the clear favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee, Elizabeth Warren has trained her fire on -- wait, Michael Bloomberg?
Beginning five days ago at the ninth presidential debate -- this one in Las Vegas ahead of the state's caucuses last Saturday -- Warren has made it her mission to savage the billionaire businessman (and former mayor of New York City) at every turn.
"I'd like to talk about who we're running against," she said in that debate. "A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians, and no I'm not talking about Donald Trump, I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg."
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Which is a sick burn! And made some sense for Warren to do, because Bloomberg was surging in national polling and there was a concerted effort at that debate to slow him down! Except that Warren has kept it up, even in the wake of Sanders' crushing victory in Nevada, a win that has made plain that he is now the favorite be the Democratic standard-bearer against President Donald Trump this fall.
Asked directly by reporters Sunday night whether Sanders is a risky nominee for the Democratic Party, Warren said this: "I think Michael Bloomberg is the riskiest candidate." Interrupted by another reporter to note that the question was about Sanders, not Bloomberg, Warren replied "I heard you," before continuing on in her attack against the former New York City mayor.
All of which raises a simple question: Why?
Why ignore a chance to attack the front-runner in favor of hitting someone who won't even appear on the ballot until March 3? Especially what that front-runner is harvesting the very voting bloc -- liberals -- that Warren needs to start reclaiming if she wants to have a chance at relevance after finishing third, fourth and fourth in the first three votes of 2020?
Having thought about it, I have two possible answers:
1) Warren knows she can't win the nomination and is on a mission to destroy Bloomberg. If you had to create a candidate (or person) in a lab that would be the opposite of Warren, Bloomberg would probably be it. Wealthy. Like, very wealthy. Protective of corporate interests. Dismissive of attempts to question the rightness of his beliefs. All of that is anathema to Warren, who has spent a career -- in academia, in government and now in public life -- defending the little guy from what she believes to be the Bloombergs of the world.
And so, whether or not it makes political sense (and, candidly, it doesn't) Warren sees taking out Bloomberg as sort of her a culmination of her life's work. As in: She may not win the Democratic nomination, but she is sure as heck going to make it so he can't win either.
2) Warren would like to be VP. On a somewhat slightly more Machiavellian front, Warren may already see the writing on the wall that Sanders is the very likely nominee. And that it would be extremely difficult for her to overcome the lead among liberals that Sanders has built up. And so, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em -- or something. If Bloomberg, who has now spent more than $500 million of his own money on the presidential campaign, represents the most serious threat to Sanders, then helping to take him out would be a major help. The sort of help that might reflect well on Warren when Sanders and his campaign begin considering running mates.
While it seems somewhat odd that Sanders would choose a fellow liberal like Warren to be his running mate, it could also represent a sort of doubling-down on their shared progressive vision for the country -- and willingness to fight the political powers that be (in both parties) to achieve their goals.
Now, maybe neither of those reasons explain Warren's unwillingness to attack Sanders. Maybe they are just longtime friends and Warren simply won't jeopardize that friendship to score political points. That could be!
But politicians usually do political things. It's right there in the name of the profession! And so, Warren is likely up to something here -- even if we're not entirely sure what just yet.