A Clinton-Warren Ticket Would Be Both Historic and Risky
Policy + Politics

A Clinton-Warren Ticket Would Be Both Historic and Risky


Is Sen. Elizabeth Warren rehearsing for a tryout as Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate?

While Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to hammer away at Clinton in a vain effort to wrest the Democratic presidential nomination from her this summer, Warren – the true darling of the progressive movement – has been fearlessly dueling with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

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In an escalating battle of tweets, Warren has repeatedly denounced Trump as a bully who has “built his campaign on racism, sexism, and xenophobia.”

Trump has fired back, calling the long-time consumer advocate and Wall Street scold “goofy” and “weak,” and insisting that she had fabricated claims about having Native American heritage in order to advance her career.

But unlike others who have withered under Trump’s fire, Warren seems to relish the exchanges. And she insists that Trump can be defeated this fall, “not by tucking tail and running, but by holding your ground."

Warren has not taken sides in the Democratic presidential primary contest, no doubt to avoid offending Sanders’ liberal and independent supporters before the convention. Many of those Democrats had begged Warren to run for president in 2016, but she refused to challenge Clinton for the nomination.

Now, however, with Clinton all but certain to wrap up the nomination by early June, Warren is being coy about her future plans. 

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Earlier this week, she declined to rule out the possibility of becoming Clinton’s running mate and forging an unprecedented all-woman ticket during an interview with the website Mic. Warren said that until the Democratic primary campaign is finally resolved, she intends to continue to focus her energies on her Senate responsibilities.

When asked specifically whether she would foreclose the possibility of teaming up with Clinton, Warren was evasive: “You know, this is something we’ve got to get all of our nominations settled on the Democratic side. For me, I’m going to keep doing my job every single day and I’m not thinking about another job.”

An all-female presidential ticket would be both historic and risky. Teaming up these two high-powered women would greatly energize the party and help patch over differences between moderates and liberals. However, there is no way of knowing in advance whether the electorate would accept such an arrangement, even after the country elected and then reelected its first black president.

Assuming she prevails over Sanders, Clinton would become the first woman in U.S. history to garner the presidential nomination of one of the two major parties. Two other women have been nominated vice president: The late Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, who was tapped to be Democratic presidential nominee Walter F. Mondale’s running mate in 1984, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who was plucked from obscurity by Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2012. Both tickets subsequently went down to defeat.

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Clinton intentionally downplayed her gender in her unsuccessful Democratic primary campaign against Barack Obama in 2008, preferring instead to emphasize her experience as a former first lady and U.S. senator from New York and her toughness on foreign policy. But this time around, with gender politics very much in play and Trump anathema to large percentages of women in both parties, the idea of two women taking on the bombastic real estate mogul makes sense.

Last month, Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, told the Boston Globe that the former secretary of state hasn’t ruled out choosing a female running mate. “We’ll start with a broad list and then begin to narrow it,” Podesta said. “But there is no question that there will be women on the list.”

For many, Podesta was signaling that Warren, the 66-year-old former Harvard Law School professor and Obama administration consumer protection adviser, would certainly be in the running, although other women, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, have been mentioned as well.

Yet there will be many calculations that go into the choice. For instance, Warren without question would help bridge serious policy differences between Clinton and liberal Democratic activists in the party that Sanders may not help patch up. Yet it might be more important for Clinton to choose someone like Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) to help her attract more independents in key battleground states, or to pick an Hispanic or black candidate to broaden her appeal to minorities.

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Politico reported this week that Vice President Joe Biden “was sold on Elizabeth Warren as his running mate from the start” when he pondered whether to jump into the presidential contest late last year.

As a senator from Delaware, Biden supported the scuttling of the Glass-Steagall ban on big banks engaging in highly speculative investment, a position that put him at odds with many liberal Democrats, including Sanders and Warren. According to Politico, Biden needed someone like Warren to temper the wave of anti-bank, anti-establishment sentiment in the party that would work against him.

Biden ultimately decided to stay out of the race this year. However, he recently confided to associates that he thought Warren would be an “equally smart pick” for Clinton, who has been repeatedly attacked by Sanders for accepting huge speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and other elite banks.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato said on Friday that a Clinton-Warren ticket would greatly underscore the partisan polarization that has taken place in recent months and provide Clinton with both substantial benefits and risks.

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“Just like Sanders, Warren would pull Clinton to the left and make Wall Street the foremost target, besides Trump himself,” he said. “Two women is no problem at all. It would actually increase the enthusiasm level for Clinton, which is quite low. Warren would bring the Sanders voters too.”

“I'm just not sure Warren would be seen as especially presidential, or ready to be a heartbeat away,” he added in an email. “She has the image of an ideologue. I also question whether there is any real chemistry between Clinton and Warren. That matters in government.”