Elizabeth Warren’s Own Donors Say They Wouldn’t Support Her For President

Notwithstanding the hype, there's one very big reason why the idea of Elizabeth Warren as a viable candidate for President doesn't make much sense.

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Notwithstanding the fact that she has denied, on numerous occasions, having presidential ambitions, much less plans to run for president, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren keeps being mentioned by pundits and political observers as someone who could potentially be a challenger to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, or an alternative candidate should Hillary decide not to run. Much of this speculation seems to be little more than wishful thinking on the part of political analysts and reporters hoping for something other than a quasi-coronation on the Democratic side of the ballot in 2016 and by Republicans who have been in a engaged in a rather obvious strategy of trying to undermine Clinton before she even throws her hat in the ring. In addition, there seems to be at least some contingent of the so-called “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party that wants to see Warren run, either to force Hillary to move to the left on certain issues or because they really don’t like Clinton. Some of them even recently formed a “Ready For Warren” group not unlike the “Ready For Hillary” movement that has been going for the better part of a year now, although it is much smaller in scope.

Despite all of this speculation and hope in some quarters, though, the actual prospects for a Warren campaign seem dim at best. She has said on multiple occasions that she has isn’t running for president, and that she wants Hillary Clinton to run. Polling has shown her to be far behind the former Secretary of State in hypothetical primary match-ups, although much of that may admittedly be due to name recognition issues. Additionally, the argument that some have made to try to analogize a potential Clinton-Warren race to what happened in 2008 falls apart once you recognize the profound differences between the Democratic race in 2008 and the expected race in 2016. Perhaps the most important argument against a Warren run for the White House, though, lies in the fact that some of her biggest donors are warning her not to run for president if Hillary Clinton runs:

Elizabeth Warren does in fact reverse her repeated denials of interest and decides to run for president, she will have to do so virtually alone. That’s because almost to a person, her earliest and most devoted backers do not want her to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“If Elizabeth called me up and said, ‘I am thinking of running for president,’ I would say, ‘Elizabeth, are you out of your goddamn mind?'” said one New York-based donor who has hosted  Warren in his living room. “I really like Elizabeth, but if Hillary is in the race it just makes no sense.”

This conversation was echoed again and again in more than a dozen interviews with big-ticket Democratic donors in Warren’s hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in cities that operate as ATMs for the Democratic money machine, like New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Over and over again, the message was the same: Stay in the Senate, Liz, stay in the Senate.

There are many reasons why Warren would want to mount a campaign. The primary animating force of her political career—that the economy is unfairly tilted toward the rich, and that the Wall Street banks are rigging the game—has struck a chord with the activist wing of her party. And that same activist wing doesn’t believe that Hillary Clinton, with her six-figure speeches to Goldman Sachs and her ties to the triangulating policies of her husband, can carry that banner for them. Warren has become a top Democratic surrogate in red states like Kentucky and West Virginia, and in races across the country, “The Warren Wing” appears to be on the march


Were she to run, Warren would face enormous challenges, mainly in that Hillary Clinton remains historically popular with Democrats. But the fact that the network of Democratic insiders who helped Warren raise a record $42 million for her 2012 Senate bid want her to stand down in deference to Clinton should all but end speculation that she will be a candidate.

“I think she is outstanding. She is articulate. She is persuasive. She can hit a piece of bullshit from a hundred yards away,” said Victor A. Kovner, a Manhattan lawyer who hosted Warren for a fundraiser way back in 2011. But, he added, “I will be supporting Hillary in 2016. No question about that.”

Some Democrats who say they support Hillary still want Warren in the race, under the theory that it will give a platform to Warren’s ideas on the economy that she cannot achieve while serving as one of 100 senators.

But Kovner, echoing other members of the Democratic donor class, rejects this view. “People should run to win,” he said. “They shouldn’t run to have a voice. That is what Herman Cain did.”

Even if Clinton decided not to run, some of Warren’s supporters doubt she’d be a viable candidate:

“If Hillary comes out tomorrow and says, ‘I’m not running,’ obviously, this becomes a difference question, but I still think she shouldn’t run,” said one New York-based financial supporter. “She has so many holes in her resume. Even Obama had more experience than she does.”

Added another California-based donor who has given thousands of dollars to Warren’s political action committee, PAC for a Level Playing Field, “I don’t think she would be a very good president. Two years ago she was a college professor, for goodness sakes. She has one issue and she is a great advocate for that one issue. She doesn’t have the breadth of experience necessary to be president.”

And even those who say they would be the first to line up behind a Warren candidacy say that part of them hopes she doesn’t do it. “Of course I would be with her,” said one Massachusetts Democrat who was one of Warren’s earliest supporters. “But this is Ted Kennedy’s seat. We know what can be accomplished in a long Senate career—it is almost as much as can be accomplished in the White House.”

Unlike many others, I have never really bought into the idea of Elizabeth Warren as a Presidential candidate. Notwithstanding her populist message, which really isn’t all that different from what we hear from Democrats like Brian Schweitzer and Russ Feingold, whom many Democrats have tried to coax back into politics more than a few times in recent years, she has not struck me as the kind of candidate that would really catch on nationally the way that Barack Obama did in during the 2008 campaign. Additionally, outside of the aforementioned progressive wing of the Democratic Party, I haven’t seen all that much evidence that the ideas she talks about would really resonate with the electorate as a whole. Most importantly, though, my own observations of her during the 2012 campaign and since she has taken office don’t indicate to me the kind of person that would come across well on the campaign trail. She’s not a particularly charismatic public speaker, for example, which isn’t surprising given her history as an academic. In fact, many of her speeches come across more as law school lectures than campaign speeches, and you don’t win elections lecturing the voting public as if they were mere students. Compared to many of the other potential candidates that could enter the Democratic race even if Hillary Clinton doesn’t, there just doesn’t seem to me to be anything about Warren that indicates that she would be that special candidate that would be the one to come out of relatively political obscurity to win her party’s nomination.

Even if you disagree with my assessment of Warren’s abilities as a candidate, though, the fact that many of her own donors are already telling her that she shouldn’t run seems to be pretty strong evidence in favor of the idea that she isn’t going to run or that, if she did, she would not be nearly the threat to Hillary Clinton that many suppose she would be, or that the media and Republicans seem to hope she would be.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Of course they don’t because even if they believe in what she is saying they know full well she could never win a national election.

  2. Rick DeMent says:

    I think she can do much more good in the senate. If there needs to be a counter balance to Hillary let Bernie Sanders do it, he’s been a round long enough to know how to push HRC to the left without damaging her in the general.

  3. stonetools says:

    I’m OK with HRC running for Prez, with Warren in the Senate representing the liberals and pulling HRC to the left. HRC at this point is the closest thing to a sure shot for President in 2016, and she’ll appoint the next two or three Supreme Court justices. I don’t want to gamble with that, because that’s like the crown jewels of the next Presidency.

    Additionally, outside of the aforementioned progressive wing of the Democratic Party, I haven’t seen all that much evidence that the ideas she talks about would really resonate with the electorate as a whole

    Given Doug’s status and politics, I’m not surprised at all he doesn’t see the point of Elizabeth Warren’s policy ideas, but a lot of follks would support EW if she ran, and she would do well, IMO. But she wouldn’t be a sure shot. She can do better in the Senate, working for progressive legislation. You need both- a Democratic President and Democratic lawmakers. The Obama Presidency proves that beyond any doubt.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    It seems that those who do best as presidential candidates are those from a state governor background. There’s a difference between using a Congressional seat as a bully pulpit; it’s quite another thing actually running a country with getting all the little bits to work together smoothly.

    If Elizabeth Warren wants to run for POTUS, she should get at least one stint of being a state governor down under her belt first. And I say this from the viewpoint of someone who adores Warren’s positions.

  5. superdestroyer says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Of course she would win a national election because she would have a (D) next to her name. Warren would easily win all of the blue wall states (240+ electoral votes) and would also win a few swing states. The idea that any Republican is going to win in 2016 is laughable.

    The real question for 2016 is whether the media will start referring to Hillary Clinton as the president-elect after the New Hampshire primary.

  6. Rob in CT says:

    I think that Clinton in the White House + Warren in the Senate is better than Warren in the WH (if even possible) and Clinton on the sidelines.

    One thing liberals do sometimes is fall for the idea that all that needs to happen is the election of their dream President and *poof* everything they want happens. Yeah, no. Liberals need fellow liberals in Congress.

  7. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist:

    It seems that those who do best as presidential candidates are those from a state governor background.

    Yeah–that explains why the greatest presidents of modern times were Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, and why Lincoln, Truman, and Eisenhower were such failures.

  8. stonetools says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Hey, at least liberals have moved beyond “Don’t vote for the Democrat, because both parties are the same.” We have learned that lesson for a generation (thanks GWB, Justice Roberts and Justice Alito). I’m now pretty sure we are past the “my dream President can do it all through the magical power of the Bully Pulpit and the wonderfulness of liberal ideas” fallacy , too. Its why people are uniting behind HRC, even those who don’t love the Clintons. The crazy a$$ Republican Party has done what was once thought impossible-unite the liberals.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    I think there are really only two takeaways to this:

    -The Press are desperate for drama where there is none.

    -Democrats are being pretty rational about this. Unlike another party we could mention.

  10. stonetools says:


    That’s a bit harsh but it does show why the conventional wisdom in politics so often doesn’t survive contact with data.
    I do feel that I think a stint as state governor would be the best “training” for the Presidency, but in the end it’s best to evaluate each candidate on their merits. I was no fan either of Governor Palin or Governor Romney.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: You misread me. I said presidential CANDIDATES. What they actually did after becoming POTUS is a different matter.

    What I’m saying is that voters like voting for presidential candidates that have had experience of running a state.

  12. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: The last thing the Democratic Party needs is another national candidate moving further to the left. They need to stay in the center. That is where the middle class, working people are. That was where Bill tried to stay. They should remember the lesdon of 1972; the McGovern campaign fiasco. Senator McGovern was an honorable statesman. His presidential campaign got out of control with several big missteps. The Democratic party leadership had been taken over by radicals as the Johnson/Kennedy people were pushed out.
    “The silent majority”

  13. humanoid.panda says:

    @Ron Beasley: I think she is not running, but I don’t see why she wouldn’t be able to win a national election. Her stances on Wall Street, minimum wage and college debt are genuinely popular. She is hardly a culture warrior, so that’s not something that can be used to rile up people against her. Being from Oklahoma originally and having a very Mid Western tone and affect means that the whole patrician/elitist thing that tends to destroy MA politicians running for President (Dukakis, Kerry, Romney) doesn’t apply.
    One arena in which she will struggle is money: the amounts of money deployed against her will be tytanic..

  14. humanoid.panda says:

    @grumpy realist: And this is why Obama won the last two elections and so far Hillary is killing all competition in polls?

  15. humanoid.panda says:

    @Tyrell: I’d wager you $50 that each and everyone of Warren’s major policy ideas will get the support of 60% of the American people.
    Also, your history is as shaky as your reasoning skills: after McGovern, who was indeed supported by radicals, the next Democrat to run for President was Carter, who was no radical, and since then the party had moved solidly rightward on economic issues. The alleged takeover of the Democratic by radical and its leftward shift ever since is about as real as all those IRS agents poring over our health records.

  16. stonetools says:

    The sad pity of it all is that Elizabeth Warren, whose public career has been about defending the interests of the middle and working class against big business, is attacked as being some wild-eyed leftist. Tell me, what is radical about this:

    “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

    That is exactly in the center of American progressivism, since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. Yet for this she is vilified as a socialist. That’s what four decades of right wing propoganda will get you….

  17. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist: It actually makes a lot more sense (though I’m not sure it’s actually true) that being governor prepares you for the presidency than that it prepares you to run for president. I just don’t see much of a connection between running a state and running a national campaign. You might assume it simply because so many recent presidents have been governors, but that doesn’t prove it’s why any of them won.

    Now, I do think that experience has an effect on the types of candidates whom parties nominate; it’s no coincidence that all modern nominees have had some experience in public office, or that candidates like Jesse Jackson, Steve Forbes, or Herman Cain never came close to being nominated. But the criteria isn’t set in stone. I think the rise of Obama has itself affected things already; if I’m not mistaken, no election in memory has featured so many prospective candidates (Rubio, Paul, Cruz) whose only major experience in office has consisted of one term or less in the Senate. The remark Doug quoted by the donor who suggested that “even” Obama had more experience than Warren does now shows that anyone who questions a potential candidate’s experience has to make an asterisk.

  18. wr says:

    @Tyrell: ” They should remember the lesdon of 1972″

    One of the big problems Democrats have had for the last few decades is over-remembering the “lesdon” of 1972. That was a different world — it’s about as useful as the lessons of 1860.

  19. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rob in CT: Both Clinton and Warren are conservative Democrats. Warren has openly stated so and Clinton, well, she’s both a warmonger and totally captured by financial crooks. What a “draft Warren” campaign really says about the activist wing of the Democrats is that they’re pathetic.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    You’re of the opinion that Warren is a conservative on finance? I mean, it’s possible you perspective is skewed here, Ben. You’re a MMTer, right? Who is far enough left on such matters to satisfy you? Bernie Sanders?

    Clinton: no argument from me. That’s pretty accurate. Ditto you assessment of the “activist wing” of the Party. They are. Then again, what would you have them do, exactly?

  21. Tyrell says:

    @humanoid.panda: Carter: yes, a good and honest leader. He came in on the double aftermaths of Watergate and the Vietnam exit disaster. The country was in a perfect economic storm of high unemployment, high interest rates (10% + for a mortgage !), and a high inflation rate. Then he got stuck with the Iran crisis: nutcase named the Ayatollah, who looked like some extra out of a “Sinbad” movie, took over. US workers were abused, held hostage, and US properties seized. American citizens and the world saw the US as indecisive and weak. Carter couldn’t get re-elected. People still respect and like Carter. He just came along at the wrong time, and did not have enough time to get things straightened out.
    “Ayatollah Assaholah!” Popular bumper sticker during the 1980’s.

  22. Rob in CT says:


    Well, that’s certainly true for some of us. Others go the “the whole system is corrupt, man, I’m taking my ball and going home” route. I hope the former outnumber the latter.

  23. Rob in CT says:


    A far fairer assessment than most one will see about Carter, but it does rather leave out the 1956 coup engineered by the CIA that put the Shah in power (followed by support for the Shah’s repressive government). In other words, what happened to Carter wasn’t just “a nutcase came along.” A nutcase did come along, but his rise to power was also a case of chickens coming home to roost.

  24. Tillman says:

    “If Elizabeth called me up and said, ‘I am thinking of running for president,’ I would say, ‘Elizabeth, are you out of your goddamn mind?’” said one New York-based donor who has hosted Warren in his living room. “I really like Elizabeth, but if Hillary is in the race it just makes no sense.”

    First thought that popped into my head: “For Christ’s sake, Liz, we already got a woman!”

  25. stonetools says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Clinton: no argument from me. That’s pretty accurate. Ditto you assessment of the “activist wing” of the Party. They are. Then again, what would you have them do, exactly?

    That’s obvious. Vote for Ralph Nader or whoever the activists have anointed as his successor. Because that worked SO well last time.

    These losers never change their MO. And if it results in disaster, well that’s just what the country deserved, or we must heighten the contradictions, or whatever.

  26. superdestroyer says:


    Carter did not have the skill set to solve anything. The idea that a second Carter Administration would have been more successful is laughble. Of course, what Carter did best was try to undo some of the overbearing regulations from the New Deal such as the Interstate Commerce Commission. If such an agency existed today, Fedex and UPS should probably not exist.