Is There Any Democrat Elizabeth Warren Won’t Endorse?

Obama is unpopular, and the Clintons are occupied, leaving Democrats with few surrogates better than Warren to help keep the Senate from switching.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 11: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) listens to testimony from witnesses during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on 'Mitigating Systemic Risk Through Wall Street Reforms,' on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee heard from the panel about the progress being made on reform provisions that improve financial stability.
Emily Schultheis
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Emily Schultheis
July 14, 2014, 5:53 p.m.

SHEP­HERD­STOWN, W.Va.—El­ev­en days ago, West Vir­gin­ia Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate can­did­ate Nat­alie Ten­nant was bran­dish­ing a rifle in a loc­al parade.

Today, she’s stand­ing next to lib­er­al icon Eliza­beth War­ren on stage.

It may trig­ger some cog­nit­ive dis­son­ance to pic­ture War­ren in one of the red­dest states on the 2014 Sen­ate map—but the fresh­man sen­at­or from Mas­sachu­setts has noth­ing to lose and everything to gain by help­ing out Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates in im­port­ant races this year, par­tic­u­larly if she’s con­sid­er­ing a na­tion­al cam­paign in 2016 or bey­ond.

She’s prov­ing that she can be a good Demo­crat­ic sol­dier by help­ing the party where and when it needs her most, and she’s prov­ing that her ap­peal and the ap­peal of her pop­u­list mes­sage ex­tends far bey­ond deep-blue Mas­sachu­setts.

While War­ren has used her fun­drais­ing prowess to send pleas on be­half of many 2014 can­did­ates, she’s mak­ing more-fre­quent in-per­son ap­pear­ances this sum­mer, a trend her team says will con­tin­ue through Novem­ber. Monday’s West Vir­gin­ia event was War­ren’s fourth stop for a 2014 Sen­ate can­did­ate; she’ll cam­paign with her fifth 2014 can­did­ate, Rep. Gary Peters, in Michigan on Fri­day.

Can­did­ates such as Peters or Sen. Jeff Merkley of Ore­gon, for whom War­ren raised money back in late May, seem much more of a nat­ur­al fit. Oth­ers, like Ten­nant and Ken­tucky Sec­ret­ary of State Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes, ap­pear less so.

But War­ren’s abil­ity to move eas­ily from blue states to red states is proof she has “be­come a ser­i­ous play­er” on the na­tion­al stage, said long­time Demo­crat­ic con­sult­ant Bob Shrum.

“One thing that has be­come clear is that the ca­ri­ca­ture of her as some­how or oth­er too far left is en­tirely wrong,” he said. “She’s cam­paign­ing in West Vir­gin­ia, she’s cam­paign­ing in Ken­tucky “¦ the [cam­paign] people there are smart enough to know what’s go­ing to help them and what’s go­ing to hurt them.”

War­ren’s star power was cer­tainly on dis­play in West Vir­gin­ia on Monday, when she walked on stage to a stand­ing ova­tion and deaf­en­ing ap­plause from the audi­ence of more than 400 people, some of whom shouted things like “2016!” or “2020!” Much of her speech fo­cused on the need to fight back against Wall Street and on the stu­dent-loan in­terest-rate le­gis­la­tion she’s cham­pioned, both is­sues that played well with the crowd.

That’s sim­il­ar to the ex­plan­a­tion War­ren’s team gave for why she’s hit­ting the trail so fre­quently: She wants to elect more Demo­crats to the Sen­ate to sup­port the Demo­crat­ic agenda. The can­did­ates she’s help­ing are thrilled to have her boost­ing them—and, should they get elec­ted, could be her al­lies on crit­ic­al is­sues go­ing for­ward.

“Sen­at­or War­ren be­lieves we need more people in Wash­ing­ton speak­ing up for Amer­ic­an fam­il­ies who just want a fair shot to suc­ceed, and she will con­tin­ue to sup­port 2014 can­did­ates so that Demo­crats main­tain con­trol of the Sen­ate,” said spokes­wo­man Lacey Rose.

Na­tion­al Demo­crats say War­ren’s pop­u­list rhet­or­ic taps in­to the an­ger among work­ing-class voters of all polit­ic­al per­sua­sions, who are angry with Wall Street and angry with Wash­ing­ton. That mes­sage works par­tic­u­larly well in West Vir­gin­ia, where Ten­nant’s cam­paign is try­ing hard to por­tray GOP can­did­ate Shel­ley Moore Capito as too cozy with Wall Street.

For War­ren, test­ing her mes­sage in less-friendly ter­rit­ory will help broaden her ap­peal as she aims to demon­strate—both to her party and to voters across the coun­try—that she’s a polit­ic­al force to be reckoned with.

“Eliza­beth War­ren can prove that a pro­gress­ive, pop­u­list mes­sage is very power­ful and suc­cess­ful in a red state,” said Charles Cham­ber­lain, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the pro­gress­ive group Demo­cracy for Amer­ica.

War­ren gave a nod to the dif­fer­ences she has with Ten­nant, say­ing on Monday that they’re in agree­ment where it mat­ters.

“So here’s the deal: Nat­alie Ten­nant and I do not agree on every is­sue,” War­ren told the crowd. “But on the core is­sues “¦ Nat­alie and I agree. I watch Nat­alie, I see her. She’s strong, she’s in­de­pend­ent, she doesn’t let any­body roll over her. What I like about Nat­alie is, she’s ready to fight “¦ for Amer­ica’s fam­il­ies.”

Be­sides the spe­cif­ic mes­sage War­ren brings to the table, she’s also filling a void in Demo­crat­ic polit­ics this year: The party has a short­age of vi­able cam­paign-trail sur­rog­ates.

There’s the pres­id­ent, who’s too po­lar­iz­ing a fig­ure to be help­ful in many red states across the map; Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden and former Pres­id­ent Bill Clin­ton are likely to hit the road in his stead, as they did fre­quently dur­ing the 2010 midterms. Hil­lary Clin­ton will re­portedly be­gin cam­paign­ing for Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates this fall; thus far, though, she’s kept above the fray and has cam­paigned only for Mar­jor­ie Mar­gol­ies, Chelsea Clin­ton’s moth­er-in-law, who ran un­suc­cess­fully for the House in Pennsylvania.

But un­like the Re­pub­lic­an side, where the sheer num­ber of pro­spect­ive can­did­ates jock­ey­ing ahead of 2016 provides a long list of na­tion­al fig­ures to cam­paign with GOP can­did­ates—Rep. Paul Ry­an, for ex­ample, spent Monday cam­paign­ing in Char­le­ston, W.Va., with Capito—Demo­crats really have few oth­er pols with enough na­tion­al stature to be of use on the cam­paign trail.

“You don’t have a dozen flowers bloom­ing in the Demo­crat­ic Party—people who are out there try­ing to run for pres­id­ent,” said Shrum, not­ing that most Demo­crat­ic pols are wait­ing for Clin­ton to de­cide on a 2016 bid. “And there­fore you don’t have a lot of [Demo­crat­ic] sur­rog­ates who are get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion.”

Des­pite be­ing vil­i­fied by na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans—in­deed, War­ren’s event here with Ten­nant drew a re­lease from the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee ques­tion­ing Ten­nant’s ra­tionale for cam­paign­ing with “one of the most lib­er­al and ex­treme sen­at­ors in Wash­ing­ton” and a video from Amer­ic­an Cross­roads call­ing her the “queen of class war­fare”—Demo­crats in red states clearly think the be­ne­fits of hav­ing her in town out­weigh the dis­ad­vant­ages.

Plus, there’s really no down­side for War­ren with­in the pro­gress­ive com­munity that sup­ports her so heav­ily—even her most lib­er­al sup­port­ers ac­know­ledge there’s not much she can do in a Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled Sen­ate next year.

“The bot­tom line is that if we don’t have con­trol of the Sen­ate in our hands, we’re not go­ing to be able to ac­com­plish the vic­tor­ies that Eliza­beth War­ren needs to get pro­gress­ive policies passed,” said Cham­ber­lain. “This is a key time to sup­port can­did­ates that you might be less likely to sup­port in years you don’t need them.”

Al­though War­ren her­self has said she’s not in­ter­ested in run­ning for pres­id­ent in 2016, her activ­ity this year gives sup­port­ers a reas­on to hope she may con­sider a na­tion­al run down the line.

War­ren’s 2014 cam­paign stops show what it “could be like to see a na­tion­al cam­paign for Eliza­beth War­ren for of­fice,” Cham­ber­lain said. “Wheth­er or not we’re talk­ing 2016, 2020, or 2024, I think we’re look­ing at the pre­curs­ors of an Eliza­beth War­ren run for pres­id­ent.”

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