Remember when Senator Elizabeth Warren was surging? When it seemed as though she was becoming the inevitable Democrat presidential candidate?
Well, in keeping with the season, let’s just say those were the days of auld lang syne.
The Iowa caucuses are looming. In October, the state polls showed Ms. Warren leading the pack. But now, the most recent polls show Ms. Warren running fourth, closely bunched with Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
Ditto for New Hampshire. First in October, fourth now.
And if this turns out to be accurate (always be skeptical of political polls. Always), it could put her in a hole that she won’t be able to climb out of, just like Howard Dean before the 2004 primaries…
…which is the basis for Alex Thompson’s excellent analysis of Ms. Warren’s situation at politico.com.
Here are a few salient excerpts:
Liberals swooned. The Democratic establishment was on its heels. Powered by small donors and grassroots energy, in late 2003 Iowa seemed Howard Dean’s for the taking.
But then came the attacks — from both the center and the left. The surge became a stall. On caucus day, the Vermont governor came in third and never recovered.
Elizabeth Warren is trying to avoid the same fate.
Warren’s moves come as she has been squeezed by a resurgent Bernie Sanders on her left and an insurgent Pete Buttigieg on her right. Her attempts to straddle the ideological divides in the party — and potentially unify its factions — have left her open to attacks from both sides. Even Sanders has taken subtle shots at her commitment to Medicare for All, digs which have been amplified by many of his allies.
But the new offensive could also backfire — as it did for Dean in 2004, when he attacked Gephardt over the Iraq War and Gephardt responded by hitting him from the left on trade and Social Security. The crossfire ultimately wounded them both, allowing John Kerry and John Edwards to finish ahead of them in Iowa.
The bottom line is that Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is at a pivotal juncture. She either stays on message – which, based on polling over the last two months is not working – or goes on the attack – which, based on Mr. Thompson’s Howard Dean comparative, may knock her out of contention altogether.
Difficult choices ahead. And a path that is unlikely to be easier by attacking billionaires for the 7,263rd time, or promising more “free” stuff that, in actuality, has to be paid for.
We’ll be watching, with interest, to see how it turns out.