Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts announced she was suspending her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, bringing to a close a once-promising candidacy that ultimately appeared to peak too early.
“I will not be running for president in 2020, but I guarantee I will stay in the fight for the hardworking folks across this country who’ve gotten the short end of the stick over and over,” Warren told reporters during a press conference in front of her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The hardest part, she said, was envisioning “all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years” for a chance to have a female president.
Warren did not immediately endorse a candidate after ending her bid, a stark contrast to the moderate wave that surrounded former Vice President Joe Biden before Super Tuesday.
“(I) want to take a little time to think a little more,” Warren said.
After a series of disappointing losses in early voting primary states—including a humiliating third-place finish in her home state—Warren was effectively squeezed out of contention by the rise of progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and the decision by more moderate rivals to coalesce in support of Biden.
“I was told at the beginning of this whole undertaking that there are two lanes,” Warren said. “A progressive lane that Bernie Sanders is the incumbent for and a moderate lane that Joe Biden is the incumbent for, and there’s no room for anyone else in this. I thought that wasn’t right. But evidently I was wrong.”
Gender in the 2020 race was a “trap question for every woman,” Warren told reporters. “If you say, yeah, there was sexism in this race, everyone says ‘whiner.’ And if you say no, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, what planet do you live on? I promise you this, I will have a lot more to say on that subject later on.”
Warren’s decision came after a Super Tuesday where the summertime frontrunner earned only a handful of delegates in the 14 primaries across the country, finishing a distant fourth in many contests. Warren, whose campaign was founded on the contention that she had a plan for everything, saw no plan going forward that could win her the nomination.
Though she entered the fall hot on Biden’s heels in national polls, a densely packed field of Democratic candidates splintering every supposed “lane” in the party and the rising force of Sanders as the champion of progressive causes for which Warren herself advocated led to a series of also-ran finishes in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.
Warren never finished above third place in any nominating contest of the Democratic primary season, and lost her own home state of Massachusetts to Biden and Sanders—in that order—on Tuesday.
Warren developed a ground game that was seen as the envy of the 2020 field in Iowa and New Hampshire. But the time and investment Warren’s campaign put into those contests proved to pay off little in the way of dividends. Her fourth place finish in New Hampshire was a staggering blow to her 2020 effort, proving to be an outlier of the state’s penchant to reward candidates from neighboring states.
Even before Warren’s run was official, possible liabilities surfaced. A 2018 DNA test concerning the senator’s questioned Native Americans heritage backfired. President Donald Trump often took pride in bringing up the issue on social media amid the Democrat’s struggles.
“Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, is having a really bad night,” Trump tweeted on the night of the New Hampshire primary, where Warren finished a distant fourth.
Yet by the fall, her campaign had risen to being considered in the top tier. Large crowds turned out to see the senator, whose commitment to selfie lines and showing off her dog Bailey won her adoration from voters as they pondered their options in the crowded Democratic field.
Warren’s closing “unity candidate” argument had weakened in recent days as fellow candidates, including former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, dropped out to support Biden as the best candidate to win against Sanders and, in turn, defeat Trump in the general election. With more left-wing voters, whose ire Warren had earned after accusing Sanders of telling her that a woman couldn’t win the White House in 2020, lining up behind Sanders ahead of Super Tuesday, Warren’s much-vaunted—and extremely expensive—ground game faltered.
In a March 1 memo to staff, Warren campaign manager Roger Lau said the senator had “seen a record-breaking surge of grassroots support” in February. Lau maintained that Super Tuesday would show Warren was one of the remaining candidates with “a viable path” to become the Democratic nominee.
But on the morning after Super Tuesday, a followup memo was much less assured.
“Last night, we fell short of the viability goals and projections, and we are disappointed in the results,” Lau told staff, adding that Warren was “going to take some time right now to think through the right way to continue this fight.”
“This decision is in her hands, and it’s important that she has the time and space to consider what comes next.”
February proved to be a last ditch attempt by the senator as she grew more aggressive towards her Democratic rivals. A Nevada debate performance where she skewered former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg helped give her a cash windfall last month.
But less than a day later, Warren drew some onlookers' ire as she declined to dismiss a new super PAC created to support her struggling effort. Fighting corruption and getting big money out of politics had been a focus of Warren’s 2020 run.
Her change of tone towards the big money spending was so abrupt that her website still read that Warren “rejects the help of Super PACs and would disavow any Super PAC formed to support her in the Democratic primary,” on the same day she warmed to the committee’s spending on her behalf.
Still, as the sole woman remaining in serious contention after Klobuchar dropped out on the eve of Super Tuesday, Warren, supporters felt, may have partially fallen victim to post-2016 flashbacks by voters who supported her policies and candidacy but feared that she was too vulnerable to Trump’s long-practiced attacks to win the presidency.
At a get-out-the-vote event in Columbia, South Carolina—the morning before Warren finished a distant fifth in that state's primary—many Warren supporters already seemed resigned to the likelihood that the Massachusetts senator would not be the Democratic nominee. As they reflected on what had gone wrong, one fact got mentioned repeatedly.
“She’s a woman,” said Jennifer Kemp, a real estate manager from Columbia. “I think it’s that simple… History repeats itself.”
The sexism those voters saw at work during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run had not abated four years later, handicapping the Massachusetts senator who had been the strongest female candidate in the 2020 field.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Meaghan Paul, a 30-year old speech therapist from Columbia, said of Warren’s struggle. “A lot of it has to do with the fact that she is a woman and fights hard. It’s worked against her.”