Elizabeth Warren has intensified her first female president pitch.
Down two women rivals and statistically wedged among a trio of men, the Massachusetts senator now finds herself as the Democratic primary’s only female candidate to crack the top tier. And in recent weeks, she has embraced the possibility of becoming the first woman to occupy the White House with new fervor, giving voters a strong verbal and visual contrast to her direct competition: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg.
“It’s the three B’s and Elizabeth,” Deborah Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said. “She does, by the very nature of who she is, stand out in that group.”
But now, it’s more overt.
In a single month, Warren elevated three congresswomen to co-chair her campaign, promised to amplify two former female rivals’ voices on the trail, courted black women in the South, and even pledged to choose a scarf that promotes reproductive freedom on Inauguration Day. Most recently, she gave oxygen to the idea that the country is ready for a national ticket that doesn’t include a man’s name on it.
“Elizabeth Warren is smart in wrapping herself around it,” Patti Solis Doyle, who served as Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008, told The Daily Beast when asked about Warren embracing the historic possibility.
Taken together, the maneuvering, which has amplified over the past several weeks, is an apparent attempt to present a cohesive pro-woman package as the field of candidates narrows just weeks before early voting commences.
“That idea is still very, very strong and meaningful,” Solis Doyle said.
In November, Warren announced a slate of three female campaign co-chairs: Reps. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Katie Porter (D-CA), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), who were elected during the 2018 midterms when women swept the House in record numbers. Pressley, a coveted progressive endorsement and the only so-called “Squad” member to back Warren over Sanders, became the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. Haaland was one of the first two Native American women elected and was on hand as a surrogate at several Democratic debates.
The day after she endorsed last month, Pressley appeared alongside Warren at an event at Clark Atlanta University as part of the presidential aspirant’s outreach to the most reliable voting constituency in the Democratic Party.
“The fighters I want to talk about tonight are black women,” Warren said, before addressing issues that disproportionately impact black women.
“Frankly, it’s a smart political move,” Christina Reynolds, vice president of communications for Emily’s List, a group that helps recruit and elect women to office, including Warren, told The Daily Beast. “But I also think it’s who she is. I might just argue it’s gotten a little more attention lately.”
Other gestures have been more symbolic.
At a campaign stop in Iowa last week, the senator promised to wear the same accessory she donned during Trump’s inauguration in 2017, a scarf from Planned Parenthood, which has been under intense fire during the Trump administration.
“We know the power of women’s vote,” Reynolds added. “And we certainly know it in this primary.”
Warren also took the rare step last week to provide a window into her thought process when pondering potential vice president options, teasing the possibility that voters would back an all-female presidential ticket.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Warren said voters “would support a lot of different combinations” of candidates and running mates. “Sure, why not?,” she said at a stop in Charleston, South Carolina, adding she would consider Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who dropped out of the Democratic primary last week, for that slot if she secured the nomination.
Female strategists and Democratic campaign veterans agreed that the idea of a two-woman ticket is hardly radical, particularly citing the high return on investment female candidates delivered in the 2018 midterms.
“About as radical as having two-male ticket,” Solis Doyle said. “I don’t think she’s going to get punished for it.”
Still, there is ample polling that shows a hesitance among some voters about a female nominee. Most recently, in a November New York Times Upshot and Siena College poll of key battleground states, 41 percent of voters who said they support Biden, who leads national polling averages, but not Warren said they agree with the statement that most of the women who run for president “just aren’t that likeable.”
Warren hasn’t shied away from those questions. Addressing a New Hampshire voter’s question about how to convince men to vote for a woman, she said, “How about we give them a tough, smart woman to vote for?” to applause.
When presented with that option, some female campaign operatives were still bristling from the 2016 election, when Hillary Clinton was perceived to many women as exactly the type of candidate Warren was referencing in her answer.
“No comment,” one prominent female 2016 veteran said. “We’ve been here before. Hillary Clinton ran twice. She was the perceived frontrunner on both occasions. I have nothing else to say.”
But Warren is hoping to overcome that. And without Harris, who enjoyed the enthusiastic backing of the so-called KHive, a group of active, largely women-of-color supporters, in the race, her campaign has taken steps to court her voters and elevate issues important the California senator’s own historic White House bid.
.@KamalaHarris is a leading advocate for reproductive rights—and I'll fight alongside her to enact her proposal requiring federal preclearance when state and local governments with a history of violating Roe v. Wade try to restrict reproductive rights,” Warren tweeted last week, with a link to her own reproductive rights plan.
She’s also given a nod to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)—who made women and family issues, as well as the #MeToo movement, a central part of her campaign before dropping out in late August—as helping raise awareness of gender diversity in politics.
“We've seen a record number of women in this primary. That has meant that together, we've been able to shape the national conversation to highlight issues impacting people in America,” Warren tweeted on Friday. “But as billionaires buy their way into the race, some of my colleagues have been pushed out,” she said, incorporating her signature anti-corruption platform into the messaging.
Then, she acknowledged she’s ready to pick up the mantle.
“Others have said it before me: ‘If you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu,’” Warren continued. “I’m looking forward to continuing to fight alongside @SenGillibrand and @KamalaHarris, who are advancing an agenda that will transform the lives of people of all genders.”
Two other female candidates, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and author Marianne Williamson, did not meet the threshold for the next Democratic debate in Los Angeles. But Warren will not be the only woman among the seven contenders who did make the cut: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also qualified.
But while Klobuchar made a point to decry the double standard women candidates face during an interview last month on CNN’s State of the Union, she pivoted to a more gender-neutral argument when asked about those comments on The View.
“I'm proud to be a woman candidate, but I'm not running to be the first woman,” Klobuchar said when asked about a higher standard female candidates are held to when campaigning. “I'm actually running to have your backs and to get things done.”
“As this lane becomes more wide open she is clearly and strategically, and smartly and sincerely, leaning into this a bit more,” Walsh said.
To be sure, Warren never abandoned feminist signatures that have run throughout her nearly year-long presidential campaign. She chose to release an affordable child care plan as her fist policy roll out, becoming the first 2020 Democrat to do so. And much of her stump speech is heavy with personal anecdotes about struggling at times as a single mom and professional woman. Child care, in particular, nearly crushed her career trajectory. In addition, three of her signature campaign speeches, including her candidacy launch in Lawrence, Massachusetts in February and a rally focused on gender in New York City’s Washington Square Park in September, coupled with the Atlanta address, were centered around women’s labor movement, often paying homage to past female pioneers. In March, she wrote a Medium post explicitly titled “Let’s talk about the woman question.”
But now, with just two months until early state voting commences, Warren, who has become more widely known for her broad anti-corruption message and progressive railing against billionaires, has dialed up the shades reminiscent of the “she persisted” moment in 2017, where she famously rebuked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor.
“Strategically, I think it opens up for her an ability to put some of those things front and center that makes people notice,” Walsh said. “For women voters, for women-of-color voters, she really has the potential to tap into that.”