Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spent much of the Democratic primary belting back (and even happily promoting) attacks from monied interests on everything from the details of her wealth tax to her grander vision for financial restrictions in the country.
Now, some cash-flush alarm-sounders have gone mute on the Massachusetts Democrat.
“Not a peep,” one prominent Democratic donor adviser said when asked if Warren’s name is mentioned with any regularity on finance calls about the general election. “I’m on calls 12 hours a day and it just doesn’t ever come up.”
As former Vice President Joe Biden attempts to give something to both progressives and moderates unified against President Donald Trump, Warren has become an increasingly front and center part of the presumptive nominee’s broad reach. She hosted one of the Biden team’s most profitable fundraisers, bringing in $6 million, according to the campaign, and has appeared in a variety of virtual events intended to encourage enthusiasm and turnout. Last week, Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden’s campaign, hosted a joint event with Warren and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who supported her bid.
“Vote like your life depends on it because it does. Pick any issue you care about, I guarantee it is on the line in this election and Joe Biden has a vision for how to make change,” Warren said during the virtual event, which was later turned into a press release and distributed through the campaign’s media list with an “ICYMI” flag.
For months, before Biden secured the party’s presumptive backing, some moderate Democrats warned against the perceived electoral problems of promoting progressive fiscal policies too strongly. The better approach, the thinking among some in Biden’s circle went, was don’t spook the donor class by shunning “big-dollar fundraisers,” as Warren proudly did during her own bid. At one point, Biden’s camp even seemed to use an oft-repeated Republican insinuation that Warren’s posturing on such issues was “elitism.”
With just over three months until the general election, however, concerns about the progressive senator, and the direction she may steer Biden towards if he’s elected, seem to be on the backburner among affluent Democrats. Hypothesizing, planning around, or even freaking out about what role she could potentially play in a Biden administration is not worthy of entertaining until after Nov. 3, several Democratic fundraisers and even top anti-Trump Republicans agreed.
“I speak to a lot of donors,” a second well-connected Democratic national fundraiser in Biden’s finance bubble told The Daily Beast. “The Biden donors are interested in having Joe Biden elected president and defeating Donald Trump. Anything else can be dealt with secondarily,” the fundraiser said.
“I think there were fears about her being vice president, but I’ve heard not one person—and I talk to a lot—[say] we’re worried she’s going to be in the cabinet. I think nobody’s there yet.”
A spokesperson for Warren did not respond to a request for comment.
Warren has remained very much in the fold after ending her presidential bid in March, the same month that Biden ultimately promised to put a woman on the ticket as his running mate. Whispers about her as a potential vice presidential pick seemed to start just after she endorsed Biden the following month. Officially, the campaign has not given any indication about whom they might select, but in mid-April, Warren said “yes” when asked by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow if she would agree to take the position if offered. Since then, Biden has faced some sustained calls to choose a Black woman for that role, and on Monday, he acknowledged to anchor Joy Reid in her inaugural primetime program on the same network that he was vetting four Black women among his pool of candidates.
But the campaign, and Biden himself, have nonetheless kept Warren top of mind.
“We’re so lucky to have you on the front line,” Biden said about Warren, according to a pool report from the joint Biden-Warren fundraiser in June. In that event, the former vice president gave substantial praise to the senator, and vice versa, over their respective policy achievements and personal stories.
At a time of increased economic instability and public health concerns from coronavirus—intertwined crises Biden often refers to in tandem in his stump speeches—Warren, who conceived of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under former President Barack Obama, has helped inform his view on a number of national policies, according to a report by the Associated Press on Wednesday, which noted that Biden and Warren “talk every 10 days or so.”
“I think we’re at a moment in which a lot of people’s acute concerns about Elizabeth Warren and her policies in government have been lapped, taken over, by acute concerns about whether or not the economy is ever going to come back,” Stu Loeser, a longtime spokesman for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, told The Daily Beast.
Warren and Bloomberg vehemently disagreed over a host of political issues immediately following his late entrance into the Democratic field. In Nov. 2019, as The Daily Beast pointed out at the time, Warren chose Bloomberg as the first Democrat to overtly attack after previously promising to remain positive in tone on her rivals throughout the cycle. In one notable debate performance, she abruptly called Bloomberg, then her arch rival, an “arrogant billionaire” whom the country should not just “substitute” out for Trump.
But tensions from those well-positioned around wealthy Democrats seemed to have softened as the general election nears, with Biden’s campaign walking a fine line between looping in the party’s left-leaning faction and even a growing number of Republicans to defeat Trump.
“I don’t think you’re going to find that many of us that are huge fans of Elizabeth Warren, just like we were absolutely firmly against Bernie Sanders,” said Sarah Longwell, a GOP strategist who co-founded Republican Voters Against Trump, one of the groups across the aisle strategizing around limiting Trump to one term in the White House. “We’ve been Republicans all our lives.”
“That being said, we also are doing this knowing full well that electing Joe Biden means that he’s going to do things with other Democrats,” she said. “We do this because Donald Trump is an existential threat to the country.”
Another well-established voice in conservative, anti-Trump circles agreed that Warren’s name doesn’t come up much at all these days. Upon reflection, the GOP media source said that she would possibly pack a greater punch as a top dog in the Senate on policy, particularly if Democrats reclaim the chamber, rather than in the administration.
But as the tension around Warren has temporarily been put on hold among Biden’s donor set, not every Democrat close to money is willing to embrace her fully, and some are convinced it’s more a matter of when, not if, she becomes a polarizing figure again.
“Wall Street just inherently doesn’t trust Elizabeth Warren, and that could be for good reasons or bad reasons. But I think the calculation that Joe Biden will have to make is whether or not he’s willing to take the risk of appointing a friend over true economic recovery,” said another major Biden bundler in the financial sector who supports Warren’s work in advocating for financial consumers.
Speaking freely about Warren possibly being an adviser, versus taking on a formal role in the administration, a separate Biden bundler said: “I want to hope that that’s what the campaign is intentionally doing—making sure that she has a voice, and that her amazing track record of protecting working families is incorporated into the platform.” But the bundler added an element of caution that still lingers from decades of head-butting with the left.
“I think there’s a much different conversation that would need to happen if she’s actually being considered for a cabinet-level post at Treasury, or the Fed. I mean, there would be instant economic chaos if she’s even continued to be talked about as an appointee to the Fed.”
—Scott Bixby contributed to this report