Six months after launching a high-profile attempt to push Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into the 2016 presidential race, the campaign to draft Warren is calling it quits, according to officials with the two groups that founded the effort.
With Warren no more likely to enter the race today than she was in December — when Democracy for America (DFA) and MoveOn.org started their “Run Warren Run” campaign — the two major liberal groups have decided to suspend their efforts.
On Monday, the groups will “rest their case” by delivering to Warren more than 365,000 petitions they collected encouraging her to run. Afterwards, they will suspend the Run Warren Run campaign, which included on-the-ground organizers and field offices in Iowa and New Hampshire.
MoveOn.org and Democracy for America had previously worked closely with Warren’s office on policy goals in the Senate, but the groups were forced to sever ties once they launched their draft campaign. They now plan to return to working with Warren and other lawmakers, especially on fighting Obama’s trade policy. In one example, both groups have been involved in a large petition-delivering event on trade that will take place at the Capitol later this week.
While failing to get Warren to run, the groups nonetheless said they were successful in injecting issues championed by the senator into the 2016 presidential race.
“The Run Warren Run campaign has changed the conversation by showing that Americans are hungry for Elizabeth Warren’s agenda,” said MoveOn.org executive director Ilya Sheyman.
As they see it, Bernie Sanders’ surprising rise in early polls and Clinton’s shift to the left on key issues might not have happened without the spectre of a Warren candidacy and their organizing around it.
And the groups are keeping the flame alive that Warren could still jump in.
“There’s plenty of time for Sen. Warren to change her mind,” said Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain. “But now that we’ve shown that she has the support she would need to mount a winning a campaign, we’re excited to take the grassroots juggernaut we’ve built with our members and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Warren in the battles ahead.”
MoveOn.org and DFA are membership-driven organizations, and they decided to try to draft Warren after polling their members and finding she was the overwhelming favorite. The two groups have a combined membership of more than 9 million members and pledged $1.25 million to the campaign. The New York Working Families Party also thew its support behind the group. In the end Run Warren Run got just 4% of their members to sign.
A separate preexisting super PAC, Ready for Warren, was not directly involved in MoveOn.org and DFA’s campaign.
From the moment it launched, the effort faced criticism inside progressive circles. Some dismissed it as a gimmicky fundraising ploy. They pointed to MoveOn.org’s declining finances over time and assumed it had to do something big to compensate. MoveOn.org raised almost $27 million in the 2006 midterm election and $10 million in last year’s midterms.
Others wondered why the groups chased an uninterested Warren when a progressive like Bernie Sanders was ready to go. Many correctly doubted it would succeed in its stated goal of drafting Warren.
Throughout, Warren has told anyone who would listen that she was not planning to run for president. She also took none of the behind-the-scenes moves necessary ahead of a presidential run.
Since Clinton announced her candidacy in April, she has been working hard to win over voters from the so-called Elizabeth Warren wing of her party by moving to the left on key issues. Clinton has peppered speeches with statistics about outrageous CEO pay and talked tough on Wall street regulation.
“Elizabeth Warren’s brand of politics has taken center stage,” said Bob Master, the co-chair of the New York Working Families Party. “The fight against inequality hasn’t been this energetic in a generation, and you can see it in the push-back against the TPP. The draft effort has left a real mark on the political landscape.”