Elizabeth Warren forms 2020 exploratory committee

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wades into the 2020 presidential race by announcing she's launching a presidential exploratory committee.

Posted: Jan 1, 2019 8:12 PM
Updated: Jan 1, 2019 8:36 PM

She's running.

Elizabeth Warren, that is, who announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee on Monday -- making the Massachusetts senator the first top-tier contender into the 2020 Democratic race.

Or is she? A top-tier contender, I mean.

A few years ago, that question would have been a no-brainer. Warren was courted by liberals unsatisfied with Hillary Clinton's 2016 candidacy to make a late entrance into the race. Had she done so, she could well have offered a more electable alternative to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, casting herself as a liberal's liberal who had both fought and worked within the system successfully.

She passed on that race.

Now, with several years of hindsight, you have to wonder whether she missed her moment.

Warren enters this 2020 contest as one of the fundraising leaders (she had more than $12 million in the bank at the end of November), one of only a handful of candidates regularly polling in the high single-digits or low double-digits in most national polling on the 2020 contest, and someone who has already built the start of real organizations in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

And yet, the shine that surrounded her from her 2012 Senate win through (and even after) the 2016 election has been quite clearly tarnished, most notably by her botched attempt this fall to put questions about her Native American heritage behind her. The release of a slickly produced video regarding her claims of Native American ancestry did nothing to quell the controversy and almost certainly made things worse.

In the wake of that disaster, stories emerged -- including this one in The New York Times -- that suggested the heritage debacle had raised doubts even in the minds of her most loyal supporters about her capacity to run and win in 2020. And as Harry Enten notes, Warren's 2018 re-election victory was not terribly impressive, either.

That Warren decided to be the first major candidate to explore the race -- outgoing Rep. John Delaney is already running and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro formed an exploratory committee earlier this month -- is in some ways an acknowledgment of her weakened state. The supposed favorites usually hold off announcing their runs until the spring -- waiting to see how the field shakes out a bit (and letting the lesser-known candidates fight it out) before wading in. In this race, that would include people like Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

It once would have also included Warren. But her decision to enter early is clearly an acknowledgment that she has considerable work to do with early state voters (and major donors) to repair the self-inflicted damage of her attempt to put the Native American question behind her.

Writing off any candidate 13 months before a single voter votes is idiotic. Warren has time to fix what ails her. She has money and organization to help do that. And she has a message -- corporate greed and corruption are rampant in the country all the way up to and including the White House -- that should resonate with a Democratic electorate that is absolutely fed up with the direction President Donald Trump has led the country.

That said, the presidential race is built on momentum and timing. Barack Obama might not have been "Barack Obama" if he had passed on running in 2008 because Clinton was already in the race. Beto O'Rourke is the hot thing in Democratic politics right now, but what if he decides not to run in 2020? Where will he be in four years? (Sidebar: This is exactly why O'Rourke shouldn't even hesitate to run this time around.)

To understand how impactful timing and momentum are to a candidate's chances, Warren needs to look no further than the woman she was being urged to take on in 2016.

Elected to the Senate in 2000, Clinton was immediately seen as a likely presidential candidate. She repeatedly demurred despite urgings as late as the fall of 2003 that she should make a last-minute entry into the 2004 campaign against George W. Bush. John Kerry won the nomination -- and promptly lost to Bush.

Clinton's decision to pass on the 2004 race was seen, at the time, as a savvy one. Beating an incumbent is never easy and Bush was still benefiting somewhat from the aftermath of his handling of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The 2008 contest was an open one, and Clinton was regarded as a clear favorite -- not just for the nomination, but the White House.

Then came Obama. And Clinton's best-laid plans were shattered. Eight years later, Clinton appeared to have a second chance. Then along came Trump, who blasted her as a creature of the past and the political swamp -- labels she struggled to rid herself of due to her long years spent in the national spotlight.

The point here is simple: When running for president, timing matters hugely. Windows of opportunity sometimes open -- and close -- unexpectedly. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20 -- but I bet if you asked Clinton today whether she should have run in 2004, she would likely say "yes."

Warren is hoping like hell that the window that opened for her in 2016 hasn't slammed shut in 2020. That is, of course, an open question.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 667262

Reported Deaths: 12737
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion913541660
Lake48729891
Allen36175646
Hamilton32489398
St. Joseph30361514
Elkhart25536420
Vanderburgh21343382
Tippecanoe20240205
Johnson16485363
Porter16077281
Hendricks15955302
Clark12079182
Madison11810323
Vigo11699234
Monroe10440164
Delaware9899179
LaPorte9838201
Howard9127203
Kosciusko8600111
Bartholomew7531147
Hancock7471134
Warrick7456153
Floyd7269173
Wayne6661192
Grant6465158
Boone618691
Morgan6135129
Dubois5942112
Dearborn551570
Cass5489100
Marshall5456105
Henry544395
Noble513878
Jackson465967
Shelby463591
Lawrence4197113
Gibson405585
Harrison404065
Clinton397653
Montgomery391984
DeKalb388278
Miami358463
Knox357886
Whitley352438
Huntington350877
Steuben340455
Putnam334660
Wabash333976
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Adams326349
Jasper319343
White298553
Jefferson296574
Daviess286196
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261732
Wells259175
Scott252150
LaGrange242670
Clay241644
Randolph226577
Spencer219630
Jennings216944
Washington213327
Sullivan203839
Fountain202842
Starke190051
Owen184254
Fulton179937
Jay178828
Carroll176919
Perry174136
Orange171451
Rush165722
Vermillion161543
Franklin160135
Tipton150041
Parke140216
Pike128633
Blackford120727
Pulaski107844
Newton96832
Brown95340
Crawford92613
Benton92513
Martin80314
Warren76014
Switzerland7568
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0427

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 978471

Reported Deaths: 17501
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1130371251
Cuyahoga969331881
Hamilton739231067
Montgomery47536923
Summit40720831
Butler35859531
Lucas35802720
Stark29602826
Warren22593275
Lorain22218424
Mahoning19586551
Lake18564332
Clermont18541205
Delaware16614121
Licking15096194
Fairfield14653188
Trumbull14437424
Greene13664221
Medina13531237
Clark12394256
Wood11670170
Portage11140172
Allen10822216
Richland10376188
Miami10065194
Muskingum8244117
Columbiana8174210
Pickaway8096111
Tuscarawas8083232
Marion8021127
Wayne7939199
Erie6972146
Ross6178132
Geauga6118142
Hancock6032121
Scioto600988
Ashtabula6002154
Lawrence527886
Union516741
Darke5052116
Belmont5000137
Huron4862108
Jefferson4843137
Sandusky4800112
Washington475596
Seneca4738111
Athens466449
Mercer459781
Auglaize456682
Shelby442679
Knox4056105
Putnam400593
Madison395755
Fulton383461
Ashland383083
Brown375252
Defiance374088
Crawford360198
Logan357673
Preble354187
Clinton342755
Highland328551
Ottawa325471
Williams303568
Jackson292046
Champaign291149
Guernsey288945
Perry271348
Fayette270143
Morrow261637
Henry247961
Hardin247359
Holmes244497
Coshocton241156
Van Wert230357
Gallia223938
Adams218339
Pike217328
Wyandot212450
Hocking195154
Carroll182143
Paulding161134
Meigs136031
Noble129233
Monroe117637
Morgan102220
Harrison100731
Vinton76713
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