Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who last year slammed Joe Biden as “naive” for thinking he could work with Republicans as president, has emerged as a top adviser for the presumptive Democratic White House nominee.
At the same time, the Massachusetts senator, who came in third in her home state’s presidential primary, continues to remain at the top of several polls regarding whom Biden should choose as a running mate.
Biden and Warren talk every 10 days or so, according to anonymous sources quoted by The Associated Press. Those conversations have provided opportunities for one of the nation’s leading liberal voices to make a case on top policy issues to Biden, who has adopted Warren-endorsed plans on personal bankruptcy, expanding Social Security benefits and canceling student loan debt for millions of Americans.
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Warren, meanwhile, is lending Biden her progressive credentials and frequently hosts campaign events for him, including one recent fundraiser that brought in $6 million. Only former President Barack Obama has secured a greater haul.
Earlier this year, Biden committed to choosing a female running mate and also said he would appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Since the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police and the resulting national unrest and protests, some Democrats are reportedly increasing pressure on Biden to choose a Black female running mate. Biden has said he will announce his choice in early August.
A recent YouGov Blue poll conducted for Data for Progress of independent voters shows significant differences in income and confidence in Biden among voters who support Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris as the top choice for vice president. The poll was conducted among 538 independent voters in 12 battleground states including Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
While many independents are undecided, those with an opinion are tied between Warren and Harris. No other potential nominee breaks 5%.
Among independents who say they currently don’t lean toward either party, Warren is the first or second choice of 23% of those voters, with Harris the first or second choice of 21%. Warren is the first choice of 11% of these pure independents, and Harris is the also the first choice of 11%. Among all independents, the results are also statistically tied.
“Most of Warren’s support comes from voters in households that earn under $60,000, less than the median income,” said John Ray, senior political analyst of YouGov. “Most of Harris’ comes from voters with a family income of more than $70,000, above the median family income.”
“Among battleground-state persuadable voters who are unsure about voting for Biden, Warren is the clear first choice for vice president,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder and executive director of Data for Progress.
Even if Warren isn’t chosen, she could land a spot in a Biden Cabinet such as Treasury secretary or lead the Federal Reserve, where Chair Jerome Powell’s term ends in 2022. Adam Green, a close Warren ally and co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee advocacy group, said the health and economic fallout of the coronavirus has made the policies she championed as a presidential candidate more vital than ever. He said her strength is “pulling and pushing the levers of power to maximize big results” no matter “the hand she happens to be dealt at the time.”
Avalanche Insights recently polled 4,193 registered voters in several battleground states and found undecided voters who are open to Biden want a vice president who will take bold action on the economy. Warren placed first, with 24%, over Harris (16%), former national security adviser Susan Rice (10%) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (10%).
Voters leaning toward Biden are more divided on their priorities. When asked what they most want a VP to prioritize, they answered that they want a VP who will work to fix the economy (27%), deal with COVID (23%), bring fresh ideas (19%) and address racial justice (17%). The survey was conducted July 7-9 and with voters in the top battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida.
Coincidentally, a clash with then-Senator Biden during a 2005 congressional hearing over a bankruptcy law was the first time many Americans laid eyes on Warren, who was teaching law at Harvard University at the time. It ended with him conceding, “You’re a very good teacher, professor.”
Warren later conceived of a watchdog group that became the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, while its creation was still being debated in Congress in 2010, suggested that a watered-down version was unacceptable. Warren said then that she’d rather have “no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.” After the agency was created, Warren’s polarizing nature came through when the Obama administration passed her over to become its first full-time director, fearing a Senate fight.
While running for the Senate in 2012, Warren squared off against popular Republican incumbent Scott Brown, who tried to use the “blood and teeth” quote against her.
“This is not someone who’s willing to be at all flexible and compromise on anything,” said Colin Reed, a veteran of Brown’s 2012 campaign. He said that now Warren has “been helpful to a guy who, in a prior life, she had been pretty disdainful of” in Biden.
“Her presidential campaign didn’t go particularly well,” Reed said. “I don’t know if this is her saying, ‘For my next political act, I have to offer something new.’”
A Warren spokesperson declined to comment for this story, and Biden's campaign has refused to speak publicly about its running mate selection process. But Warren has lately become a visible face of the Biden campaign.
During a recent virtual event meant to appeal to younger voters, she talked about her aversion to coffee by laughing at her own reputation for being extremely high energy: “Can you imagine me with caffeine?” Warren also showed off her golden retriever, Bailey, who was a staple of her own presidential campaign, declaring, “Bailey for Biden.”
During the virtual fundraiser she hosted for Biden last month, Warren described how the former vice president called after her eldest brother died of the coronavirus “when I needed some kindness and comfort.” The moment was so intimate — despite coming via video conference — that Biden responded by calling her “Elizabeth” before catching himself and going back to the more formal “Senator Warren.”
“We’re so lucky to have you on the frontline,” Biden said.