A coalition of powerful liberal groups said Tuesday they may launch a formal campaign urging their hero, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to seek the White House in 2016, adding more intrigue to the party’s presidential primary process and casting doubt on the popular narrative that Hillary Rodham Clinton will cruise to the Democratic nomination.
MoveOn.org announced plans to poll its 8 million members on whether they want to see Mrs. Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, mount a presidential bid. Pending the results of that vote, the organization says it may roll out a formal “draft Warren” campaign that would include offices and staff in key early presidential primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
Just a few hours later, the progressive PAC Democracy for America said that if MoveOn members support a Warren bid, they too will support an effort encouraging the freshman senator to enter the 2016 race.
Liberal enthusiasm around Mrs. Warren is nothing new: For years, progressives have embraced her as the leader of a populist wing in the Democratic Party that promotes an expansion of entitlement programs such as Social Security, more regulations on Wall Street and other issues.
But Tuesday’s announcement is the biggest indication to date that liberals want to see Mrs. Warren move beyond simply being a progressive leader and toward becoming the party’s standard-bearer in the next presidential cycle.
“There is too much at stake to have anything other than our best candidates in the debate,” said Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action. “We are prepared to show Senator Warren she has the support she needs to enter — and win — the presidential race.”
A Warren campaign would complicate Mrs. Clinton’s path toward the Democratic nomination, which at one point seemed to be a certainty.
Mrs. Clinton still polls far ahead of all potential rivals — including Mrs. Warren, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and others — in surveys of overall Democratic voters, but among the passionate progressive wing, her support is much weaker.
Last month, Democracy for America released the results of a poll asking its members which candidates they want to see run for president in 2016. Mrs. Warren was the clear winner, getting votes from 42 percent of the group’s members.
Mrs. Clinton came in third, with 23 percent, also trailing Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, with 24 percent.
“Washington consultants can spout off a dozen reasons why Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t run, but none of that Beltway blather means a thing next to this one simple truth: The Democratic Party and our country desperately need Warren’s voice in the 2016 presidential debate,” Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said Tuesday. “Senator Warren has deep grass-roots support, an unwavering populist progressive vision and the fearless fighting spirit needed to win the support of Democrats, independents and Republicans. And that’s why, pending the results of MoveOn’s vote, we will ask DFA members to support our plans to join the emerging Draft Warren effort.”
Some Republicans also are eager for a Warren candidacy, but for very different reasons. They suggest that the Massachusetts Democrat holds such liberal views that, if she runs, the GOP would easily secure the White House in two years.
“Please, God, let us have Elizabeth Warren,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Fox News last month. “Look, I think she’s a very passionate person, and I respect her because I think she has the courage to speak her convictions. I just think her convictions don’t sync with most of America. But I do respect that fact that she comes out and says something, and she’s not so handled and scripted. That’s refreshing.”
Mr. Huckabee, who effectively finished second in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, went on to say that with Mrs. Warren as their nominee, Democrats would suffer a defeat on the scale of South Dakota Sen. George McGovern’s loss in 1972.
In that election, incumbent President Richard M. Nixon carried 49 states in a blowout win over McGovern.