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Elizabeth Warren says she’s not running for president, but what does that mean?

REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Warren is keeping her options open.

When she is asked about a possible presidential candidacy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts issues a seemingly simple six-word reply: “I am not running for president.”

Although the leftier wing of the Democratic Party is nervous about Hillary Clinton, about the fact that she voted for the Iraq War, about her ties to Wall Street money, and generally about just how liberal of a president she would be, a Warren candidacy could be problematic for both women, even if only because they are both women and would have to divide between them a portion of the Democratic primary electorate that is strongly motivated about electing the first woman president.

But since Warren is “not running for the president,” that potential problem goes away, right?

The first time I heard Warren’s declaration of non-candidacy, I was impressed with its apparent non-waffling clarity. But after a while, I noticed that she always used exactly those six words and that, on their face, they could translate into “I am not at this time a declared candidate for president, but I am holding open the option of entering the race.”

In an NPR interview Monday morning, Steve Inskeep pressed on the “present tense” issue. He asked Warren what she would say to people, calling themselves “Ready for Warren,” who are encouraging her to run for president in 2016. She replied:

Warren: “I’m, I’m not running for president. That’s not what we’re doing. We had a really important fight in the United States Congress just this past week. And I’m putting all my energy into that fight and to what happens after this.”

Inskeep: “Would you tell these independent groups, ‘Give it up!’ You’re just never going to run.”

Warren: “I told them, ‘I’m not running for president.’ ”

Inskeep: “You’re putting that in the present tense, though. Are you never going to run?”

Warren: “I am not running for president.”

Inskeep: “You’re not putting a ‘never’ on that.”

Warren: “I am not running for president. You want me to put an exclamation point at the end?”

Inskeep: (Laughs) “OK, that’s fine.”

Translation: Warren is keeping her options open and might run for president.

The full transcript of the Inskeep-Warren interview is here.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 12/15/2014 - 02:52 pm.

    It means she’s not running for President

    The media’s obsession with parsing words on this issue is absurd.

    Of course, it’s in Warren’s interest tonot give you all the preceise wording that is required because it brings attention to her and to the very real fight she’s trying to wage in the Senate right now.

    Would that some of the time and attention spent chasing around potential 2016 candidates in 2014 be used to actually talk about some of these issues in depth…

  2. Submitted by David Therkelsen on 12/15/2014 - 03:13 pm.

    Should EW run in 2016?

    I would like to see Elizabeth Warren run for, and become President. She is one of the few national political figures who sees and says with utter clarity that powerful entrenched interests are devoting unimaginable resources to make sure government doesn’t work very well (thus breeding cynicism and nonparticipation) and that “the pie” is mostly there to be divided up by the 1%.

    Her dilemma is this: in 2016 millions of voters will feel “burned” that we elected a President with a very thin political resume. (I don’t agree with this, but it this will be part of the dynamic.) The electorate may not be willing to go there again.

    However, if she waits until 2020, she will be 71 years old – two years older than Ronald Reagan, up until now the oldest person elected President.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/15/2014 - 04:09 pm.

      Your reason for supporting her

      is that she can articulate a problem that you agree with? What has she prescribed as a solution? Until she does that, she’s done nothing to warrent giving her any power.

      Anyone can identify problems. But as we’ve seen with Obama, that doesn’t translate into workable solutions … especially (like Obama) if she has no track record of actually implementing any solutions.

      The GOP will nominate a governor (several will be running) who has actually solved problems.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/15/2014 - 05:30 pm.


      The difference is in the female aging arc, which is longer than the male one.
      Women live longer — a woman of age 71 has about 7 more productive years left than a man of the same age. Therefore, you’d have to compare Warren (or Clinton now) with Reagan at age 62; before he was showing signs of Alzheimers.

    • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 12/16/2014 - 08:30 am.

      She won’t win because…

      she’s pretty far left. She only speaks of the uber progressive topics and as if business is the cause of all our problems. Many Democrats know that our country is not vested into this type of thinking and she would be trounced if she ever got to the general election.
      Yes, we have a president with a thin resume and even thinner experience in the real world. But EW’s fate is decided on her positions that are even farther left than our very liberal president.

  3. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 12/15/2014 - 04:29 pm.


    she says that she is not running for POTUS it means she is running for POTUS.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/15/2014 - 04:36 pm.

    Warren for President

    I think Dave Therkelsen comes pretty close.

    Warren’s options are actually pretty limited, largely because of what’s in Therkelsen’s last sentence. Maybe 70 is the new 60 (I have a vested interest in that interpretation), but I don’t think the general public would agree. Having said that, by the way, it’s also useful to note that Hillary is 67, so “youth” is a *very* relative term in this context.

    Otherwise, I’d be happy to support Warren for the reasons Therkelsen states. As long as we’re going to be stuck in the 2nd Gilded Age, with Robber Barons all around, I’d like to see someone in a leadership position willing to call plutocrats plutocrats. As I’ve read elsewhere, it’s very difficult, politically, to bite the hand that feeds you, so Hillary is unlikely to disembowel Goldman Sachs or any of the other financial leeches currently feeding happily on an economy they’ve done much to weaken.

    Frankly, that poses a serious dilemma for Democrats, in my humble, nonprofessional, estimation. What male potential candidate can – at this moment – match either the name recognition or the popularity with Democrats of one or both women? Yet Hillary has a 747-load of baggage trailing behind her, plus a husband who will provoke strong feelings, many of them negative. Warren, as Therkelsen points out, has almost no real administrative experience. That didn’t hinder Abraham Lincoln, or, to a degree, Harry Truman, but we live in different times.

    Meanwhile, Republicans have a boatload of knee-jerk reactionary Governors who can claim administrative experience (including our passive-aggressive neighbor, Mr. Walker), and several members of Congress whose name recognition and lack of administrative experience matches up with Warren’s fairly closely. 2016 will be an interesting year, and I’d love to see the current iteration of the Republican Party go down in a fireball of self-destruction, but there was little in the midterm elections to provoke optimism along those lines.

    I like Warren, and would vote for her, but regardless of how many words she uses, I think she will not run.

  5. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/15/2014 - 05:21 pm.

    Why would she want to run for President?

    Senator Warren is an effective voice in the Senate. She is able to finance on the financial and economic areas of her expertise. As a Senator, she has a platform from which she can–at the very least–continue to draw attention to issues like rising inequality, or the recklessness of the financial sector.

    A President has to be presidential. She could not focus on the areas of greatest concern but would have to involve herself in foreign and defense affairs, often to the exclusion of everything else.

    Senator Warren is needed in the Senate. She can do more good grilling corporate executives at hearings than she could in the Oval Office.

  6. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 12/16/2014 - 05:57 am.

    Despite immense admiration for Sen. Warren,…

    …I feel her candidacy for President would virtually guarantee a Republican that office in 2016 – and not because of her age nor gender.

    The country has shifted its political weight to the right so much, I fear she is just plain too liberal – compared with the putative “middle” of the electorate.

    I’m not saying the political inclinations of the electorate’s middle makes any sense. They don’t seem able to identify their true political enemies. So oftentimes they vote against their own interests. And that is very bad news for a candidate like Elizabeth Warren.

    Another problem is that Warren may not be willing to hold her nose and lick the feet of all the donors of all that dark money that will swing the next election for President. For Hillary? No problem !!

  7. Submitted by Peggy Reinhardt on 12/16/2014 - 09:46 am.

    Warren vs. Sanders

    I hear the same issues articulated very well by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. He doesn’t carry Dem. or Rep. baggage yet seems to be invisible to main stream media.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/16/2014 - 10:03 am.


      because he will be 75 years old in 2016. Jus sayin.

      Of course, Warren will be 67, a relative youngster.

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