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.