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POLITICS: PennAve

Ambivalent about Hillary, liberals cheer Elizabeth Warren

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Congress,Democratic Party,Hillary Clinton,2016 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,CFPB,Tim Mak,Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has said repeatedly that she isn't running for president in 2016. But fellow Democrats apparently don't hear her. Progressives hoping to pull the Democratic Party further to the left still see Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, as an unapologetic liberal and potential standard-bearer for their cause.

Warren, a former Harvard law professor and consumer advocate, is unabashed in championing issues dear to the Left, including income equality, an expansion of Social Security, stricter regulation of Wall Street and more generous student loans. Her consumer advocacy work contributed to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“Elizabeth Warren is a passionate and effective advocate for the middle class in this country and one of many great leaders in our party,” said Matt Canter, of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Despite Warren's denials of interest, fans are positioning her as the liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democrats' presumptive presidential front-runner, who progressives fear will cozy up to Wall Street for campaign cash that would make her beholden to its interests. Polls show Warren running ahead of all potential Democratic contenders except Clinton and Vice President Biden.

Warren told the New York Times twice in a late September interview that she had no interest in running for president in 2016, and she tells the same thing to anyone else who asks. And many are asking. Warren has come to represent the Left’s aspirations for the next Democratic presidential nominee and thousands have flocked to a Facebook page calling on Warren to run.

“Warren is viewed as the North Star of the Democratic Party, who the Democratic Party should look to for where to go in the future,” said Matt Wall, of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “We're a fan of Warren because she's a progressive champion, and is willing to stand up for progressive ideals.”

Wall's group is so enamored of Warren that it dispatches members to major Democratic Party events to promote her with shirts and stickers that read, “I’m from the Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party.” The group's website is already selling Elizabeth Warren merchandise — including an Elizabeth Warren onesie for babies.

When the centrist think tank Third Way criticized Warren's "economic populism" in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Left rushed to her side. Progressive groups responded by pressuring another high-profile centrist Democrat -- Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a candidate for governor in Pennsylvania -- to defend Warren by publicly resigning her membership in Third Way and denouncing the group's criticism of Warren as "outrageous."

Warren's office did not return a request for comment on her presidential intentions.

Liberals' desire to see one of their own in the White House has been fueled by their general disappointment with President Obama, who they say failed to deliver on issues ranging from a single-payer national health care plan to the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

“I think there's a lot of frustration, that President Obama said a lot of things that we hoped for, but that didn't happen,” said T. Neil Sroka, of the progressive group Democracy for America. “Elizabeth Warren represents a lot of that hunger.”

The Left's embrace of Warren over Clinton is an indication of liberal concerns that Clinton would disappoint them as much as Obama. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have always been cozy with Wall Street and its interests, seen in Bill Clinton's support for the deregulation of banks. And for the Left, that's a red flag.

“It's a real problem, the lack of ideological purity — the lack of ideology, period — among far too many Democrats,” Sroka said.

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