Senator Elizabeth Warren in Charleston, South Carolina, the US, February 25 2020. Picture: LOGAN CYRUS / AFP
Senator Elizabeth Warren in Charleston, South Carolina, the US, February 25 2020. Picture: LOGAN CYRUS / AFP

Washington — Senator Elizabeth Warren suspended her presidential campaign on Thursday after failing to win any states on Super Tuesday and seeing no path to capture the Democratic nomination.

She declined to throw her weight behind fellow progressive Bernie Sanders or the more centrist and newly resurgent front-runner Joe Biden, telling reporters she wanted more time to consider her choice.

“I want to take a little time to think a little more,” she said.

Warren said she believed she could be a bridge between the progressive and centrist wings of the Democratic Party, but the election results showed that was not the case.

“I was told at the beginning of this whole undertaking that there were two lanes, the progressive lane that Bernie Sanders is the incumbent for, and the moderate lane that Joe Biden is the incumbent for, and there’s no room for anyone else in this. I didn’t think that was right — but evidently I was wrong,” she said.

Warren made her announcement in the same place she kicked off her campaign — outside her house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was asked about whether she thought gender played a role in her failed campaign, which she called a “trap question” for women.

“If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race everyone says, ‘Whiner!’” Warren said when asked about whether her gender played a role in the race. “And if you say, ‘No, there was no sexism’ about a bazillion women think: ‘What planet do you live on?’”

“All those little girls are going to have to wait four more years,” she said of those who were inspired by the thought of the first female president. “That’s going to be hard,” she said.

Warren never placed higher than third in any primary contest. Her policy proposals proved insufficient to build support from the broad, racially diverse base needed to unite the party.

Even as she was losing the first few contests, Warren was delivering strong debate performances that damaged Michael Bloomberg, who dropped out Wednesday.

Her withdrawal is a dramatic reversal of fortune for a candidate who had been tied with Biden for first place in October 2019

But throughout her campaign, her “I have a plan for that” pitch was insufficient to overcome voters’ doubts about her ability to beat Donald Trump. She found herself squeezed between a progressive electorate that increasingly favoured Bernie Sanders and moderates who saw her as too far left to bring in the swing-state voters a Democratic nominee will need to win.

She wound up placing behind Sanders and Pete Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses. She fared even worse in New Hampshire, coming in fourth place, even though she was expected to have an edge as a senator from a neighbouring state.

By the Nevada caucuses on February 22, she had retooled her approach to the campaign. Instead of sticking to her stump speech devoted to her vision for “big, structural change”, she began taking on her rivals head-on. On the debate stage in Las Vegas she assailed Bloomberg for his record with women, dealing a blow to his campaign.

That debate showing brought in $29m in fundraising, her largest haul to date. But it was not  enough. She won no delegates in Nevada or South Carolina and failed to showcase any strength among Latino and black voters. As final Super Tuesday results were coming in, she had garnered at least 65 delegates, compared with 596 for Biden and 531 for Sanders.

Her withdrawal is a dramatic reversal of fortune for a candidate who had been tied with Biden for first place in October 2019. But in recent months, she was bumped out of the top as Bloomberg ramped up his campaign and Sanders took the lead.

Warren entered the race in late 2018, known for her aggressive criticisms of Wall Street and Washington, her plans to tax wealth and her push to regulate large corporations, which she often said were cheating ordinary people.

“When you see a government that works great for those with money and it’s not working so well for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple, and we need to call it out for what it is,” she said at a rally in Oklahoma City in January.

While she described herself as a “capitalist in my bones”, the strength of her left-leaning campaign alarmed Wall Street and prompted warnings from billionaires and corporate executives that she intended to tear down the system.

She also was a frequent target of Trump, who gave her the nickname “Pocohantas”, a reference to her claim of Native American ancestry that she later recanted and apologised for. Warren developed more policy proposals than any of her rivals, rolling out about 80 plans with a total price tag of $30-trillion. Her best-known proposal — for a wealth tax — called for a 2% levy on America’s richest families, which she said would raise $2.75-trillion over a decade to pay for sweeping proposals for universal health care and cancelling student debt.

Her advocacy dated back to her time as a Harvard law professor and endeared her to a voters eager for a sharp left turn for the Democratic Party. But even as she embraced some of the most liberal policies ever espoused by a presidential candidate she ultimately was unable to seize the progressive mantle from Sanders. Warren’s detailed proposals also made her vulnerable to attacks. Warren delayed delivering specifics for one of the most expensive: Medicare for All. Warren ultimately delivered a $20.5 trillion plan that called for phasing in the policy over three years, but by that time she had alienated voters who questioned her commitment.

A big part of Warren’s message was that she wanted to take money out of politics. She eschewed closed-door fundraisers with big-dollar donors and said she would not  accept help from super PACS.

But, in the end, struggling for cash and flagging in polls, she reversed her vow and became the beneficiary of the largest ad buy by a super PAC in the 2020 primary. She argued that she was forced to play by the rules her opponents had set to keep herself in the race.


Update: March 5 2020

This story has been updated to reflect Elizabeth Warren's official announcement.