As primary season comes to a close and the general election begins to ramp up, so too does the speculation regarding the potential Vice Presidential nominees. The scrutiny under which potential candidates are put is enormous and given the unusual nature of this election cycle, unusual things may happen. Both campaigns may attempt to alter the course of the election in their favor by choosing a Vice Presidential candidate who may normally have never been considered. Enter Elizabeth Warren.
Even a few months ago, the thought of an aggressively liberal, two-woman, Clinton-Warren ticket was borderline outrageous, but not anymore. Polarization on both ends of the spectrum has pushed each party outward and a progressive firebrand like Warren, with her aggressive regulatory agenda, has become the candidate of choice for many Democrats as well as many of those in the media. However, it would be incorrect to read to Warren’s recent aggression towards Trump combined with her appearance alongside Hillary in Ohio as a sign that she is Hillary’s Vice President in waiting. She may be on the shortlist, but it is important to consider the possible benefits of adding Warren to the campaign as well as the risks.
Warren’s fiery rhetoric and ability to attack Donald Trump in his very own manner make for must-see headlines. She would electrify the liberal wing of the party, bringing in so many of those Bernie supporters who claim they would never vote for Clinton. Party unity after this tough primary is as important as ever in the effort to ensure that Donald Trump never gets to the oval office. In fact, a two-woman ticket could be Trump’s ultimate kryptonite given his blatant misogyny, as well as being a symbolic victory for gender equality. Warren’s ability as an attack dog is important, but her ability to excite voters may be what Clinton needs the most. One huge potential problem for her campaign is energizing voters and getting them to the polls. Not adding Warren to the ticket could end up alienating liberals and strengthen Trump’s bid.
There are a few good reasons to question the myth that Hillary is struggling with liberals and that only by choosing Warren as VP would young, liberal, Bernie supporters go to the polls. Clinton is already viewed favorably by 80% of self-identified Democrats. And, among “liberal” Democrats, the group that Warren would bring into the campaign, 79% had favorable views of Clinton. If, as these numbers suggest, Hillary is not actually struggling with liberal voters, Warren could potentially cause more problems than she would make up for.
Warren is loathed by conservatives, so much so that any conservatives sitting on the fence, reluctant to support Trump, may actually perceive his campaign as the lesser of two evils and be pushed to vote for him rather than even just staying home. Trump would inevitably frame this two-woman ticket as the most liberal in history, which could make some voters skittish. By choosing Warren, Clinton also risks alienating financial and business players. Wall Street has, up to this point, been scared off by Trump and in large part supported Hillary. But, with the aggressively anti-banking Warren on the ticket, they may find the prospect of a Trump presidency may begin to sound more promising. On top of all of this is the fact that Warren’s Senate replacement would be appointed by Massachusetts’s Republican Governor, which would be a blow to the Democrats effort to take back the Senate.
It is no secret that Clinton and Warren do not have the warmest of relationships, nor do their agendas necessarily agree. In fact, the biggest drawback to Warren’s being selected to run alongside Hillary may be these differences. As Vice President, Warren very well could find herself tethered to Hillary’s agenda and unable to pursue her own. This would likely mean taking a step back from the kind of aggressive regulation and activism that has made Warren a star in her own right. In fact, it may be Warren’s stardom that is the greatest impediment to her being made VP.
During her time as Senator from Massachusetts, Warren has amassed a sizable following of her own and quickly became one of the most recognizable faces in the Democratic party. That, combined with the two women’s different agendas could mean trouble in the White House, with the charismatic Senator from Massachusetts potentially outshining President Clinton from her role as VP. So, when considering Elizabeth Warren for her VP, Hillary may face a potential trade off between votes and her own to-do list as President. However, there is another likely scenario that could play out.
From her powerful position on the Senate banking committee, Warren is in a prime position already to go after the banks she so badly wants to go after. She would be free to not only pursue her own agenda in what could very well be a Democrat-majority Senate all while still being free to do her worst when attacking Donald Trump. In fact, she may even be in a better position to go after Trump too as a Senator rather than VP candidate. Without having to worry about a direct tie to the campaign and all the careful planning and deliberation that would have to go into each attack (as well as the inevitable softening,) Warren would be free to go for the jugular, so to speak. And even then she would still be able to serve a potential Clinton administration by helping to push Hillary’s own agenda through the Senate. Hillary can reap all of the benefits of working with Warren without any of the risks associated.
Warren’s ability to excite liberals may prove to be enough to win her the nomination. While that may mean the Clinton campaign would lose some backing among financiers and moderates, it very well could be enough to win the election. However, it would be foolish not, at the very least, to assume that simply because of the excitement that choosing Warren would bring that she is the best person for the job or even that the job is the best one for her. Careful deliberation is needed, which thankfully is Hillary Clinton’s strong suit, in weighing the outcome of whoever she ends up choosing. And regardless of whether or not she is Vice President, Senator Warren has set herself up for even more popularity and power following these elections.
Sam Quinan is a Summer Fellow at Eleison Group, a faith based political, governmental, and non-profit consulting firm. He recently graduated from Colgate University where he studied History and Economics. Sam is from Richmond, Virginia and currently lives in Washington, DC.