America's "Elizabeth Warren denial": Why everyone still pretends she's running for president

The liberal favorite couldn't be more clear that she's not running for president. But here's why no one's listening

Published April 1, 2015 12:00PM (EDT)

Elizabeth Warren            (AP/Susan Walsh)
Elizabeth Warren (AP/Susan Walsh)

Hot new poll action on the Democratic nomination front: Hillary Clinton's lead is collapsing. According to a new "Franklin Pierce University-Boston Herald" poll, Hillary is only at 47 percent in New Hampshire, giving her a 25 percentage point lead against her closest challenger. SHE'S FINISHED.

Who's her next closer competitor? Elizabeth Warren. Hot dog! While the pollster readily acknowledges that "It's unprecedented for a candidate to have this big a lead in a (presidential) race with an open seat," the Herald adds, "Still, that 25-point margin is the closest the Massachusetts senator has come yet to the former first lady."

"The only Democrat who could pose any threat to Clinton in the 2016 New Hampshire primary is Warren," the Herald adds, "the liberal sensation who national liberal groups are trying to draft into the race."

Yes. And how is that drafting effort going? Let's turn the camera to Elizabeth Warren herself, who went on the "Today" show Tuesday morning to discuss these very up-in-the-air presidential plans of hers:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a populist figure among the Democratic faithful after taking on Wall Street and the banking industry, reaffirmed to Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Tuesday that she has no plans to run for president in 2016.

"No. I’m not running and I’m not going to run," she said. "I’m in Washington. I’ve got this really great job and a chance to try and make a difference on things that really matter."

So there we have the present and future tenses covered. Since she has not run for president in the past, we also have the past tense covered. That's a clear "no" on all three tenses. And it's reiterative.

If the Draft Warren movement wants to keep its shop set up because they think it helps draw attention to Warren and her policies, that's fine.

But pollsters, or news organizations that sponsor polls, should consider not including Elizabeth Warren in polls any further. Usually when a candidate announces clearly that she is not running and will not run, and there's no indication that she's lying because her rationale makes sense, then you stop including them in polls. Paul Ryan, for example, announced months ago that he will not run for the GOP presidential nomination. He is no longer in any presidential polls. Mitt Romney announced earlier this year that he, too, will not run for the GOP presidential nomination. He is longer in any presidential polls.

Elizabeth Warren has announced 7 or 8 million times, in the present tense, that she is not running, and more recently a few other times that she will not be running for the Democratic presidential nomination. She is still included in nearly every presidential poll.

It is not difficult to understand why: news organizations that commission polls want to set up the narrative that there's a real battle a-brewin'. It's shaping up to be some kinda contest!

Consider the one honest pollster that didn't include Warren in its recent polls: NBC News/Marist. Without Warren, Clinton has a 56-point advantage in both Iowa and New Hampshire. With her, Clinton has somewhere between a 25- to 45-point advantage. That's still not "close," but it does suggest that a certain candidate could reasonably catch fire over the course of a year. The only problem is that that certain candidate has declared, multiple times, that she's not running.

What these polls do, in their attempt to set up a juicy narrative, is distract Democrats from committing to the real choices before them. Don't want Hillary? No problem. Your choices are Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, or possibly Joe Biden. Perhaps none of those are as ideal as Elizabeth Warren would be, but they're the alternatives, and they'd welcome your anti-Clinton support.

If Elizabeth Warren is going to be polled against Clinton, why not put Barack Obama on there too? Barack Obama would fare quite well against Hillary Clinton in a 2016 nomination fight. Better than Warren. But pollsters don't include Barack Obama, whereas they do include Warren. Why is one fantasy candidate included but not another? Neither is running for president in 2016. Or why not throw Franklin Delano Roosevelt in as well? He's not running, either. But if he did, boy howdy, it would shape up to be some kinda contest! Hillary would be in reeeeeeeeal trouble all right!

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell