Elizabeth Warren: "I am not running for president"

The Massachusetts senator said she would serve out her full term if she is re-elected in the 2018 cycle

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published April 6, 2018 6:00PM (EDT)

Elizabeth Warren (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Elizabeth Warren (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has just taken a major progressive player out of the race for the White House in 2020: herself.

"Yes, that’s my plan. I’m running for the United States Senate in 2018. I am not running for president of the United States. That’s my plan," Warren told reporters on Thursday when asked if she would serve for a full term if re-elected in November, Politico reported.

The question, which was posed to Warren during a moderated town hall event on Thursday evening at the Boston Teachers Union, came amidst a campaign for reelection that is sure to be followed throughout the country. Because of her outspoken progressivism and reputation as an articulate and cerebral legislator, Warren has become a champion to many on the left, fueling hopes that she would seek the presidency in the 2020 election cycle. Because she is running for re-election to the Senate, however, it's prompted one of her possible Republican opponents, state Rep. Geoff Diehl, to claim that Warren is "more focused on running for president than doing her job."

Warren had also made moves in her Senate career that some observers believed foreshadow a presidential run. Most notable among them was her request to join the Armed Services Committee, which was uncharacteristic of her given that she normally focused on labor issues and regulating Wall Street. The perception among political insiders was that she was trying to beef up her foreign policy credentials so as to have a stronger resume if she chose to run for president in 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who made a strong showing in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, was often criticized for his lack of foreign policy chops.

The Massachusetts senator also became something of a feminist icon when she was forcibly silenced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during a speech criticizing Trump's appointment for attorney general, then-Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. The language that McConnell used to justify his decision — "Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." — soon became infamous, with many on the left interpreting it as an attempt by a powerful man to silence an eloquent woman speaking truth to power. Warren hadn't even been speaking her own words at the time; she had been reading from a letter written by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yet there were also potential pitfalls to a Warren candidacy. The most notorious one was that Warren had claimed to be of partial Native American ancestry despite being unable to prove it, even going so far as to list herself as the member of a minority group in a law school directory. Her decision to do this had become the source of considerable derision, with President Donald Trump giving her the derogatory (and, some would argue, racist) nickname "Pocahontas."

"I get why some people think there’s hay to be made here. You won’t find my family members on any rolls, and I’m not enrolled in a tribe," Warren admitted on February.

She added, "And I want to make something clear: I respect that distinction. I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes." She also insisted that she had "never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career."

Warren also stuck by her claim of being part Native American, saying that "my mother’s family was part Native American" and that the story of her parents' getting married despite her father's opposition to the relationship "will always be a part of me. And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away."

Warren's announcement that she will not run for president in 2020 has major implications for the Democratic presidential race that year. The only candidate as famous and beloved by progressives as herself who is still a possible contender is Sanders, who will be 79 on Election Day 2020. Although Warren could renege on her statement and run for president in 2020 anyway, the declarative nature of her statement would make it difficult for her to avoid being accused of lying in order to get re-elected.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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2020 Presidential Election Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren