WASHINGTON — The progressives urging Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run for president want no part of the claim that President Obama was being sexist when he critiqued Warren in a recent interview.
Sen. Sherrod Brown said the president's use of her first name, Elizabeth, was sexist. The president of the National Organization for Women said his criticism was done "in a sexist way." An official with Public Citizen, the group leading the charge against the deal, called Obama's statements "shockingly disrespectful."
But the various progressive groups competing for Warren's attention aren't touching the allegation. So far, none of them have sent out any emails to supporters flagging Brown's comment or the Washington kerfuffle that's erupted from it.
Warren coaxers say those emails aren't coming. They're not getting on board with Brown, largely because they don't see the sexism he saw.
"The president's attacks on Warren's fight against a job-killing trade deal that's been written by and for huge corporations just seem more silly and provably false, than sexist," Neil Sroka, spokesperson for the progressive group Democracy For America, which co-manages Run Warren Run, told BuzzFeed News in an email.
The White House, and many Democrats, were confused by Brown's sexism charge, which came Tuesday after a procedural vote on fast track went against the president. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Brown will eventually apologize to Obama.
"Sen. Brown is a standup guy, and given the opportunity to review the comments that seemed like they were made in some haste, that I feel confident that he'll do the right thing and apologize," Earnest said.
The ongoing trade fight within the Democratic Party has been a boon for the Warren legion, who have seen her rise to be Obama's most vocal opponent on the so-called fast track trade bill that would allow the president to send trade deals to Congress they can approve or dismiss, but can't change. DFA attacked White House rhetoric as "absurd" after a particularly strong round of anonymous administration official Warren bashing earlier this month, and most Warren supporters hare happy to call the president out for his on-the-record claims that Warren is simply playing politics with the trade issue.
But when Brown pushed the vocal sparring between Warren and Obama into a debate about sexism, Warren's presidential pushers didn't go along.
Ready For Warren, the progressive super PAC, plans to continue to use the trade issue heavily in emails attacking Obama for pushing and Hillary Clinton for not openly opposing him. But so far they haven't engaged on the sexism charge and don't plan to. MoveOn.org, the other half of Run Warren Run, also hasn't jumped on the sexism charge.
"MoveOn members are focusing on the substantive case against Fast Tracking the TPP — the fact that the text is being kept secret from the American people, that the agreement would likely lead to more outsourcing of jobs, the threats it poses to workers and the environment, and how the ISDS provision could allow big corporations to undermine our laws and sovereignty," Nick Berning, spokesperson for MoveOn, said in an email.
Sroka said the Warren-Obama battle is worth highlighting, but not for the reason Brown is.
"The whole spat between the White House and Sen. Warren struck us as a pretty laughable attempt to pander for Republican and Wall Street-wing Democrats' support on a legislation that's a loser with voters across the political spectrum," he said. Anyone who stands with the president will pay a political price next year, Sroka added.
"If the president somehow manages to get Fast Track to the House and dupes some right-wing Republicans into voting for it, the truly funny thing will be watching them take incoming from both conservatives and progressives for 'voting to give Barack Obama authority to pass the job-killing, NAFTA-style Trans-Pacific Partnership,'" he said. "The 2016 attack ads, from both the right and the left, basically write themselves."