Elizabeth Warren is ending her presidential campaign, a dramatic if expected turn after a disappointing stretch of primaries for someone who was once seen as a leading contender for the Democratic nomination.
She announced her decision on a call with staff on Thursday.
"I know that when we set out, this was not the call you ever wanted to hear," she said. "It is not the call I ever wanted to make. But I refuse to let disappointment blind me, or you, to what we’ve accomplished. We didn’t reach our goal, but what we have done together, what you have done, has made a lasting difference. It’s not the scale of the difference we wanted to make, but it matters — and the changes will have ripples for years to come."
"We ran from the heart," she said. "We ran on our values. We ran on treating everyone with respect and dignity."
Warren soon after addressed reporters outside her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband Bruce Mann by her side.
"I will not be running for president in 2020, but I guarantee I will stay in the fight for the hard-working folks across this country who've gotten the short end of the stick over and over," she said.
It is not yet clear whether Warren plans to endorse either of the remaining top candidates, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Her endorsement would be undoubtedly influential, but she is in a difficult position, with a raft of supporters who are likely to split between the two candidates.
Among close Warren allies, there has been disagreement in recent days about whether she should endorse Sanders, with whom she is closely aligned ideologically, or try to extract policy commitments or a possible cabinet position from Biden, who for now looks most likely to capture the nomination.
Biden and Warren spoke on Wednesday night, a Biden campaign official said.
Sanders' deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt said on MSNBC soon after Warren's decision broke that Sanders would "welcome" an endorsement from her, but "I think we have to leave that to the Warren campaign."
Asked what she would tell her supporters about who to back now, Warren said, "Let's take a deep breath and spend a little time on that. We don't have to decide right this minute." She added that she would not be making an endorsement on Thursday.
Warren had said often that she cared more about enacting her agenda than becoming president herself. And she and her once-ascendant campaign shaped the 2020 primary in that sense, introducing a slate of policies into the Democratic mainstream intended to reshape the American economy and curb the influence of money in government. She made a wealth tax — 2% on fortunes over $50 million, a policy that even Sanders had shied away from in 2016 — into a progressive rallying cry, with people at her rallies who dressed as two pennies.
With the funds from the wealth tax, Warren said she would put in place a series of plans focused on education, another departure from many presidential campaigns — enacting universal childcare to forgiving huge swaths of Americans’ student debt, another idea that had barely been considered among Democrats even two years before.
Her campaign itself broke new ground. She made a rejection of high-dollar fundraisers a central tenet of her campaign. Instead of calling important donors, Warren made it a point to call up people who had donated small sums instead, and she spent hours after her events taking photos with every single attendee who wanted one — a “selfie line” tradition that is likely to endure in American politics.
And she inspired deep loyalty from her staff and fans, who took to covering everything in the campaign's signature color, "liberty green."
"You know liberty green everything was key here," Warren said on the call with staff Thursday. "My personal favorites included the liberty green boas, liberty green sneakers, liberty green makeup, liberty green hair, and liberty green glitter liberally applied. But it was so much more.”
Despite weak showings in early states, Warren had vowed at the start of March to stay in and fight for the nomination through the Democratic convention this summer, hoping to rekindle a campaign whose momentum had once looked unstoppable. She went as far as to reverse course and choose not to disavow financial help from a super PAC. But she continued to struggle to pick up delegates into Super Tuesday as Biden stormed to a comeback and consolidated the moderate wing of the party.
Even Warren's blockbuster debate performance a few weeks ago that brought in tens millions of dollars — and almost singlehandedly crushed the candidacy of Michael Bloomberg — wasn’t enough to revitalize the senator's campaign. She continued to struggle to win over people of color, particularly black voters, as well as moderate and working-class white voters.
Warren's departure from the race makes it almost certain that a woman will not be at the top of the ticket — which some Democrats had hoped for after Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss. Tulsi Gabbard is the lone remaining woman running for president, and her campaign has not gained any traction.
Asked outside her home what she thought it would be like for women and girls now left deciding between Sanders and Biden, Warren said "one of the hardest parts of this is all pinky promises, and all those little girls who are gonna have to wait four more years. That's going to be hard."
Arguably, Warren shaped the presidential primary four years ago, as well, with her decision not to run. Though two separate draft movements called on Warren to run for president in 2015 (and dozens of reporters asked her if she would), she declined to do so.
Instead, Warren pressured Clinton on policy and personnel, while Sanders ran and captured the hearts of many young progressives. He succeeded beyond everyone's — including his — wildest expectations in 2016, and his "political revolution" shifted the discourse about what is possible in US politics. His ascendancy, rather than Warren's, has set the contours of the rising left in American politics.
Warren and Sanders, however, go back much further than that. In the 2000s, when Sanders was still a near-pariah in Washington, the pair shared common goals and sometimes appeared together. They share a lot of the same issues and a general attentiveness to structural changes to taxation and regulation in the United States.
In 2020, they both ran. Their dual candidacies put at the center of the primary this question: Should the United States move to a single-payer system, if so, how quickly? As the race went on, Warren found herself enmeshed in the horserace bind, appealing to both the kinds of voters who went for Sanders and the ones who went for Pete Buttigieg — but not quite succeeding as a unity candidate, either.
After an ascendant summer, it was Warren’s stance on health care that created the first cracks in her campaign, as she struggled to answer questions about whether Medicare for All would increase middle-class taxes. She eventually put forward a plan that would first have the Senate vote on a more moderate public option before pushing for full-fledged single-payer health care.
"So if you leave with only one thing you leave with, it must be this," Warren told staff on the Thursday call. "Choose to fight only righteous fights, because then when things get tough, and they will, you will know that there is only option ahead of you: nevertheless, you must persist."
Henry J. Gomez contributed reporting.