Elizabeth Warren might have missed her moment this year to exert maximum leverage over Hillary Clinton. | Getty
For Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement may not matter anymore.
While the liberal standard-bearer avoided backing a candidate early in the primary season, Clinton has built a dominating delegate lead without Warren. Super Tuesday showed Clinton could even eke out a win in the Massachusetts senator’s home state without Warren rallying her progressive followers.
Story Continued Below
“To the extent she could have been a kingmaker, it looks like that moment may have passed,” said Brian Gardner, director of Washington research at Keefe Bruyette and Woods.
At stake for Warren is just how much leverage she has to push Clinton toward a populist agenda that includes keeping bankers from dominating regulatory jobs in Washington. Now, that hinges on whether Clinton will need her to unify the party and mobilize Sanders’ base in November.
“The only impact now, and a favorable one, is if she’s going to go to Clinton and it’s part of solidifying behind one candidate in the general election,” said Democratic strategist and former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi. “She could have a big impact that way.”
It’s not just about boosting voter turnout. A Warren general-election endorsement — and a leftward move on Wall Street issues — could help provide cover from inevitable Republican attacks on the money Clinton has gotten from the titans of finance for private speeches and for her campaign.
Warren will want to see that Clinton allies with finance ties aren’t lining up to run agencies like the Treasury Department, a key issue for progressive voters. She has relayed that message to Clinton before and, according to people familiar with her thinking, she still cares strongly about hiring.
Clinton will be under pressure from Warren to distance herself from allies such as former Treasury Secretaries Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, who were former President Bill Clinton’s top economic advisers during a period of deregulation of the banking industry and derivatives market.
“The No. 1 unchecked box we’ve seen to this day surrounds whether candidates will promise to surround themselves with appointees who are willing to challenge Wall Street power,” Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green said. Warren, he said, “will want that box to be checked before moving forward with any support for a candidate.”
Clinton has already given nods to Warren’s emphasis on personnel. Clinton hired as her campaign’s chief financial officer former Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler, a Goldman Sachs partner who for liberals became the paragon of Wall Street policing thanks to his tough handling of the banking industry in the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
And under public pressure from Warren, both Clinton and Sanders backed a Senate bill by Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin that would ban new government appointees from receiving bonuses from their Wall Street employers.
Spokespeople for Warren and Clinton declined to comment.
Though it may be too late for Warren to exact the maximum from Clinton, she may be building her influence in the long term by staying on the sidelines, avoiding tarnishing her brand and disappointing the supporters she shares with Sanders. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), a Clinton backer, said it was “common sense” that Warren wouldn’t want to alienate her followers.
“She could be pretty important factor in the peacemaking process of pulling everybody together,” Trippi said.. “She hasn’t hurt herself at all in that regard.”
And no matter who is president, Warren will continue to wield her strongest weapon next year in the Senate, where she is largely responsible for the absence of any debate on rolling back banking regulations.
“Anybody who thinks her influence has waned should just wait for a year,” Gardner said. “Let’s say for argument’s sake that Hillary Clinton gets elected and goes down a path on a particular issue area or legislation that Warren doesn’t like. We’ll see how much her influence has waned. I suspect she’ll be as effective as she is today.”