In crushing blow, senator finishes third in Mass. primary
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN lost her home state of Massachusetts in Tuesday’s presidential primary to former vice president Joe Biden, in a surprise victory for Biden and a devastating blow to Warren that is expected to intensify calls on the state’s senior senator to drop out of the race.
Warren came in third behind Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a stunning fall for the former Harvard law professor who once appeared to have all the momentum in the contest. With 69 percent of the vote reported, Biden had 33 percent of the Massachusetts vote, Sanders had 27 percent, and Warren had 22 percent.
After voting in Massachusetts Tuesday morning, Warren downplayed the crucial nature of Super Tuesday – when voters in 14 states went to the polls – to her campaign. “Today is just part of getting out and talking to people all across this country and hearing from democracy,” she said, when asked if it was a “do-or-die” Election Day for her.
But it will be hard for Warren to dismiss Tuesday’s results as anything but a crushing blow to her already fading presidential hopes.
Asked about growing support for Biden, Warren said she believes her progressive ideas remain popular. “I do believe the Democratic Party is a progressive party,” Warren said Tuesday morning. “I think that people across this country see big, big problems, and they don’t want somebody to nibble around the edges, they want big solutions.”
But as moderates within the party are coalescing around Biden, who showed newfound strength throughout the country on Super Tuesday, progressives may become increasingly unhappy to have Warren continuing to draw voters away from Sanders. In Massachusetts, Sanders and Warren appear to have split the progressive vote, allowing more moderate voters to deliver the state to Biden.
Democratic state Sen. Anne Gobi of Spencer said polls and pundits do not matter on Election Day. “The ballot box was where things happen and today was Vice President Joe Biden’s day,” Gobi said. “He is a proven entity and someone ready, day one, for the world stage.”
Springfield-based political consultant Tony Cignoli, who is not working for any presidential campaign, said a Warren loss is “an opportunity for Sanders and others in the party to move to get Warren to consider leaving the race, and free Bernie to have the liberal progressive path all to himself.”
Some Warren aides have speculated that Warren could emerge as a consensus pick if no candidate has earned a majority of delegates by the Democratic National Convention.
Before the polls closed in Massachusetts, Warren held a rally in Michigan, which votes March 10. According to the Associated Press, Warren urged voters there not to listen to the political pundits but to cast a vote that will make them “proud.” She reiterated, “I am in this fight.”
But Scott Ferson, a Massachusetts Democratic strategist who is not working for any candidate, said, “It’s very hard to go to another state and make the case you’re the best one to beat Donald Trump if you can’t win your home state.”
The loss of her home state is a shocking turn for a candidate who for a long time was viewed as a potential national front-runner. National polls for much of the race put Biden in the lead, with Warren and Sanders battling for second, according to polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight.
But there were early warning signs for Warren. Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos said in a survey conducted just before Warren won her Senate race in 2018, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly said they liked Warren – but they did not want her to run for president.
Paleologos said Massachusetts polling before Tuesday’s election showed Warren was vulnerable among certain demographics like men, non-white voters, and young voters. While Warren is popular as a Massachusetts senator, he said, that does not necessarily translate to presidential support.
Warren has long been a popular figure among Massachusetts Democrats, and she has a strong base of Massachusetts support from her time as a senator. She received endorsements from 176 federal, state and local politicians, including Democratic heavyweights like Rep. Richard Neal, Sen. Ed Markey, Rep. Joe Kennedy, Attorney General Maura Healey, Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka.
But some strategists note that Warren has never had to campaign in a contested Democratic primary. When she ran for Senate in 2012, her only initial primary opponent failed to make it onto the ballot. That puts Warren at a disadvantage compared to Sanders and Biden who have both run against Democrats before. “She’s never had to worry about courting Democratic primary voters. They were already in her camp in Massachusetts for all of her fights,” Paleologos said.
Warren did not spend a lot of time campaigning in Massachusetts. Before she voted, her last public appearance in the state was December 31, although her surrogates have been holding canvasses, phone banks, and events. Data from Kantar, compiled by FiveThirtyEight, show that Warren did not purchase any TV ads in Massachusetts.
Many progressive voters – even those who liked Warren – went for Sanders.
Danielle Lauretano, a 27-year-old from Boston who works in picture framing, said she likes Warren but prefers Sanders. “He’s progressive, he’s been on the same issues forever, he’s never really wavered. I just love the guy,” Lauretano said.
Jamie Hovis, 28, a Somerville voter who works in the tech industry, would have been happy voting for Warren, but he thinks Sanders has a better shot at the nomination. Hovis likes Sanders’s policies supporting Medicare for All, the Green New Deal environmental policy, and racial justice.
“I definitely see the appeal of voting for someone who I think a lot of people view as more moderate,” Hovis said, when asked about Warren. “Unfortunately, I think we’re kind of at a point in American politics where people respond more to ideological concerns and having someone who has a consistent track record. I think that’s what attracts me to Bernie Sanders.”
The progressive split left the door open for moderate voters to select Biden, who received the endorsement of more than 100 Massachusetts politicians, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, Vicki Kennedy, US Reps. Seth Moulton and Stephen Lynch, and several state senators and representatives.
Springfield City Council president Justin Hurst, who supported Biden, said he thinks the former vice president can win a general election and can appeal to independent voters. “I think we need someone that is going to beat Trump, and I think he’s a viable candidate,” Hurst said. “I think it’s important to have a candidate like Biden who has broad reach…The extremes are not what can bring us together.”