'When you disagree, he'll listen': Elizabeth Warren becomes latest Democrat to endorse Joe Biden

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts endorsed Joe Biden on Wednesday, becoming the most high-profile progressive woman in the party to try to help the former vice-president expand his appeal among liberal voters

The New York Times April 16, 2020 09:58:08 IST
'When you disagree, he'll listen': Elizabeth Warren becomes latest Democrat to endorse Joe Biden

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts endorsed Joe Biden on Wednesday, becoming the most high-profile progressive woman in the party to try to help the former vice-president expand his appeal among liberal voters.

Her announcement follows Senator Bernie Sanders’ on Monday and former president Barack Obama’s on Tuesday. Warren’s support had been a foregone conclusion, but she left the timing of her announcement up to Biden’s team, according to people familiar with the matter. There was no holdup or demand for concessions, these people said.

The process of securing prominent endorsements for Biden has been underway for some time, people close to the campaign said, but some Democrats said it was important to give Sanders space to endorse on his own terms, out of respect for his campaign and his supporters, whom Biden must now win over. Obama’s endorsement made repeated overtures to Sanders and his backers.

The series of endorsements has been a carefully choreographed show of force, reminiscent of the one-two-three punch of support Biden received from Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke before Super Tuesday. It is also a show of unity designed to quash any narrative of a fractured Democratic Party.

Democrats are indeed, for once, in array, which was far from an inevitable outcome after a primary in which the party’s ideological fault lines were bitterly clear. The relatively swift arrival of two liberal challengers, Warren and Sanders, into the Biden camp is a striking reminder of the sense of urgency among Democrats to coalesce against President Donald Trump when the public’s attention is so focused on the coronavirus .

During the primary campaign, Biden criticised Warren as having an “elitist attitude” and repeatedly jabbed at Sanders for not being a card-carrying Democrat. Warren and Sanders were also sharply critical and still differ with Biden on many issues — but their endorsement announcements this week were as positive and helpful as one could hope for from ideological opponents.

Two swing-state senators, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Gary Peters of Michigan, also formally backed Biden on Wednesday, as did Valerie Jarrett, a former senior advisor to Barack Obama.

In her endorsement video, Warren said, “In this moment of crisis, it’s more important than ever that the next president restores Americans’ faith in good, effective government.

“Joe Biden has spent nearly his entire life in public service. He knows that a government run with integrity, competence and heart will save lives and save livelihoods. And we can’t afford to let Donald Trump continue to endanger the lives and livelihoods of every American.”

Since Warren ended her own campaign, she and Biden have spoken multiple times about policy issues, including Biden’s plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. At the staff level, Warren’s chief campaign strategist, Joe Rospars, and Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Biden, have been engaged in talks bridging the two camps.

When you disagree hell listen Elizabeth Warren becomes latest Democrat to endorse Joe Biden

File image of Elizabeth Warren at a town hall event. By Jordan Gale © 2020 The New York Times

In late March, Biden endorsed forgiving at least $10,000 in federal student loans and credited Warren for the proposal. Over the weekend, he said during his podcast that he supported immediately increasing Social Security payments by $200 a month, another proposal that Warren had championed.

“One thing I appreciate about Joe Biden is that he will always tell you where he stands,” Warren said in her endorsement video. “When you disagree, he’ll listen — not just listen, but really hear you and treat you with respect, no matter where you’re coming from. And he has shown throughout this campaign that when you come up with new facts or a good argument, he’s not too afraid or too proud to be persuaded.”

The Biden campaign has broadly signaled a willingness to hire staff from formal rivals as they gear up for the General Election match-up with Trump, and some outreach is already underway, but there have been no promises to hire a specific number of aides, a person familiar with the matter said.

While the daily stream of endorsements this week were unmistakably designed to signal party unity, Biden has also sometimes struggled to drive a consistent message of his own amid the coronavirus outbreak. He has often been overshadowed by Trump and the governors who are on the front lines of the fight. This week, he was back in the spotlight.

“It’s a difficult news environment,” said Jennifer Palmieri, a former senior aide to Hillary Clinton and Obama. “I think it’s smart to do a dramatic show of force and have everyone go in one week, because it just serves to raise the stakes for Democrats. It raises the stakes for November.”

“You sacrifice the longevity of the storyline,” Palmieri added, “but I think you want to have the drama of everyone going in one week rather than the drumbeat.”

Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, said she was not worried about disunity. The primary “just didn’t have the vitriol” of 2016, she said, and Democratic voters are overwhelmingly in favor of a singular goal.

“They just really want Trump to be gone,” Greenberg said.

But even with the party largely united, and the leaders of its progressive and more moderate factions publicly emphasizing unity, a small but vocal segment of Sanders’ supporters have dissented.

David Sirota, a former aide to Sanders who has said he plans to vote for Biden in the General Election, responded to Warren’s endorsement by suggesting that Warren should have campaigned differently when she was in the race and that perhaps if she had, she would have done what Sanders himself did not: beat Biden.

“We have to defeat Donald Trump, and these endorsements are all about that goal, so I don’t begrudge it all,” Sirota said. “I’ll never understand why  Warren went silent and never amplified her long-standing criticism of Biden and his bankruptcy bill in the primary, when she was in a position to defeat the vice-president. She might be the nominee had she done that.”

Biden’s campaign is hoping to use this week’s endorsements as a means to pump up his fundraising, which people involved in the campaign have said has gotten tougher in the last month as the economy has cratered.

Notably, both Obama and Warren posted a link asking for donations to Biden, and Obama quickly signed an email to the Biden campaign list.

A weaker fundraiser than his top rivals in the primary, Biden now enters the general election at a distinct financial disadvantage. Trump and the Republican National Committee have been stockpiling cash for three years and announced Monday that they had entered April with $240 million cash on hand in the president’s reelection committee and other shared party accounts. Biden will disclose how much cash he entered April with on Monday.

Without traditional in-person events, Biden has had to shift to videoconference fundraisers with top donors, which some contributors have been slow to embrace. He has a virtual fundraiser scheduled for later Wednesday, hosted by Joe Kiani, chairman of Masimo, a medical device company.

Biden and his team have also turned their attention to the search for a running mate, pointing to mid-April as the time frame for assembling a search committee.

“They’ll be announcing it soon, I’m sure,” Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, one of Biden’s national campaign chairs, said in an interview this week. He said details on the committee could come as soon as “early next week.” The Biden campaign had no additional comment.

Richmond has said he expects to be involved in the search process in some capacity and has advocated for appointing a committee that reflects the diversity of the party.

Biden, who committed to choosing a woman to be his running mate, is expected to consider a number of his former presidential rivals. Warren, Klobuchar and Senator Kamala Harris are often mentioned, along with Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and other Democratic leaders.

When Warren was asked Wednesday night by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow if she would agree to be Biden’s running mate if he approached her, the senator replied simply, “Yes.”

Maggie Astor and Katie Glueck c.2020 The New York Times Company

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