The Boston Globe is reporting that Hillary Clinton will consider putting another woman on the ticket as her vice presidential nominee this fall.
The first name on almost every Democrat's lips is Elizabeth Warren, the freshman Massachusetts senator who is beloved among liberals and regarded as the animating force behind the grassroots energy that has propelled Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign against Clinton. Writes the Globe's Annie Linskey:
"Warren is one of the few Democratic women with national name recognition and a big following among progressives, a voting bloc Sanders has energized. Having Warren on the ticket could help Clinton stitch the party back together after a divisive primary."
True. And also true that Democrats have surprisingly few women prominent enough nationally for Clinton to seriously consider them for the national ticket. Aside from Warren, the names you regularly hear are Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Minn., and Kirstin Gillibrand, N.Y. The Globe's James Pindell floats former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Washington Sen. Patty Murray and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen as well.
Warren is clearly a first among equals in that group both for her fundraising prowess and her status as an icon of the liberal left. But my strong sense is that Clinton and her inner circle will pick Warren only as a sort of last resort.
Here's why. Warren hasn't endorsed Clinton in the presidential race, the only female Democratic senator in that position. "What I'm glad to see is what's happening right now, and that is that the Democrats are out talking about the issues," Warren said in an interview with CBS in mid-March. "I think it makes it very distinct what happens between our side and what's happening over on the other side. They're doing some kind of reality show, we're out here trying to talk about the issues that affect the American people."
And not only has Warren not embraced Clinton, she has been a thorn in the the frontrunner's side for much of the 2016 race. Her allegations that campaign contributions from the banking industry changed Clinton's mind about the need to overhaul bankruptcy laws became a talking point for Sanders during a debate earlier this year.
What's been made obvious during the course of the Clinton-Sanders primary fight is that the electorate is split into Democrats who believe Wall Street needs to be closely watched and regulated but is not fundamentally evil and Democrats who believe Wall Street is corrupt through and through and must be treated as such. Clinton is on one side of this divide, Sanders and Warren are on the other. This passage, taken from Ryan Lizza' terrific May 2015 profile of Warren in the New Yorker, is telling:
"Warren believes that, when it comes to economic policy, there is a Wall Street view and a Main Street view, and Democrats must choose sides. Her critics argue that this is simplistic and naive, but she has buoyed many on the left who are critical of President Obama's economic policies and advisers for being excessively influenced by Wall Street. Warren was especially unimpressed by the President's first Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, who was appointed at the start of the financial crisis. "I was shocked that he picked the person who had just done the bailouts through the New York Fed," she said. "I assumed that the President would want to carve a different path, and want to separate himself from the Republican-led bailout." She added, "Tim Geithner came from the New York Fed, which, effectively, works for Wall Street."
(Geithner declined to respond on the record to Warren's criticism of him.)"
As Lizza goes on to report, Clinton allies believe Warren's views on the economy -- and the real root causes of wage stagnation and income inequality -- are overly simplistic and reflect a lack of deep understanding of how the world actually works. "The challenge of wage stagnation is that it's happening in large swaths of the economy, many parts of which are relatively untouched by the influence of the banks," one Clinton adviser told Lizza.
When picking a vice presidential nominee, the single most important factor is chemistry. While some people were stunned by Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden as his vice president, it's become clear over the past seven years that the two men have a natural rapport and respect for one another that works for them. Ditto George W. Bush and Dick Cheney although that relationship frayed and eventually tore over deep disagreements over policy and approach.
There appears to be very little warmth between Clinton and Warren. Clinton views Warren as someone able to embrace a Manichean view of Wall Street (and the world) because she has the luxury of not needing to ever really deal with people who feel differently. (Massachusetts, particularly at the federal level, is effectively a one-party state.) Warren views Clinton in much the same light that Sanders has cast the former secretary of state in this campaign: Prone to deal-making and insufficiently committed to core liberal principles. That, typically, is not the foundation on which vice presidential nominees are built.
There is only one scenario I can see where Clinton picks Warren: If she feels as though she has to. How would that come about? If the rift with Sanders and the liberal left coalition he represents worsens over the course of the final six weeks of the presidential primary process and Clinton and her team believe that the only way to heal and unite the party before the general election is to go with the liberal hero as VP.
At this point, there's very little evidence that Clinton has that sort of major uprising on her left. In New York's primary on Tuesday, Sanders won voters who described themselves as "very liberal" by 12 points. But Clinton won those who said they were "somewhat liberal" by 18. In a March Post-ABC national poll, 77 percent of liberal Democrats said they would be satisfied with Clinton becoming the party's nominee, 82 percent said they would be satisfied with Sanders. Liberals may prefer Sanders, but they also like Clinton. And that almost certainly goes double if their choice in a general election is between Clinton and Donald Trump or Clinton and Ted Cruz.
Seen through that lens, Warren is more of a specialized pick to fix a very particular problem -- which doesn't exist yet and likely won't -- than she is a true short-lister to be Clinton's vice president. Short of the "panic button" scenario I lay out above, I don't see Clinton even seriously considering Warren to be her second-in-command.