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Elizabeth Warren forms 2020 exploratory committee

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wades into the 2020 presidential race by announcing she's launching a presidential exploratory committee.

Posted: Jan 1, 2019 7:14 PM
Updated: Jan 1, 2019 7:36 PM

She's running.

Elizabeth Warren, that is, who announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee on Monday -- making the Massachusetts senator the first top-tier contender into the 2020 Democratic race.

Or is she? A top-tier contender, I mean.

A few years ago, that question would have been a no-brainer. Warren was courted by liberals unsatisfied with Hillary Clinton's 2016 candidacy to make a late entrance into the race. Had she done so, she could well have offered a more electable alternative to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, casting herself as a liberal's liberal who had both fought and worked within the system successfully.

She passed on that race.

Now, with several years of hindsight, you have to wonder whether she missed her moment.

Warren enters this 2020 contest as one of the fundraising leaders (she had more than $12 million in the bank at the end of November), one of only a handful of candidates regularly polling in the high single-digits or low double-digits in most national polling on the 2020 contest, and someone who has already built the start of real organizations in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

And yet, the shine that surrounded her from her 2012 Senate win through (and even after) the 2016 election has been quite clearly tarnished, most notably by her botched attempt this fall to put questions about her Native American heritage behind her. The release of a slickly produced video regarding her claims of Native American ancestry did nothing to quell the controversy and almost certainly made things worse.

In the wake of that disaster, stories emerged -- including this one in The New York Times -- that suggested the heritage debacle had raised doubts even in the minds of her most loyal supporters about her capacity to run and win in 2020. And as Harry Enten notes, Warren's 2018 re-election victory was not terribly impressive, either.

That Warren decided to be the first major candidate to explore the race -- outgoing Rep. John Delaney is already running and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro formed an exploratory committee earlier this month -- is in some ways an acknowledgment of her weakened state. The supposed favorites usually hold off announcing their runs until the spring -- waiting to see how the field shakes out a bit (and letting the lesser-known candidates fight it out) before wading in. In this race, that would include people like Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.

It once would have also included Warren. But her decision to enter early is clearly an acknowledgment that she has considerable work to do with early state voters (and major donors) to repair the self-inflicted damage of her attempt to put the Native American question behind her.

Writing off any candidate 13 months before a single voter votes is idiotic. Warren has time to fix what ails her. She has money and organization to help do that. And she has a message -- corporate greed and corruption are rampant in the country all the way up to and including the White House -- that should resonate with a Democratic electorate that is absolutely fed up with the direction President Donald Trump has led the country.

That said, the presidential race is built on momentum and timing. Barack Obama might not have been "Barack Obama" if he had passed on running in 2008 because Clinton was already in the race. Beto O'Rourke is the hot thing in Democratic politics right now, but what if he decides not to run in 2020? Where will he be in four years? (Sidebar: This is exactly why O'Rourke shouldn't even hesitate to run this time around.)

To understand how impactful timing and momentum are to a candidate's chances, Warren needs to look no further than the woman she was being urged to take on in 2016.

Elected to the Senate in 2000, Clinton was immediately seen as a likely presidential candidate. She repeatedly demurred despite urgings as late as the fall of 2003 that she should make a last-minute entry into the 2004 campaign against George W. Bush. John Kerry won the nomination -- and promptly lost to Bush.

Clinton's decision to pass on the 2004 race was seen, at the time, as a savvy one. Beating an incumbent is never easy and Bush was still benefiting somewhat from the aftermath of his handling of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The 2008 contest was an open one, and Clinton was regarded as a clear favorite -- not just for the nomination, but the White House.

Then came Obama. And Clinton's best-laid plans were shattered. Eight years later, Clinton appeared to have a second chance. Then along came Trump, who blasted her as a creature of the past and the political swamp -- labels she struggled to rid herself of due to her long years spent in the national spotlight.

The point here is simple: When running for president, timing matters hugely. Windows of opportunity sometimes open -- and close -- unexpectedly. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20 -- but I bet if you asked Clinton today whether she should have run in 2004, she would likely say "yes."

Warren is hoping like hell that the window that opened for her in 2016 hasn't slammed shut in 2020. That is, of course, an open question.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 480845

Reported Deaths: 6511
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin997381576
Ramsey42744796
Dakota35818383
Anoka33010383
Washington21862253
Stearns18683200
St. Louis14655262
Scott13119107
Wright12414114
Olmsted1170088
Sherburne866373
Carver756340
Clay683686
Rice664291
Blue Earth587235
Kandiyohi576674
Crow Wing514780
Chisago493644
Otter Tail479470
Benton441390
Winona414248
Mower400231
Douglas390768
Nobles385347
Goodhue383368
Polk341062
McLeod336349
Beltrami335350
Morrison321846
Lyon311543
Itasca308545
Becker307841
Isanti303453
Carlton298544
Steele297611
Pine280616
Freeborn276823
Nicollet252341
Todd244030
Brown240737
Le Sueur230520
Mille Lacs225747
Cass218124
Waseca206917
Meeker205534
Martin186728
Wabasha18543
Roseau178317
Hubbard159740
Houston156414
Dodge15124
Renville147340
Redwood146327
Fillmore13648
Chippewa135735
Cottonwood133520
Wadena128120
Pennington127016
Faribault121716
Aitkin117833
Sibley116410
Rock115513
Watonwan11518
Kanabec106719
Pipestone100724
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9418
Jackson92510
Swift87218
Pope7885
Marshall76815
Stevens7378
Lake72617
Clearwater71514
Lac qui Parle68216
Wilkin66510
Koochiching61711
Big Stone5123
Lincoln5032
Grant4888
Norman4648
Mahnomen4377
Unassigned43668
Kittson40721
Red Lake3544
Traverse3015
Lake of the Woods2131
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 359747

Reported Deaths: 5357
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57625545
Linn20536311
Scott18203205
Black Hawk16187286
Woodbury14875211
Johnson1374173
Dubuque13480194
Dallas1123790
Pottawattamie10716140
Story1012945
Warren550271
Clinton540783
Cerro Gordo531080
Webster515686
Marshall493772
Sioux491568
Buena Vista469736
Des Moines455059
Muscatine446789
Wapello4261107
Jasper406865
Plymouth393377
Lee373551
Marion356969
Jones293854
Henry292535
Carroll284048
Bremer276554
Crawford272035
Boone258230
Washington253145
Benton250454
Mahaska223145
Jackson220438
Dickinson216338
Tama211564
Kossuth206954
Clay192925
Hamilton191641
Delaware188539
Winneshiek186926
Fayette184033
Buchanan183630
Page181619
Hardin179638
Wright179131
Harrison178969
Cedar175522
Clayton168153
Butler165731
Floyd162439
Mills162420
Cherokee153535
Madison153418
Poweshiek153429
Hancock146529
Lyon145441
Iowa143823
Allamakee143644
Appanoose138447
Grundy138230
Jefferson137532
Winnebago137530
Calhoun133010
Cass132448
Mitchell130040
Louisa127941
Union125931
Chickasaw124613
Sac123718
Emmet120740
Shelby119933
Franklin118319
Humboldt116725
Guthrie116028
Montgomery104036
Palo Alto103921
Howard102421
Clarke99220
Keokuk97529
Unassigned9300
Monroe92628
Adair91626
Ida90732
Pocahontas85419
Davis82223
Monona81525
Greene76610
Lucas73121
Osceola70014
Worth6907
Taylor66312
Fremont5869
Decatur5729
Van Buren55818
Ringgold51416
Wayne48621
Audubon4839
Adams3244
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