Would Elizabeth Warren Make a Better Candidate Than Hillary Clinton?

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Elizabeth Warren couldn’t be clearer about her intentions for 2016. In an interview with NPR, she said, “I told them, I’m not running for president,” followed by, “I am not running for president,” and really cementing the matter with this: “I am not running for president. Do you want me to put an exclamation point at the end?”

Yet despite her insistence, there are still many who want to discuss a potential run from Warren, or who are hopeful she’ll change her mind — though her rhetoric makes that seem unlikely. But the question still remains: Why are so many so eager to see her run? It would be naïve not note that she would be a second option for the first female president, and she could become a candidate running in opposition to the other major female Democratic possibility: Hillary Clinton. Assuming Clinton runs — an uncertainty at this point, but not a bad bet — that’s certainly who Warren would be pitted against as the favorite in 2016.

So, in a complete hypothetical at this point, why would Warren be a preferable candidate over Clinton, given the latter’s popularity and name recognition? This is a separate question from that of why Warren makes a good candidate. Taken completely apart from Clinton, Warren has a number of highly desirable career qualifications, as well as a few weak points she’d undoubtedly have to defend in debates — as do most candidates.

Her dogged approach to Wall Street reform, her experience during the financial crisis and on fiscal and economic matters, and her time as an adviser, senator, and committee member is impressive. However, ultimately, her experience in office is arguably — though perhaps not definitively — less notable than Clinton’s. Is it simply a matter of having another female candidate in the running?

That doesn’t appear to be the case, though the reality of politics means that it’s certainly a factor — just not the only one. Given that Warren seems intent on not running, we’re considering other reasons why so many are in favor of her over Clinton.

Second-best choice in the polls

As of July, according to Gallup, Clinton was the most popular of all candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, with Warren coming in second for Democrats but eighth overall; Warren was after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas). While the fact remains that she may not have been competitive with Republican candidates, she did stand out from other Democrats and looked quite competitive as a possibility. In that respect, Clinton and Warren had the top two favorability and name recognition polling numbers for Democrats.

The progressive preference

Perhaps the most prominent explanation is that Warren is particularly popular among progressives in the Democratic Party, and support of the top two is then split within the party by political preference, with those who prefer Warren’s policy tendencies over Clinton being highly vocal in supporting her. The Boston Globe reports that some have created signs that highlight how Warren and Clinton have split the Democratic Party, with one reading, “I’m from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party.”

Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, says this: “Economic populism is a uniting force in the Democratic Party and progressive movement, and will help draw a contrast with Republicans in 2014 and future cycles,” according to the National Journal. It’s arguable whether Democrats are really hurting for contrast at this point. In fact, given the gridlock and difficulty in finding common ground and cooperation the past few years, it seems clear that a more middle-of-the-road candidate would quite possibly be more constructive.

Still, for those far on the left, Warren may be a more attractive candidate, especially if they’re supportive of her recent efforts on financial reform.

Clinton’s involvement with Benghazi and her history with the White House

For many, Clinton is a less desirable candidate because of the Benghazi scandal during her time as Secretary of State. It was enough to negatively affect her approval and favorability, and it would undoubtedly come up in a campaign. For those who vote on the Democratic ticket and are faced with two candidates, it’s possible some would rather the first female president be previously unconnected with the White House.

Ultimately, it should be whichever candidate is best qualified, but if voters and supporters lean more progressive, this might be an additional factor. An unattached candidate with no previous ties to the White House could be a boon — or an advantage, depending on whom you ask.

Follow Anthea on Twitter @AntheaWSCS

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