There was huge news regarding Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the 2020 presidential campaign — and it wasn’t about her DNA tests. Well, OK — just a little.
The real news is Matt Viser’s article in the Washington Post: “Elizabeth Warren Builds Expansive Democratic Campaign Effort Ahead of Likely 2020 Bid.”
“During the past six months, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has built a shadow war room designed to elect Democrats across the country in the midterm elections, overtaking some of the traditional duties of Democratic Party campaign committees and further positioning herself for an all-but-certain 2020 presidential bid,” Viser reports.
According to Viser, who until recently worked at the Boston Globe and has close ties with the Warren campaign, her 2018 connections reach all 50 states and some 150 campaigns.
In addition, Warreen has sent staffers to work in key states like New Hampshire and Iowa, giving her boots on the ground — and eyes and ears tuned in to what’s on Democratic minds in early primary states. Some key people are impressed.
“I speak a lot to candidates who are running this year,” David Axelrod, President Barack Obama’s top politico, is quoted as saying. “(Warren) is the first call they get after a primary. It’s not just the winners she’s calling, she’s calling the losers, too. ... The scale is pretty impressive.”
And if that’s not enough, CNN just put Warren at the top of their 2020 Power Rankings list.
Why the move to number one? It’s increasingly clear that Warren fits the political moment better than most and can unite the different factions of the Democratic Party. She’s a progressive in a party that is moving left,” CNN’s Chris Cillizza and Harry Enten write. “Warren is also a woman, and women have been winning Democratic primaries in 2018 in record numbers.”
And, as New Hampshire Democratic state senator Lou D’Allesandro noted to NHJournal: “She didn’t release that DNA test for no good reason.”
“I’ve sat down with her before, spent some time. Senator Warren is a very determined person,” D’Allesandro said.
About that DNA test: Many observers believe this is part of a months-long strategy to deal with the lingering harm from the #Fauxcahontas narrative that has dogged Warren for years. Nearly a year ago, the Boston Globe wrote a story titled “Elizabeth Warren’s Native American Problem Goes Beyond Politics,” describing the discomfort many on the left had with her story and “her complicated relationships with Native American tribes.”
She has since given a high-profile “surprise” speech at a national Native American event in Washington, has become more outspoken on tribal issues and even flip-flopped on her stance regarding gambling to join efforts to help the Mashpee Wompanoag Tribe of Massachusetts build a casino.
And now the DNA test results release, which, as longtime New England GOP strategist Patrick Griffin put it Monday: “The only issue this test settled is that Elizabeth Warren is definitely running for president.”
Unfortunately for her this roll-out didn’t go as smoothly as intended. The results, when released, were already unimpressive: A DNA test estimated that Warren had a native ancestor “dating back six to 10 generations.” As conservative commentator Ben Shapiro quipped on Twitter: “Warren’s only Native American ancestor may have actually lived at the time of Pocahontas.”
But then it got worse. The Globe was forced to release a series of corrections downgrading Warren’s potential Native American heritage. First reporting that the DNA expert estimated her genetic makeup as “between 1/32 and 1/512 Native American,” those already-low numbers were math errors. Her real potential genetic standing is “between 1/64th and 1/1,024th” American Indian.
At a potential 0.09 percent Native American heritage, that would make Warren less Indian than the average white American (0.18 percent), according to an analysis from the University of Georgia and reported by the New York Times.
In addition, the reaction from America’s Native American community was hardly positive:
“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”
Democrats weren’t exactly thrilled, either, openly complaining about the timing. Former Obama strategist Democrat Jim Messina asked:
“Argue the substance all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win house and senate to save America, why did @SenWarren have to do her announcement now? Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???
And while the CNN “experts” may have Warren at the top of the 2020 list, it just released a new poll putting her in fourth place, well behind former Vice President Joe Biden. She also trails Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
Early polls don’t mean much and a misstep early on likely leaves little mark on a candidate. The key is that, while the rest of the field is getting organized, Warren is already out in the field and playing hard. That’s probably the biggest 2020 headline of the day. Maybe of the year.
Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He is also a CBS News contributor. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.