Daily Beast: The opponent Trump is increasingly worried about is...

There’s only one Democrat who’s risen steadily in the polls since summer began, only one who’s getting buzz for the enthusiasm with which she’s received at events. She also happens to be running on populism, muscling in on Trump’s pitch to the working class.

Coincidentally, she’s also the member of the Democratic field who’s taken the hardest shots from Trump to date. Except they haven’t seemed to hurt her much.

Go figure that a president who places great stock in crowd energy, in draining the swamp, and in his own ability to tear down opponents is a little nervous about the rise of Elizabeth Warren.

The frustration Republicans are beginning to feel about Warren’s non-stick nature was picked up repeatedly in interviews with 10 Republicans, including Trump campaign and White House officials, associates of the president, and other GOP operatives with knowledge of the situation. These sources stressed that the anti-Warren effort within GOP circles hadn’t fallen off since the DNA snafu. Indeed, everyone from officials on Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, to the Republican National Committee, to a select group of opposition researchers have been sifting through her record in search of vulnerabilities. But with few punches landing, the worry is that Trump may have already taken his best shot, and that Warren will end up looking increasingly formidable for having bounced back.

“Sure the Republican base will ultimately loathe Warren, but she doesn’t inspire the same kind of historic vitriol that Hillary Clinton did,” a separate Republican strategist said. “That, combined with fact that SCOTUS isn’t on the line as it was in ’16, and remembering that Trump needed the perfect inside straight to barely win last time, and any Democrat is going to be tough to beat, Warren included.”…

According to three people who have spoken to Trump about Warren over the past two months, the president has specifically highlighted what he views as her surprising political and populist talents during the Democratic primary, and has told multiple advisers and associates that he hears she could be “tougher” in a general election than many initially expected. One of these sources said Trump asked the room if they thought Warren was a “fighter.”

One Republican told the Beast that right-wing think tanks may have been caught flat-footed by the sheer number of policy plans Warren has introduced, unable to analyze and critique them as quickly as she’s rolling them out. That assumes, of course, that (a) anyone on either side cares what think tanks say and (b) a conservative critique of the cost of Warren’s agenda would resonate with centrist Dems. Would it? How many Biden fans are with him because they worry about the budget and how many are with him simply because he’s familiar and seems electable?

There isn’t much Trump or the GOP can do to hurt Warren right now. If anything, Trump attacking her regularly again would gift-wrap a talking point for her that she’s the candidate whom he really fears, which would be catnip to Democratic voters. If anyone’s going to take Warren down, it’ll be her rivals in the primary. That’s coming soon, of necessity — if they don’t start chipping away at her, she might just run away with this thing.

Aides to three rival candidates confirmed in interviews they’re revving up opposition research on Warren in preparation for the next debate on Sept. 12. Still others privately complained she’s gotten fawning treatment in the media as she unveiled a litany of ambitious plans without being pressed on where the money would come from to pay for them…

“She’s promised about $50 trillion worth of benefits in the last 30 days. Her economics are fraud and at some point someone is going to point that out. She’s a multimillionaire professor at Harvard. She can’t rail against the 1 percent — she is one of the 1 percent,” [Biden organizer Dick] Harpootlian said…

In an interview, [Harris advisor Bakari] Sellers complained that Harris has battled sexism, racism “and the Russians” while others in the race, including Warren, have had an easier ride, including on the debate stage.

Mm yeah, that’s the good stuff. Sellers’s point in particular may resonate: Although the latest poll of South Carolina had Warren inching into second place, she’s a distant second due to how poorly she performs with black Democrats there. Among white SC Democrats Warren actually leads the field with 26 percent; among blacks, who are a majority of the primary electorate, she’s in fourth behind Biden, Harris, and even Bernie Sanders. Winning Iowa and New Hampshire would do *a lot* to change that for her next year, but maybe not quite enough to completely erase Biden’s advantage in the state. Doesn’t mean she won’t be the nominee but it does mean that the primaries could go on much longer than she’s hoping and end up with black Democrats no more enthused to turn out for her in the general election than they were for Hillary.

The X-factor is Bernie. For all the hype about Warren’s surge, and despite the narrative that she’s pulling away voters from Sanders, his own numbers have barely budged this summer. He was at 17.0 percent on June 5, when her rise began. Three months later, she’s gained nearly 10 full points in the average while he’s lost less than one, landing at 16.1 percent. Warren isn’t cannibalizing longstanding Bernie voters — but she is almost certainly depriving him of undecideds who are in the market for a progressive candidate. What’s he going to do about it? Politico notes in the story above that he and Warren have had a nonaggression pact thus far, with neither wanting to antagonize the other’s base by attacking their favorite. Warren voters are potential Bernie voters, after all, and vice versa. Some progressives think the nonaggression pact should be maintained no matter what, in the belief that nominating Sanders *or* Warren is what’s most important for progressivism.

But how does Bernie feel about that? If he agrees that it’s essential to have a progressive nominee, even if that comes at the cost of his own defeat, then the way forward is clear. He should drop out, endorse Warren, and campaign aggressively for her. There’s a risk of backfire in that since some Sanders fans have Biden as their second choice but an aggressive effort by Bernie to steer them towards Warren would doubtless pay off with some. At the core of Sanders’s ideological base, though, is the belief that he alone can rescue America from its capitalist excesses. He’s the only candidate with the stones to label himself a socialist, the only one to refuse to call himself a Democrat (until recently). Warren and Sanders may be indistinguishable to right-wing eyes but they certainly aren’t to left-wing ones, in which case how can Bernie pass on the opportunity to attack her? He owes it to the Cause to try to convince her voters that she simply won’t deliver on her promises like he will — but if he does that, he risks an embittered progressive schism that’ll benefit Biden long-term. What does he do?