Team Warren: We still think she can be the nominee

This has to be empty happy talk aimed at convincing her remaining supporters, especially in Massachusetts, to turn out for her tomorrow instead of giving up, right?

I frame that as a question only because Pete Buttigieg’s and Amy Klobuchar’s withdrawal from the race arguably *does* give the other also-ran, Warren, more of a reason to crawl on. Pete’s and Amy’s voters are now in play; Warren will doubtless attract a percentage of them. Some of them may be unhappy that their candidate chose to accept the reality that this is now a two-man race instead of defiantly vowing to soldier on, in which case Warren’s “soldier on!” shtick might prove appealing. There’s a new Democratic debate set for March 15 too and that debate is now sure to feature at least three fewer candidates than the last one did, meaning more speaking time for each of the remaining survivors. It’s also conceivable that Mike Bloomberg will wash out across the southern states tomorrow where he’s spent big money to compete, leading him drop out in the aftermath as well. Which means the March 15 debate would be between Sanders and Joe Biden — and, maybe, Elizabeth Warren.

Which is precisely the niche Warren has already craved in this race. She positioned herself as the goldilocks candidate between Sanders and Biden, a diehard progressive who nonetheless isn’t so radically kooky as to embrace socialism. If this primary is destined for a stalemate between Bernie and Joe, as now seems likely, Warren wants to be in front of voters as a middle-ground choice. There’s a tiny chance that the Pete and Amy and, um, Bloomberg constituencies will coalesce behind her and make this a true three-way race. And even if they don’t, keeping herself in front of the public is a way to stay in the mix as a compromise nominee at a contested convention.

Warren’s strategy, laid out in conversations with more than a half-dozen of her aides and close allies, relies largely on outlasting several of her less well-financed rivals and trying to collect their supporters when they drop out. One aide told POLITICO that the campaign thinks multiple candidates will withdraw in the next seven to 10 days, shaking up the race…

Warren advisers believe she can remain in the hunt by collecting a significant number of delegates on Super Tuesday and then again on March 10 — they are optimistic about California, Colorado, Texas, Michigan and Washington — even if they don’t win any states outright. Campaign manager Roger Lau said earlier this month that Warren was “poised” to finish second in eight Super Tuesday contests and in the top three in all 14.

The team is also more openly discussing what it has been talking about internally for weeks. Warren’s path to victory is likely at a contested convention and not by outright winning a majority of pledged delegates, which they believe no other candidate will achieve, either.

Her campaign manager released a memo last night with this ominous warning: “[A]s the dust settles after March 3, the reality of this race will be clear: no candidate will likely have a path to the majority of delegates needed to win an outright claim to the Democratic nomination.” That may be true but Warren’s in a thorny spot right now with Buttigieg and Klobuchar having just bailed out in order to help the frontrunner in their own moderate “lane.” They’re being good soldiers for their ideological wing of the party in the “progressives vs. moderates” death match between Bernie and Biden. By staying in, Elizabeth Warren is … not being a good soldier for hers, assuming that you believe most of her voters would go to Sanders if she dropped out.

But I don’t know. Precisely because Warren has tried so hard to keep one foot in each lane, it’s risky to draw strong conclusions about where her voters would go in a “Bernie vs. Biden” race. Probably most would go to Sanders. But look at it this way: If you’re a voter who’s still with Elizabeth Warren at this point, long after her campaign sputtered and Bernie emerged as the clear favorite of the left, then there’s something about Bernie that bothers you. That’s not to say you won’t back him over Joe, however reluctantly. But the Warren diehards may be less predictable than we think.

Anyway. Can you imagine the rage among Berniebros if Sanders has to walk out at the debate on March 15 and spend two hours getting rapped by Biden and (maybe) Mike Bloomberg and a zombie candidate from his own progressive ranks? Her candidacy is already pathetic, per her tweet this afternoon after her buddy Amy decided to endorse, um, not Elizabeth Warren…

…but imagine how pathetic it’ll be if Sanders beats her own on her own home court tomorrow in Massachusetts and still refuses to pack it in. Lefties will conclude that she’s deliberately trying to help Biden and, failing that, to at least weaken Bernie to the point where she can steal the nomination at a contested convention. She’s going to ruin her standing among progressives for nothing. I think she’ll pack it in tomorrow after Massachusetts.

Here she is on Saturday night with her harshest words yet for Sanders. About four months too late, but oh well.

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