Behind the scenes, Warren advisers are girding for a long, drawn-out fight for the nomination. Three sources close to Warren’s campaign say that her path forward is a version of slow-and-steady wins the race. If Warren can stay in a consistent second or third place while her opponents rise and fall, especially in big states like California and Texas, then she can accumulate delegates heading into the convention without necessarily racking up big first-place victories, the thinking goes. Hanging out in second place also lets the front-runners beat each other up, while she stays above the fray.
The campaign believes it is well-positioned for a long national fight, having already dispatched more than 1,000 staffers across 31 states, with 80% focused on grassroots organizing, according to a January memo from campaign manager Roger Lau. Unlike some of her rivals, who have been laser-focused on Iowa and New Hampshire, Warren has always taken the long view when it comes to a national campaign. “We have the delegate strategy,” says communications director Kristen Orthman. “Which is how you win a nomination.”
But it’s fair to ask how Warren can win the nomination without piling up some of those first-place finishes soon. She’s sworn off big donors, which means she relies on the grassroots to fund her campaign, and her flagging momentum threatens that cash flow. In the last quarter of 2019, Warren raised just over $21 million, a sizable haul but far short of the $34.5 million raised by Sanders. The campaign recently pulled roughly $375,000 worth of ads in South Carolina and Nevada.