Five theories on what happened to Elizabeth Warren

3. It was the scourge of electability: Warren was seen as a risky choice.

Amy Walter, a political analyst and the national editor for The Cook Political Report:

For voters who were looking for a liberal, Bernie Sanders–like candidate but wanted a new model—somebody who was not as old, not as male, not as crotchety—[Warren] looked like this new great option. And for other voters, especially for a lot of women who wouldn’t put themselves in the “very liberal” category, there was an appeal to her because she seemed more unifying than Bernie Sanders. But both of those sides [ultimately] felt very unsatisfied: If you were worried about electability, her decision to say, Well, I’m not totally backing away from Medicare for All made you think she’s still going to be hit for being too liberal in November. If you were looking for a new version of Bernie Sanders, she didn’t provide that either.

What has really plagued every candidate and, quite frankly, the Democratic Party this year is this focus on electability. It was supposed to make the race clearer and easier to understand. This wasn’t about falling in love—this was about the cold, hard reality of electability. Except, as we all know, the idea of electability is a really fungible one.

The risk tolerance among Democrats in 2008 was much higher than it is in 2020. When you talk to voters, there is this paralyzing fear of picking the wrong person, and it has just really screwed up the opportunity for those candidates who were seen as riskier. If we were in a different era, if this were not Donald Trump as president and if Democratic voters were not as obsessed with this idea of electability, would we be in a different place? Yeah, we might. Unfortunately, as a candidate you can’t control for that. All you can do is try to hope you’re running at the right time.