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US Liberals Push for Hillary Clinton Alternative

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. speaks to the Center for American Progress’s Second Annual Policy Conference in Washington, Nov. 19, 2014.

It seems as though not all Democrats are eager to fall in line behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should she decide to run for president next year.

A prominent group of liberal activists is urging Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016 even though Warren has repeatedly said that she is not interested.

The liberal activist group says a poll of its eight million members around the country showed overwhelmingly support for a presidential run by Warren, one of the Senate’s leading liberal Democrats.

Warren has become a favorite with progressive activists because she often speaks out on the issue of income disparity in the United States and the need to rein in the excesses of large banks and Wall Street.

Anna Galland, the executive director for Civic Action, said 81 percent of MoveOn members who voted in a survey support the idea of a Warren candidacy.

“We have a crisis in our democracy, a crisis in our economy,” Galland said. “It is not working for middle class and working families. Senator Warren has built her entire career around fighting for those families and we want to see that reflected, that message, that cause, we want to see that reflected by her running in the presidential primary.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston, Dec. 4, 2014.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston, Dec. 4, 2014.

Warren has said repeatedly she has no plans to run for president in 2016 and public opinion polls have consistently shown Clinton the far and away favorite for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

But Galland said Warren was encouraged to run for the Senate in Massachusetts by progressive activists and she believes it could work again in urging her to run for the White House.

“We will launch a significant effort,” Galland said. “We will hire organizers in early primary states. We will open offices there. We will spend a million dollars just to start to make sure Senator Warren understands that millions of Americans including millions of Move-On members are deeply excited about her and how she fights for working people and the middle class.”

Highlighting income disparity

In her brief time in the Senate, Warren has emerged as a leading proponent of an economic populism agenda that seeks to improve working and middle class families while reining in the abuses of moguls on Wall Street. She was also recently added to the Senate Democrat’s leadership team and vowed to make income disparity a key focus of her work in the Senate.

“Wall Street is doing very well,” she said. “CEOs are bringing in millions more and families all across this country are struggling. We have to make this government work for the American people and that is what we are here to fight for.”

Public opinion polls show that if she did run, Warren would be an underdog in any Democratic presidential field that includes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A CNN-ORC poll a few weeks ago showed Clinton with the support of 65 percent of the Democrats surveyed, followed by Warren at 10 percent and Vice President Joe Biden at nine percent. Biden has said he will decide on a presidential run in the next several months.

For her part, Clinton is expected to announce her presidential intentions early in 2015. She did campaign on behalf of Democratic candidates in the recent congressional midterm elections and is a frequent speaker at conferences that focus on empowering women.

“The Democratic Party is at its best, just like America is at its best when we rally behind a very simple yet powerful idea—family,” Clinton said. “Family is the building block of any society. It’s the building block of our party and our country.”

Clinton still formidable

Despite the talk about Warren, Clinton remains the clear Democratic favorite assuming she runs, said analyst John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“So I think it is still an uphill challenge for anyone to beat Hillary Clinton but she will have challengers and likely a relatively strong challenge from the left during the primary,” Fortier said.

Clinton’s ability to draw big fundraisers to her campaign would also be a huge advantage plus the fact that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, continues to enjoy near rock star status with Democratic activists and remains one of the party’s most experienced and effective campaigners.

Even if Warren decides against a presidential run, experts say liberal activists may be tempted to support other candidates who are considering getting into the race including Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders, an independent who usually votes with Democrats.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.