Elizabeth Warren, who electrified progressives with her “plan for everything” and strong message of economic populism, dropped out the Democratic presidential race on Thursday after disappointing showings in the early-voting states and on Super Tuesday.
Warren informed her staff of the decision to suspend her campaign on a conference call Thursday morning then shared her prepared remarks online. NBC News earlier confirmed her exit, citing a source familiar with the decision.
"We didn’t reach our goal, but what we have done together – what you have done – has made a lasting difference. It’s not the scale of the difference we wanted to make, but it matters – and the changes will have ripples for years to come," Warren said.
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And while she's no longer in the running, Warren urged supporters not to give up. "I may not be in the race for President in 2020, but this fight—our fight—is not over. And our place in this fight has not ended, " she said.
Warren's exit extinguished hopes that Democrats would get another try at putting a woman up against President Donald Trump. She told reporters at a news conference outside her Boston home Thursday afternoon, that's "one of the hardest parts of this...all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years. That's gonna be hard."
Asked if she would be endorsing Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren said, "Let's take a deep breath and spend a little time on that. We don't have to decide that this minute."
She spoke with both men on Wednesday, according to their campaigns.
Her exit from the race comes a day after billionaire Mike Bloomberg suspended his presidential campaign. The former New York City mayor joined former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar in consolidating the moderate support behind Biden.
The one-time frontrunner failed to place above third place in 18 contests, including in both her home state of Massachusetts and native Oklahoma.
In Massachusetts, Warren finished behind Biden, who won the state's primary, and fellow progressive Sanders. Her fourth-place finish in Oklahoma, where she was born and raised, failed to reach the 15% threshold needed to be awarded any of the statewide delegates.
Warren also trailed significantly behind Biden and Sanders in the overall delegate count, making her path to reach at least 1,991 delegates needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination almost impossible.
For much of the past year, her campaign had all the markers of success, robust poll numbers, impressive fundraising and a sprawling political infrastructure that featured staffers on the ground across the country. She was squeezed out, though, by Sanders, who had an immovable base of voters she needed to advance.
“I have no regrets at all. This has been the honor of a lifetime," she said Thursday. "Ten years ago I was teaching a few blocks from here and talking about what was broken in America and ideas for how to fix it and pretty much nobody wants to hear it.”
Warren's campaign began with enormous promise that she could carry that momentum into the presidential race. Last summer, she drew tens of thousands of supporters to Manhattan's Washington Square Park, a scene that was repeated in places like Washington state and Minnesota.
She had a compelling message, calling for “structural change” to the American political system to reorder the nation's economy in the name of fairness. She had a signature populist proposal for a 2% wealth tax she wanted to impose on households worth more than $50 million that prompted chants of “Two cents! Two cents!" at rallies across the country.
Warren, 70, began her White House bid polling near the back of an impossibly crowded field, used wonky policy prowess to rocket to front-runner status by the fall, then saw her support evaporate almost as quickly.
Her candidacy appeared seriously damaged almost before it started after she released a DNA test in response to goading by Trump to prove she had Native American ancestry. Instead of quieting critics who had questioned her claims, however, the test offended many tribal leaders who rejected undergoing the genetic test as culturally insensitive, and it didn’t stop Trump and other Republicans from gleefully deriding her as “Pocahontas."
Warren also lost her finance director over her refusal to attend large fundraisers, long considered the financial lifeblood of national campaigns. Still, she distinguished herself by releasing dozens of detailed proposals on all sorts of policies from canceling college debt to protecting oceans to containing the coronavirus. Warren also was able to build an impressive campaign war chest relying on mostly small donations that poured in from across the country -- erasing the deficit created by refusing to court big, traditional donors.
As her polling began improving through the summer. Warren appeared to further hit her stride as she hammered the idea that more moderate Democratic candidates, including Biden, weren’t ambitious enough to roll back Trump's policies and were too reliant on political consultants and fickle polling. And she drew strength in the #MeToo era, especially after a wave of female candidates helped Democrats take control of the U.S. House in 2018.
But Warren couldn't consolidate the support of the Democratic Party’s most liberal wing against the race’s other top progressive, Sanders. Both supported universal, government-sponsored health care under a “Medicare for All” program, tuition-free public college and aggressive climate change fighting measures as part of the “Green New Deal” while forgoing big fundraisers in favor of small donations fueled by the internet.
Warren's poll numbers began to slip after a series of debates when she repeatedly refused to answer direct questions about if she'd have to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for Medicare for All. Her top advisers were slow to catch on that not providing more details looked to voters like a major oversight for a candidate who proudly had so many other policy plans.
When Warren finally moved to correct the problem, her support eroded further. She moved away from a full endorsement of Medicare for All, announcing that she'd work with Congress to transition the country to the program over three years. In the meantime, she said, many Americans could “choose” to remain with their current, private health insurance plans, which most people have through their employers. Biden and other rivals pounced, calling Warren a flip-flopper, and her standing with progressives sagged.
Sanders, meanwhile, wasted little time capitalizing on the contrast by boasting that he would ship a full Medicare for All program for congressional approval during his first week in the White House. After long avoiding direct conflict, Warren and Sanders clashed in January after she said Sanders had suggested during a private meeting in 2018 that a woman couldn’t win the White House. Sanders denied that, and Warren refused to shake his outstretched hand after a debate in Iowa.
Leaning hard into the gender issue only saw Warren's support sink further heading into Iowa's leadoff caucus, however. But even as her momentum was slipping away, Warren still boasted impressive campaign infrastructure in that state and well beyond. Her army of volunteers and staffers looked so formidable that even other presidential candidates were envious.
Just before Iowa, her campaign released a memo detailing its 1,000-plus staffers nationwide and pledging a long-haul strategy that would lead to victories in the primary and the general election. Bracing for a poor finish in New Hampshire, her campaign issued another memo again urging supporters to stay focused on the long game — but also expressly spelling out the weaknesses of Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg, in ways the senator herself rarely did.
Warren got a foil for all of her opposition to powerful billionaires when Bloomberg entered the race. During a debate in Las Vegas just before Nevada's caucus, Warren hammered Bloomberg and the mayor's lackluster response touched off events that ended with him leaving the race on Wednesday.
For Warren, that led to a sharp rise in fundraising but didn't translate to electoral success. She tried to stress her ability to unite the fractured Democratic party, but that message fell flat.
By South Carolina, an outside political group began pouring more than $11 million into TV advertising on Warren's behalf, forcing her to say that, although she rejected super PACs, she'd accept their help as long as other candidates did. Her campaign shifted strategy again, saying it was betting on a contested convention.
Still, the longer Warren stayed in the race, the more questions she faced about why she was doing so with little hope of winning — and she started to sound like a candidate who was slowly coming to terms with that.
“I’m not somebody who has been looking at myself in the mirror since I was 12 years old saying, ‘You should run for president,’” Warren said aboard her campaign bus on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, previewing a ceasing of campaigning that wasn't yet official. “I started running for office later than anyone who is in this, so it was never about the office — it was about what we could do to repair our economy, what we could do to mend a democracy that's being pulled apart. That’s what I want to see happen, and I just want to see it happen.”
She vowed to fight on saying, "I cannot say, for all those little girls, this got hard and I quit. My job is to persist.”
But even that seemed impossible after a Super Tuesday drubbing that included her home state.
In a tweet, Sanders praised Warren for running an "extraordinary campaign of ideas" and taking "on the most powerful corporate interests because she cares about those who have been left behind. Without her, the progressive movement would not be nearly as strong as it is today. I know that she'll stay in this fight and we are grateful that she will."
Fellow candidate Joe Biden called her the "fiercest of fighters for middle class families. Her work in Washington, in Massachusetts, and on the campaign trail has made a real difference in people's lives. We needed her voice in this race, and we need her continued work in the Senate," he tweeted.
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Updated Nov. 20, 2019
Note: Incorrect information about Michael Bennet’s cancer diagnosis and titles for Joe Sestak and William Weld have been revised on July 29, 2019, 3:17 p.m. ET.
Credit: Jo Bruni, Emma Barnett, Asher Klein, Dan Macht, Kelly Zegers / NBC; Photos: Getty Images