(NBC) — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is suspending her presidential campaign, a source familiar with the decision tells NBC News, a bitter blow for a senator who was long seen by prominent Democrats as headed for the White House.
The decision ends a frantic year of campaigning for a candidate who branded herself as a progressive fighter from humble beginnings who was ready to take on a broken and corrupt system.
She wowed crowds with her sharp intellect, her clear prognoses for complex problems, and her endless stream of policy blueprints to tackle them. After a long polling rise over summer that continued into the fall, it was clear Warren’s message was catching on, and she rose to the front of the pack in some polls while avoiding conflict with rivals.
The plan was working. Then it all started to fall apart.
Warren was pummeled on her “Medicare for All” plan by rivals like Pete Buttigieg, who started to peel away white college graduates, a group that formed the core of her base. She responded by releasing a series of detailed financing mechanisms, followed by a plan to transition onto Medicare for All in the third year of her presidency, moving first to establish a “public option” in the first year. The move didn’t placate moderates and it sowed doubts about her among left-leaning voters, who instead moved toward Sanders.
Meanwhile the crowded field of moderates, most notably the staying power of Joe Biden, made it harder for her to grow her support among the mainstream Democrats who backed Hillary Clinton in 2016. Questions about “electability” dogged her throughout the fall as many voters, haunted by the last presidential election, fretted that the U.S. wouldn’t elect a woman.
It was a quiet, even subconscious fear, thrust into the spotlight right before the Iowa caucuses when news broke of a late 2018 meeting between Warren and Sanders, during which Warren said Sanders told her he didn’t think a woman could beat President Donald Trump. The story led to a January debate stage confrontation, with Sanders denying he said it and Warren sticking by her re-telling of the story. The two later tried to quell the tensions — not wanting to alienate their progressive supporters. But the moment also made it harder for Warren to draw contrasts with her fellow progressive, at a time when it would’ve benefited her to show how she was different.
She wasn’t helped by polls that showed her faring worse than Sanders and Biden against Trump in key states like Michigan and Florida, reinforcing doubts among Democrats whose top concern was the only constant in this primary: finding a candidate who they could trust to defeat Trump.
Trump nourished this fear by repeatedly attacking her as “Pocahontas,” a reference to her decades-long claim of Native American ancestry and her 2018 decision to take a DNA test to prove it.