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Can this woman convince Elizabeth Warren to run for president?


Erica Sagrans, campaign manager of Ready for Warren. (Photo by Christopher Dilts) Erica Sagrans, campaign manager of Ready for Warren. (Photo by Christopher Dilts)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has had a good, strong run of public appearances and headlines over the last several days, further driving the presidential buzz surrounding her.

She showed up in West Virginia July 14 to rally Democrats around long-shot Senate candidate Natalie Tennant, testing whether her brand of Northeastern liberalism could play in an increasingly conservative state.  The standing-room-only crowd that cheered her fiery message suggested that she passed that test.

Known for taking the big banks to the woodshed in several Senate hearings, Warren also added to her greatest video hits on July 15 with a tough grilling of Federal Reserve Janet Yellen:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) grills Fed Chair Yellen on JP Morgan and how banks affect the overall economy during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Tuesday. (YouTube/Senator Elizabeth Warren)

Warren also headlined the Netroots Conference in Detroit–where Ready for Hillary was one of the sponsors, although Clinton declined an invite–this past Friday, drawing a huge crowd.

But perhaps what matters most about Warren’s big week and could resonate for the next couple years, was the announcement of Ready for Warren, a group set up to convince Warren to put running for President in 2016 at the top of her to-do list.

She The People reached out to Erica Sagrans, the 31-year old campaign manager for the Warren-in-waiting presidential campaign. Sagrans has never met Warren, who is not affiliated with the Ready for Warren group, but she could be one of the key people that could convince Warren to run for the White House.

The following is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation:

STP: Why were you chosen to lead Ready for Warren?
I came on board to solidify things and to make it more serious. I have worked in Democratic party operations and the Obama campaign, and worked with activists and progressives. It’s a strategy that is both inside and outside. There are activists pushing from the outside. But there is some support from people on the inside who are supportive but they don’t feel like they can be public about it. This is an effort to make them comfortable and to show that there are other people out there so that they can publicly support Warren too.

STP: What did you learn from the Obama campaign?
One thing I think is relevant is how the Obama campaign grew out of lots of organic momentum in 2008. With Howard Dean, it was the same thing. There were groups of people who formed larger groups that gained momentum to let supporters connect and plug in to the larger effort.

STP: How do you counteract the narrative that Warren, like Obama, maybe is too lofty, too good to be true and that maybe someone more pragmatic is actually better?
The current environment with Congress will always be a challenge for a progressive. But we should still try and work for the most progressive candidate who is going to fight for people rather than Wall Street. There needs to be a continued effort to hold people accountable and we have to keep making sure that, if Warren runs, that she fights for what she’s talked about as a Senator.

STP: What would it take for Warren to run?
SAGRANS: It would take her seeing that there is strong momentum and excitement all across the country, not just in liberal areas. But excitement like we’ve seen in Kentucky and West Virginia. We are working to harness that excitement and harness it into a structure to show her that we are 100 percent ready to back her.

STP: What about the Massachusetts problem? It’s been easy to paint Massachusetts candidates as captives of the liberal elite.
SAGRANS: Warren has Oklahoma roots and a connection to places that are not liberal enclaves. She has shown that she has the ability to connect with people who are struggling around student debt who are of all different races and places. There are points of connection there.

STP: How do you convince Warren to run against Clinton?
SAGRANS: Part of the calculation is regardless of who runs we want to push that discussion around progressive issues. We want to talk about who we want to see and how we want the Democratic nominee to approach these issues.

STP: So there’s Ready for Warren and Ready for Hillary? Why such similar names?

SAGRANS: There are some similarities for sure. We thought about a few things but that seemed to be the one that resonated. It references Hillary obviously. But right now we are focused on promoting Warren and pushing the conversation to the left and we want to encourage people to think bigger about what they want to see in the next president and that’s a progressive like Warren. It’s definitely more grassroots than Ready for Hillary. There have been more volunteer activists, who started the Facebook group and the Twitter page and they are not the only ones who are supporting Warren. We want to have people who are at events, urging her to run and supporting her and to amplify those efforts, particularly in early states and important presidential states, like Iowa and New Hampshire.

STP: Will you roll out Warren endorsements from other politicians in the way that Ready for Hillary has rolled out endorsements?
SAGRANS: Possibly.

STP: At some point, do you expect there will be a rollout of famous people who back Warren?
SAGRANS:We have gotten interest from some high profile folks and we are talking about how they can be involved and support the effort.

STP: Is it Rihanna?
SAGRANS: Not specifically.

STP: Beyonce?
SAGRANS: Not yet, but hopefully.

Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.

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