MoveOn.org is lining up for Elizabeth Warren — the latest sign of her strength among progressives — by kicking off a $1 million effort to draft her for president in 2016, according to an article in the New York Times:
MoveOn.org’s executive director, Ilya Sheyman, said the group planned to open offices and hire staff in Iowa and New Hampshire, the states that kick off the presidential nominating process, and ultimately to air television ads in those states. The group will begin its push with a website, “Run Warren Run,” allowing supporters to sign a petition urging Ms. Warren to pursue a White House bid and featuring a video about her.
“We want to demonstrate to Senator Warren that there’s a groundswell of grass-roots energy nationally and in key states and to demonstrate there’s a path for her,” Mr. Sheyman said. He added that the effort was not being made in coordination with Ms. Warren and that the group advised her staff about it only last weekend.
And with every Warren story, the question becomes just how worried Hillary Clinton should actually be. And it's this question that reminded me of a sentence in my colleague Anne Gearan's article about all the potential "not-Hillarys" who might run in 2016:
Bill Clinton admires Warren’s stemwinder speaking style, and Hillary Clinton echoed parts of Warren’s sticking-up-for-the-little guy economic message during midterm speeches this year.
It's this speaking style that has powered Warren to her position, leading my colleague, David Farenthold, to call her the master of the stump speech. She can bring a huge crowd to its feet in a way that almost no politician can at this point. And she is also a pitbull at congressional hearings, the very kind of appearances which will likely go into whatever video that MoveOn.org will make about her.
As for Clinton, what would be on her highlight reel of speeches? Her attempted echo of Warren's brand of populism in Massachusetts fell flat. Take a look at Clinton addressing the recent incidents involving white police officers and black men which have particularly inflamed progressives (at the 2:00 mark):
"I know that a lot of hearts are breaking and we are asking ourselves, aren't these our sons? Aren't these our brothers?" she said, adding that "each of us has to grapple with some hard truths about race and justice in America" when it comes to disproportionate treatment in sentencing.
Here is a review from the Boston Globe of that portion of the speech, in which Clinton talked about the country needing to "find balance" again:
The remarks, delivered with a slow, deliberate cadence at the Massachusetts Conference for Women as Clinton stood on a wide stage, came not long before she is expected to telegraph her political intentions.
Uninspiring, cautious, careful. "Trite" might be another way to describe Clinton's riff, which was far from the kind of rousing style that her husband so admires in Warren.
Granted, race and policing is a tough issue, not given to rah-rah speeches — especially as federal investigations are still ongoing. But this knock on Clinton's delivery style goes for many of her speeches. Given that she has been in public life since 1992, it's a bit incongruous to consider that her speaking style is often so lacking. She has yet to master "the big speech," which is part of the toolbox of any major politician.
Yes, there are some hits — the Beijing speech from 1995 on women is still quoted today, as is the "18 million cracks" riff from 2008. But those speeches succeeded because the content was so compelling, and it's hard to point to a big Hillary speech moment. Her announcement in 2007 came via a soft-lit video rather than a big speech ala Obama).
The "big speech" doesn't have to be a candidate's warhorse, but it certainly helps. Clinton makes as much as $300,000 per speech, and will likely give them up until the time she announces. Those kinds of speech settings (corporate types) won't likely help her move beyond her slow, deliberate cadence, and in the meantime, Warren seems like she's just warming up.
A number of Clinton's potential opponents on the GOP side seem like they've had a crash course in public speaking (Sen. Marco Rubio especially) and have a sort of natural charisma and command of the stage (Sen. Ted Cruz).
Clinton has previously echoed the Mario Cuomo line that candidates "campaign in poetry and govern in prose" —dismissing Obama's rhetorical gifts way back when it was a liability for her. And similar to 2008, Warren will function as a sort of stalking horse come 2016 — unlikely to run, but very much a presence in the campaign, a constant reminder of a basic political skill that Clinton is still trying to master.