Yes, I am parsing Warren's words like crazy. But, also yes, Warren absolutely knew that Inskeep would ask her about running for president and had an answer -- or answers -- ready. And when given the opportunity to definitely rule out running for president -- past, present or future -- Warren didn't do it. That's on purpose. (Remember that Warren's Senate chief of staff is Mindy Myers, a very successful -- and very underrated -- campaign manager who knows the political world as well as anyone.)
Now, Warren's unwillingness to make a Sherman-esque declaration does not mean she is secretly plotting a presidential bid in 2016. But, it's a savvy move nonetheless. Here's why:
1. Let's say Warren absolutely does not want to run for president and won't be persuaded no matter what happens in the world over the next three to six months. Okay, fine. It still does her NO good to definitively rule out running right now because the second she does that, the huge national media spotlight will begin roving elsewhere -- limiting Warren's influence. At the moment, there is no story bigger in politics than what Warren will do. She can use that attention to push her pet issues -- restricting corporate America and addressing income inequality. She did just that last week with her loudly-declared opposition to the omnibus bill because of its loosening of some derivative trading rules on corporations. Warren's power is at its height nationally at the moment. It makes zero sense for her to pop that balloon herself.
2. I don't doubt Warren isn't super-interested in the presidential race right now. But, circumstances change. And, over the next few months -- if the drumbeat for her candidacy by the party's left keeps up or even grows louder -- who knows what might happen? Warren is clearly quite passionate about her palette of issues and if someone (or someones) got in her ear and convinced her that the best/only way for those issues to be seriously addressed would be by her running for president, then maybe she would change her mind. And, what if -- for whatever reason -- Hillary Rodham Clinton decides not to run? We would have an entirely different Democratic primary race -- and one that Warren would probably be favored to win. Point is, stuff changes in politics. (Who would have thought that Colt McCoy would be the starting QB for the Washington professional football team back in August?)
Every person I talk to -- inside and outside Warren's orbit -- is steadfast in their belief that she is not -- and will not be -- running. "As Senator Warren has said many times, she's not running," said her press secretary, Lacey Rose. "She has spent much of her career fighting against big banks as a strong advocate for financial reform, and her latest efforts have been an extension of that."
I take her team at its word. But, even if that's a done deal in Warren's mind, she'd do well to keep the door open at least a crack for a little while longer. It's always best in politics to keep them guessing.