Slate’s Jordan Weissmann observes that when it comes to Medicare-for-all “the people in Congress who would need to support any actual legislation are saying over and over again that it’s never going to happen. And they are almost certainly correct.” Surely, Warren latched onto Medicare-for-all because she figured without it she could not chase Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from the race and capture his voters. What happened is that she is now stuck with Medicare-for-all and with Sanders, who has hung on to or has even won back some of his core voters, many of them young and non-college educated, confining Warren to a sliver of a sliver of the Democratic Party (i.e., white, super-progressive, college-educated voters.)
You can win elections in Massachusetts with white, super-progressive, college-educated voters, but you cannot win a general election with only those people and, it turns out, you might not win a Democratic presidential primary if you cannot draw voters beyond Harvard Yard.
Warren’s plan has gotten drubbed by the speaker of the House, a bunch of center-left lawmakers, influential progressive journalists (from Slate to Atlantic to New York Magazine), health-care policy wonks and Democratic operatives nervously eyeing swing-state polls. These voices probably will not dissuade voters already in her camp, but they sure may influence moderates she will eventually need to secure the nomination — especially if Sanders remains in the race to the end, which he has every reason to do.
This is not to say Warren can’t win the nomination. She has created an organizational and online fundraising behemoth and has a clear and compelling message and an unmatched work ethic. In a race with no real front-runner, she surely could win. She has, however, made it so much more difficult on herself and on Democrats should they nominate her that you do wonder if she had to do it again whether she would have stuck to her message early in the race.
Back in March, she was saying, "When we talk about Medicare for All, there are a lot of different pathways. What we’re all looking for is the lowest cost way to make sure that everybody gets covered. . . . Some folks are talking about, let’s start lowering the age. Maybe bringing it down to 60, 55, 50. That helps cover people who are most at risk. Some people say do it the other way. Let’s bring it up from — everybody under 30 gets covered by Medicare.” She kept going: "Others say let employers be able to buy into the Medicare plans. Others say let’s let employees buy into the Medicare plans.”
She added: “I’ve also co-sponsored other bills including expanding Medicaid as another approach that we use. For me what’s key is we get everybody at the table on this.” Sounding like her opponents now do, she stressed that "what’s really important to me about this is we never lose sight of what the center is. Because the center is about making sure that every single person in this country gets the coverage they need and that it’s at a price that they can afford.”
Wow, a lot of people inside and outside the Democratic Party might have felt comfortable with the March version of Warren. Now, the November Warren would accuse the March Warren of small thinking and running in the wrong primary.