Gone are the days of summer when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was soaring in the polls and declining to say a negative word about her rivals. Now, as she sinks nationally and in early state polls and risks winning neither of the early contests, she is lashing out.

The New York Times reports on her speech hitting former vice president Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. First came her blast aimed at Biden:

“Unlike some candidates for the Democratic nomination, I’m not counting on Republican politicians having an epiphany and suddenly supporting the kinds of tax increases on the rich or big business accountability they have opposed under Democratic presidents for a generation.”

Biden, along with other moderates, attacked her Medicare-for-all scheme, forcing her first to put out questionable math on funding it and then throwing in the towel, saying she wouldn’t introduce anything until the third year of her presidency and, until then, would pursue the sort of incremental approaches she criticized her rivals for suggesting.

Next she swiped at Buttigieg, whom she goaded into pressuring his former employer McKinsey & Co. to allow him to reveal a client list (which turned out to be so squeaky clean as to include the U.S. Postal Service and the Natural Resources Defense Council):

Without saying his name, Ms. Warren noted that Mr. Buttigieg “calls people who raise a quarter-million dollars for him his ‘National Investors Circle,’ and he offers them regular phone calls and special access. When a candidate brags about how beholden he feels to a group of wealthy investors, our democracy is in serious trouble.”

Appearing on CBS, Buttigieg calmly replied that he has more than 700,000 donors and is making public lists of his top donors.

Buttigieg’s communications director Lis Smith responded in writing: “Senator Warren’s idea of how to defeat Donald Trump is to tell people who don’t support her that they are unwelcome in the fight and that those who disagree with her belong in the other party." Smith added: "We need to move beyond the politics and divisiveness that is tearing this country apart and holding us back. Pete will be a President who will heal our divides and rally Americans around big ideas to solve the problems that have festered in Washington for too long.”

I suspect the average voter even in early states where interest is very high will not find out about this tiff nor think worse of Biden or Buttigieg, who are appealing to the pragmatic middle of the party.

In truth, Warren’s problem is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has come roaring back from his heart attack and now argues to the far left that he is the only legitimate socialist in the race. (He is right about this.) Warren, not unreasonably, is wary of attacking him for fear of alienating his voters, whom she desperately needs to come over to her side.

It is nevertheless telling that the candidate with “all the plans” now is scrambling to undercut her rivals who are passing her in the polls. While Warren used to stand out for the plethora of policy position papers, now many candidates have many plans so she no longer stands out. Moreover, the longer her plans stay out there, the less credible they become. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, for example, put out a study that confirms criticism of her wealth tax, which Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) dinged in the last debate.

CNBC reports that instead of raising $3.75 trillion, her wealth tax would raise between $2.3 trillion and $2.7 trillion:

In other words, the study projects the proposed wealth tax will raise $1 trillion to $1.4 trillion less than the Warren campaign advertises.
“That does mean — to the extent that they’re thinking about this money being used to pay for spending priorities and things like that — they will need to figure out how to come up with that difference,” Kent Smetters, faculty director for the Penn Wharton Budget Model, said in an interview with CNBC.

Worse, the study finds, “Its findings indicate average hourly wages in the economy, including those earned by households not directly subject to the wealth tax, are projected to fall 0.8% to 2.3% due to the reduction in private capital formation. It also says the tax would shrink the U.S. economy by 0.9% to 2.1% by 2050, depending on how Congress spends the revenues.”

Warren defends the plan, saying her anti-evasion measures will ensure that the rich pay. However, the record of wealth tax implementation (and repeal) in other countries suggests that Wharton has it pegged.

In any event, when a campaign hits the skids, nothing seems to go very well. The Times points out: “The speech is another example of how, amid stalling poll numbers and a need to recapture the energy that made her this summer’s progressive candidate du jour, Ms. Warren is no longer relying on her affirmative message alone to drive supporters into her corner.” Ouch.

Warren has time to put it all back together, but she would probably benefit from returning to her positive populist message and showing how she will help the family budgets of the middle class.

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