WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Warren has decided to drop out of the presidential race after failing in her attempts to bridge the Democratic Party’s left and right flanks behind her progressive policy agenda, a source familiar with her decision said.
She will make the announcement later Thursday.
It was still unclear if she would endorse either of the two leading candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. She spoke to both in separate calls on Wednesday.
While parts of Warren’s campaign agenda skewed closer to Sanders’ call for revolutionary change, many of her older, suburban supporters may be more comfortable with Biden’s calls for more traditional Democratic reforms. So the political impact on the campaign may be muted.
The senior senator from Massachusetts briefly led the 2020 field last year, but she suffered crushing defeats in the first states to vote and could not recover. She ultimately suffered an embarrassing third-place finish in her home state on Super Tuesday.
Warren’s departure leaves the nomination race a battle between two white men in their 70s, far from the far more diverse field that began the race. (U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is still in the race, but has won just one delegate.)
A powerful voice in progressive politics even before she was elected to the Senate in 2012, Warren had courted mainstream Democrats with an impassioned plea for “big structural change.” She offered detailed policy plans backed by a fervent promise to fight for them without apology.
But the soaring cost of her ambitious plans, especially her proposal to provide free universal health care and eliminate private medical insurance, led to growing concerns from establishment Democrats that President Donald Trump and his allies would portray the former Harvard bankruptcy law professor as radical.
Many of the party’s progressives, in turn, viewed her proposals for phased health care plans and her efforts to reconcile the math as signals that she would retreat if elected.
Sanders, who avoided explaining how he would pay for universal health care, was the beneficiary of Warren’s stumbles, overtaking her as the leading progressive candidate in the field.
Those hurdles were compounded by concerns, which her supporters viewed as sexist, that Warren would repel white working-class voters who helped tip the 2016 election for Trump against another woman, Hillary Clinton.
Over the last year, Warren poured much of her energy and resources into building a network of supporters in Iowa, which held the first contest in the Democratic nominating process on Feb. 3.
But when she finished third in the Iowa caucuses, her coalition split, undermining her argument that she could unify the fractured party to beat Trump next fall. She lost badly in her neighboring state, New Hampshire, and the contests that followed. The final blow came on Super Tuesday, when she failed to win any of the 14 states, including Massachusetts.
Her departure will be viewed as a setback for women and is likely to prompt even more frustration from voters who remain angry at the gender-based attacks on Clinton in 2016.
Warren, like Clinton, came to the race with as many or more qualifications than male candidates who have won the White House in the past.
Even as Warren exits the campaign, her mark on the party has been indelible.
She and Sanders pushed rivals to embrace more liberal health care proposals, anti-corruption measures, reparations for African Americans and more generous policies aimed at reducing the burden of college debt.
Her proposal for a 2% tax on the ultra-wealthy, to help fund many of her social programs, was popular on the campaign trail, prompting supporters to chant “Two cents” at her rallies.
Warren, 70, came to politics late in life. But she attracted widespread notice among Democrats when she designed a consumer financial protection agency for President Barack Obama after the 2007-09 financial crisis and Great Recession.
As a candidate, she put complex financial issues into plain language that some critics viewed as overly simplistic. But she channeled the left’s growing populist yearnings with an uncompromising attack on Wall Street tycoons and other elites who she believed had an undue influence on the Democratic Party and the country as a whole.
She sat out the 2016 election, resisting efforts to draft her to run for president, believing she could not defeat Clinton in the primaries and that her cause would be best served by pushing Clinton to the left once in office.
Warren was one of the first Democrats to enter the 2020 race and she used her early advantage to build a broad network of supporters in Iowa, where the caucuses often favor candidates who inspire passion.
Though foes painted the former professor as out of touch with Americans, she had a modest upbringing in Oklahoma that she frequently invoked on the campaign trail.
Trump taunted Warren as “Pocahontas,” mocking her assertions of Cherokee heritage before she joined politics, claims that dogged both her Senate and presidential campaigns. After taking a DNA test in 2018, she apologized for making such claims.
Warren appeared to win over voters who appreciated her ability to field hard questions, her patience in taking cellphone pictures with long lines of supporters, and making endless “pinkie swears” to help inspire young girls that they too should run for president.
Polls showed her leading in Iowa in October, prompting many Democrats to view her as a potential nominee. And she got a publicity boost in mid-January when the New York Times editorial page endorsed her along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Warren worked to persuade establishment figures that she could beat Trump with her bold plans. Her case was implicit: Unlike Sanders, who proudly wore his label as the only independent in the Senate, she remained a Democrat who believed in changing the party from within.
While Sanders described himself as a democratic socialist, Warren called herself “capitalist down to my bones” and said she wanted to change the economy to make it function more fairly and efficiently for millions of Americans.
Had she run in 2016, Warren might have kept the progressive wing of the party to herself. Sanders emerged as a national figure instead by challenging Clinton and building a powerful fundraising network and a campaign organization that he carried to 2020.
This time, Sanders’ prominence forced Warren to embrace his signature proposal, “Medicare for All,” a politically fraught issue that many progressives view as a litmus test _ but that some moderates view with alarm.
After declining to outline a plan for months, Warren proposed one in November that would cost nearly $52 trillion over a decade, according to her own estimates.
Weeks later, she attempted to alleviate moderates’ fears by releasing a second plan that called for a phased-in approach that would preserve private insurance until her third year in office.
Instead of splitting the difference, Warren seemed to lose voters on both sides, starting a steady slide in the polls.
By Noah Bierman and Janet Hook
Los Angeles Times