Senate Democrats named Elizabeth Warren to a new leadership position in their caucus Thursday morning. But a group of progressive activists want her to go for an even bigger promotion — by challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Erica Sagrans, a digital staffer for Obama's 2012 campaign, launched the group "Ready for Warren" this July, and has been working full-time with it since. Modeled after a similar pre-campaign group for Clinton, the group's goal is to convince Warren to jump into the race, by organizing support for her around the country.
"This is a great thing that she's been elevated into this new [Senate] role," Sagrans told me Thursday afternoon. "But we want to see her elevated to an even bigger role." Here's a transcript of our interview, edited and condensed for clarity:
Andrew Prokop: What's your take on what happened in the midterms this year?
Erica Sagrans: I think we saw that among Democrats there was a lack of a real coherent vision around what candidates were going to do to help people. And so there was more kind of negative campaigning, and campaigning on what they were not, instead of putting something forward that people could get excited about, and something people felt like could actually matter in their lives. We saw the minimum wage ballot initiatives passed in several places. So part of it is whether Democrats can really get their message across in the way that Warren does.
Andrew Prokop: Warren just got a big promotion to the Senate leadership today. My impression is that this makes her less likely to run for president, and more likely to stay focused on the Senate. But what's your view?
Erica Sagrans: I think her new leadership role means that she's an important force within the Democratic Party and where Democratic politics are headed. I think it shows how influential Warren has become, that the Senate leadership wants her to be part of driving their agenda forward. I think it's a really good sign that her vision around the economy and fighting for working families will be front and center in Washington, and in politics going forward regardless of her specific role. But we think that her running for president would be a much bigger role and elevate what she's doing much further.
Andrew Prokop: Today you're in Washington for the Democracy Alliance event, where some of the top liberal donors are meeting to discuss strategy. What are you doing there, and what are you seeing?
Erica Sagrans: We're talking — with all sorts of people, but including progressive donors — about what their interest is and what their thoughts are on 2016. Warren is speaking here today, so there's definitely a lot of excitement around her, and about figuring out how to elevate her and her agenda.
Andrew Prokop: Have you sensed any discontent with Hillary Clinton among the donors you've talked to?
Erica Sagrans: There are different takes within the Democracy Alliance. Some people would be very interested in getting behind Warren, while others are more Clinton folk. I think there's a good contingent here who would be open to supporting Warren.
Andrew Prokop: What comes next for Ready for Warren?
Erica Sagrans: Before the midterms we were doing some organizing around that and trying to help out some of the candidates that Warren was supporting. Since then we've really been planning for what we're going to do over the next 3 months. We're finding state leaders across the country who want Warren to get in, so they can build up local teams that would be ready to jump in and help her if she decides to run. So that gives her a little bit more time to decide. We're hoping to show her in different ways that if she gets in the race, a lot of people would support her.
I do believe that what happened in the midterms is very much a sign that we need Warren-type candidates. And that the thing you really need to start with as a candidate is really the authenticity and vision that Warren has that excites people. The money and everything like that can come later.