Warren's Harvard Bubble Bursts

Mass. senator crashes and burns in home state

Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) / Getty Images
March 3, 2020

GROTON, Mass.—As night turned to day on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden was even beating Sen. Elizabeth Warren among Massachusetts Democratic primary voters who hold advanced degrees, according to exit polls. The former vice president's strong performance with a group that has tended to back the Bay State senator was just one indication of his extraordinary comeback on Tuesday, and of Warren's disappointing performance in her home state.

Warren suffered a resounding defeat Tuesday evening, earning third place with 21 percent of the vote and 90 percent of precincts reporting, behind both victor Joe Biden at 33 percent and runner-up Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) at 26 percent.

Things did not look so bleak for Warren as she went to vote Tuesday morning. All along the brief walk from her home to the Cambridge, Mass., public school where she cast her ballot, Warren welcomed the adoration of a never-ending line of fans. Accompanied by her husband, Harvard Law professor Bruce Mann, and dog Bailey, it took the spritely septuagenarian almost half an hour to make her way a handful of blocks to the polling place.

Although Warren indicated during a Tuesday night campaign rally and in an email to supporters later in the evening that she would press on in the race, her devastating loss in her home state raises serious questions about her campaign's continued viability. She is also expected to lose big in Oklahoma, which she routinely calls her home over and above Massachusetts.

Exit polls confirm that Warren performed strongly with her base of highly educated, predominantly white voters—a small slice of the population overrepresented among the media commentators who have heaped praise on her. But even Biden outpeformed her among advanced degree holders, an indication that the former vice president managed to eat into her base of support on a night where he exceeded expectations. It is also a sign that Warren's upper-class appeal failed to translate into votes in the rest of the state.

Indeed, many Bay Staters told the Washington Free Beacon they had serious misgivings about their senator's electoral chances. Exit polls captured Warren's strengths: She led the field among white college graduates (33 percent), particularly among women (who make up more than half of the college-educated population). By contrast, she captured just 15 percent of voters without a college degree.

Those results mirror Warren's support nationwide, which is disproportionately white and college-educated. A Center for Responsive Politics analysis found that her top donors routinely held jobs requiring advanced degrees: professors, psychologists, editors, and psychotherapists. While Warren's message of "big, structural change" may have appealed to such voters, her abysmal performance in the broader Democratic primary suggests that it has little staying power elsewhere.

In interviews with Massachusetts voters across several towns, Warren's high-status message rarely came up. But it was clear that something about their senator's presidential campaign had failed to resonate.

For some, the issue came down to character. Concord-based artist and Biden backer Virginia Gorley said that Warren's recent demeanor in the Democratic debates turned her off: "I don't really like her attack mode. She has realized that she needs to be more aggressive."

Cameron Cologne, a Sanders supporter and psychology student at UMass Lowell, highlighted Warren's history of misleading or dishonest statements, saying that "she's been less than truthful, misrepresented a certain amount of things, statements she's made about herself and her family."

Others offered a blunter diagnosis: Warren's sex makes her unelectable.

"I think she's done a great job for the state of Massachusetts," Jacklyn Ross, an Ayer-based Sanders voter said, "and I think possibly in the future she would make a great president, I just don't think country-wise we are ready to have a woman president."

That was the view of even highly educated Bay Staters who spoke to the Free Beacon. Dr. Alan Lightman, a professor at MIT and Biden supporter, said that while he would put Warren in the White House if he could, "she is not electable."

"I think that there's probably some prejudice against her because she's a woman, although I don't share that prejudice the slightest bit," Lightman said. "And I think her policies, her Medicare for All was a huge mistake and her backing that. I think people want a choice, public choice options."

Warren's campaign has indicated it plans to push on to Milwaukee, hoping a contested convention will pick the senator as a compromise. But even Ben, a Waltham voter who declined to give his last name and who was the only Warren voter the Free Beacon spoke to at the polls on Tuesday, said that while he preferred Warren, he predicted she would drop out in favor of Sanders.

"I think that Sanders is going to end up winning a majority of the states, I think he'll end up winning this state as well," Ben said. "I think that ultimately Warren will end up having to concede, and if she doesn't concede, it's a clear indication that she's trying to be the middle-ground candidate between the moderates and the progressives and hoping for a brokered convention."

Should Warren fail to back Sanders, she may hand the nomination to a suddenly surging Biden, whose own consolidation of the moderate lane pushed him to a series of victories Tuesday night. That may mean Warren wants a Biden win, or is indifferent between him and Sanders—or, just as likely, it may mean that her campaign remains stuck in its own bubble.