“I refuse to let disappointment blind me — or you — to what we’ve accomplished,” Warren told her campaign staff on a conference call Thursday morning. “We didn’t reach our goal, but what we have done together — what you have done — has made a lasting difference. It’s not the scale of the difference we wanted to make, but it matters. And the changes will have ripples for years to come.”
Warren’s decision to leave the race came after a series of disappointing finishes. She placed third in the Iowa caucuses and fourth in the New Hampshire primary. She was fourth again in Nevada and fifth again in South Carolina. Super Tuesday was also a major disappointment; Warren didn’t win a single state and placed third in her home state of Massachusetts.
After such a series of disappointing showings, the only question after Super Tuesday was when Warren would get out. (The only other question was, would Warren endorse anyone on the way out; she did not.)
But with the logistics of when/how Warren will end her campaign now out of the way, a bigger question arises: Why didn’t she do better?
After all, as recently as the early fall of 2019, Warren was among the favorites — if not the favorite — for the nomination. And yet she won zero states and left the race with just 37 delegates.
Answering the “what happened” question is never a simple thing. Voters make up their minds for lots of different reasons — some of which they are willing to articulate and some they simply won’t. But generally speaking, there seem to be three reasons why Warren didn’t get to where she wanted to go. (These are in no particular order.)
1) She peaked too soon: If the Iowa caucuses were October 3, Warren could have won going away. National polling around that time captures Warren’s summer and early fall surge. On October 8, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Warren actually passed former Vice President Joe Biden. But that was the high point for Warren. She never went any higher, watching as her support dropped both nationally and in key early states like Iowa and New Hampshire as the actual votes neared.
That decline led to Warren looking like a bad bet or a risky stock in the eyes of lots of voters. And people — all people — like to be for a winner, or at least someone who they think has a realistic chance to win. When votes started to be cast, that wasn’t Warren.