Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s presidential run “absolutely, completely wrong” in a new book due out this week, saying the billionaire media mogul “didn’t belong in [the] race.”
The Massachusetts Democrat’s continued anger at Bloomberg ― whom she memorably clashed with in two debates during the 2020 Democratic primary ― is one of several revelations in the new book, “Persist,” a copy of which was obtained by HuffPost.
The book is not a straightforward campaign memoir. Warren barely mentions some of the best-covered moments of her own presidential campaign, and spends much of the text making the case for the policies she championed during her run, including a wealth tax and the mass cancellation of student debt.
Her clashes with candidates not named Bloomberg, including eventual winner Joe Biden, now-Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are barely mentioned, a reflection of Warren’s typical approach of downplaying her disagreements with other Democrats.
Still, Warren dedicates considerable space to pondering why her bid for the presidency fell short after her surge in the polls in the summer and fall of 2019, pointing to her campaign’s mishandling of “Medicare for All” as a key reason.
In the book, Warren says she went to the February 2020 presidential debate in Las Vegas “to fight.” She describes Bloomberg as having “skipped the months of meeting people face-to-face, hearing about their lives, and listening to them describe what worried them about our future — you know, the democracy part” in favor of spending $1 billion of his own money on his candidacy after entering the race late in 2019.
“After making no real connection with voters, after enduring no real scrutiny of his record, a lot of people were certain that Bloomberg would carry the Democratic Party’s flag and take on Donald Trump in the general election,” Warren writes. “I thought this was totally, completely, absolutely wrong.”
Warren recounts, in detail, her attacks and Bloomberg’s responses on that night in Las Vegas, including a moment where she wondered if they would damage the former mayor.
“The format of this televised forum allowed Bloomberg to ignore every charge I’d made, and apparently the moderators were fine with that,” she writes. “The debate would just roll on. Like so many women in so many settings, I found myself wondering if he had even heard me.”
Eventually, the moderators pressed Bloomberg on sexual harassment lawsuits against his company, giving Warren a chance to press him on whether he would release women who reached settlements from their nondisclosure agreements. The exchange was credited with helping smother the then-surging Bloomberg’s chances at winning the nomination.
But it did little to turn around Warren’s fortunes. In the book, she notes her chances to win faded after the Oct. 15, 2019, debate where the other candidates attacked her stance on “Medicare for All,” and her (to that point) failure to outline how to pay for it.
“Almost immediately, my numbers started falling, and soon I was far behind
both Bernie and Biden,” she writes. “I never came close again.”
She attributes much of her loss to the strengths of the two men who finished ahead of her, noting Sanders “had built an army of loyal supporters” and Biden “brought years of experience to the table and was clearly a steady, decent man who could deliver us from the nightmare world of Donald Trump.” In the end, she concludes, “there wasn’t much space left for me.”
“But there’s always another possibility, a much more painful one,” she continues. “In this moment, against this president, in this field of candidates, maybe I just wasn’t good enough to reassure the voters, to bring along the doubters, to embolden the hopeful.”
She also points to the difficulties of running as a woman, though is careful not to directly blame sexism for her loss. “In 2012, I ran in Martha Coakley’s wake,” she writes. “In 2020, I ran in Hillary Clinton’s.” She notes that in both cases, potential supporters admitted they were reluctant to support her because of past failures by female candidates.
“I wondered whether anyone said to Bernie Sanders when he asked for their support, ‘Gore lost, so how can you win?’ I wondered whether anyone said to Joe Biden, ‘Kerry lost, so clearly America just isn’t ready for a man to be president,’” she continues. “I tried to laugh, but the joke didn’t seem very funny.”
Warren dedicates some space to the few moments where she allowed herself to believe a victory was possible. She recounts a late-night conversation at a bar with her husband, Bruce Mann, where he told her: “Babe, you could actually do this. You could be president.”
Warren says she imagined enacting the many, many plans she rolled out during the campaign, and quickly developed a new one.
“On Inauguration Day, we could set up a line for pinkie promises for little girls and their families. I started to think about how we could make that work,” she writes. “Instead of spending time at fancy dress balls that night, could we spend the time on a selfie line for children? My eyes filled with tears. I started to cry and laugh at the same time. Who might be in that line? What little girls or little boys would tell their own grandchildren about a long-ago pinkie promise made with an American president?”
Warren spends large chunks of the book praising her political allies, including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and now-Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, both of whom endorsed her presidential bid.
Little of the book recounts Warren’s interactions with Biden’s still-new presidential administration. Warren had hoped to become treasury secretary, but Democrats’ position in the Senate eliminated her chances. She’s been successful in helping several key aides receive high-ranking positions: Bharat Ramamurti, a top policy aide, is now the deputy director of the National Economic Council. Her campaign manager, Roger Lau, now holds a high-ranking position at the Democratic National Committee.
Warren recounts a key moment in building her relationship with Biden: a call he placed a week after she dropped out of the race.
“Elizabeth, I really like your bankruptcy plan. Are you okay if I pick it up?” Warren recounts him saying. She describes her reaction as “over the moon.”
What Warren does not mention is that her bankruptcy plan was written as a refutation of a Biden-sponsored bankruptcy law that Warren tried and failed to stop from passage when she was a law professor.
She opens the book by recounting election night 2020, when she and her husband were watching “Dr. No” in tribute to the then-recently departed Sean Connery. A group text of Democratic senators began sharing early results, and the movie was soon constantly interrupted by the pings of senators filling each other in on state-by-state results. It was 2 a.m. by the time Warren went to bed.
“But I couldn’t sleep,” Warren writes. “Change was coming — and I was making a plan.”