POLITICS

A Surprising Focus Group Shows How Much D.C. Insiders Misunderstand Elizabeth Warren

One focus group found that the senator elicited positive responses from conservatives, despite her left-leaning ideological values.

The conventional view in Washington says that if Hillary Clinton wants to win over Bernie Sanders supporters, she should pick Elizabeth Warren as her running mate. If she wants to pick up folks in the middle, she should go for a more conventional politician like Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. 

That wisdom, though, is based more on Washington hunches than any solid data. And a surprising focus group shows just how much the old political spectrum has become broken, looped and tied in knots: if Clinton wants to win over the middle (if such a thing exists) Warren, the senior senator from Massachusetts, might be the better way to go. 

A 2015 focus group of independent and GOP voters found that the participants, growing frustrated with the options in the Republican party, had a surprisingly favorable view of Warren.

Peter D. Hart, the chairman of polling firm Hart Research Associates, which conducted the focus group, asked the voters to share their thoughts on several politicians like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton. The responses were almost universally negative.

Warren, the progressive senator who's made a name for herself taking on Wall Street and for her more recent Twitter clashes with Donald Trump, elicited several positive responses from the group. The respondents described her as "smart," "sincere," "interesting," and "capable." In fact, one of the participants, Jenny Howard, seemed to have high hopes for Warren, even though the senator isn't running for president this time around. 

"I think if she ran, she could be the next president," Howard said. "She is personable and knowledgeable and I think she's got a good handle on what's going on in the country."

When asked to explain her choice, Howard said that she considers herself a "strong Republican," but the GOP candidates were making her "very mad."

Looking forward to the general election, Hart said that Howard's disillusion with her party could present an issue for the GOP this year. 

"If she doesn't vote for Donald Trump, that is a bellwether of the challenges that the Republican ticket will face in the fall" he said. 

A year later, Hart reached back out to Howard to see if she was backing Donald Trump in the Colorado primary. No, she told him, she was feeling the Bern.

In other words, if Clinton wants to win over fed up, centrist or conservative Republicans, Warren, rather than a textbook moderate, might be the way to do it. 

Watch the video above to hear what the focus group had to say about Warren and the other presidential hopefuls last year. 

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