Is Elizabeth Warren really truly not running for president?

Elizabeth Warren said again on Monday that she's not running, emphatically. Lots of liberal Democrats hope she changes her mind. But unless Hillary Clinton defies expectation and declines to run, that's highly unlikely.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, joins other lawmakers in the rush to the Senate floor for votes on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 11, 2014. On Monday she denied, yet again, that she is running for president in 2016.

Is Elizabeth Warren really, truly, not running for president in 2016? After all, lots of liberal Democrats hope that she will. They see her as the great hope of US progressives.

She insists that she isn’t, though. She repeated that position numerous times in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep broadcast on Monday morning.

Mr. Inskeep pushed Senator Warren (D) of Massachusetts on the question, and she kept saying “no." She said “no” four times, in fact.

“I am not running for president. You want me to put an exclamation point at the end?” she finally said.

Aha! That reply was in the present tense. Obviously, she’s not a declared candidate for president at the moment. No one is. It’s too early for that. So her coy demurrals mean nothing, right? She’s really saying there’s a chance.

Weeellllll, maybe. Pretty much every politician in Washington has thought about being president at one time or another. That’s why they’re in Washington in the first place. After they meet the incumbent for the first time, they go home, look in their mirrors, and say, “Why not me?"

Warren’s probably no exception to this rule.

We believe it is unlikely in the extreme that she runs in 2016, though. It’s true that disaffected liberals are begging her to get into the race, and the media keep asking about it because the media can’t abide a boring status quo. She’s not going to do it, though, for a simple reason: She’d lose. And in doing so, she’d gain precious little for herself or her causes.

Warren would lose because the 2016 campaign is already well along and Hillary Rodham Clinton is very close to wrapping it up. That’s not just because of the polls, which show ex-Secretary of State Clinton a prohibitive favorite, as far in front as any possible nominee of recent times. It’s also because we’re in the pre-primary phase of the race, where prospective candidates jostle to line up fundraisers, state party chairmen, consultants, and so forth. That’s something that Clintonland does better than any political machine in the country.

Liberals don’t like to hear this. They insist there is great unrest in the progressive wing of the party and that there would be an explosion of interest if someone to the left of Clinton entered the race.

That’s what President Howard Dean thought, too.

Would running and losing nobly raise Warren’s stature at all? How could it? She’s already the darling of the base for her stand against Wall Street on such issues as the relaxation of trading rules in the recent omnibus spending bill. She’s already on Clinton’s shortlist for possible cabinet appointments if she (Clinton) actually wins the presidency.

She won’t be Clinton’s VP pick, no matter what. So that’s already out. (Sorry, but Clinton is unlikely to pick another woman of approximately her own age for the ticket.)

Maybe this analysis is too utilitarian and Warren might opt for a larger forum to talk about issues close to her heart. Maybe she really is just parsing her words carefully and will go against all her “no” comments later. Maybe Hillary won’t run in the end: That’s certainly possible.

The 2016 race would be a lot more exciting if Clinton had a charismatic challenger. That alone does not mean it will happen.

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