Is Warren Willing to Fight for the Democratic Nomination?

If she wants to be competitive, she needs to challenge the frontrunner: Bernie Sanders.

Other than having a plan for everything, Elizabeth Warren has centered her campaign on her willingness to fight. For example, during a previous debate, she summarized by saying, “I know what’s broken. I know how to fix it. And I’m going to lead the fight to get it done.”

During Wednesday night’s debate, Warren demonstrated her fighting skills by taking on Michael Bloomberg. She came out of the gate with a devastating blow.

Allyson Chiu describes how it went from there.

From her scathing opening remarks denouncing derogatory comments Bloomberg allegedly made about women to her relentless questioning of the nondisclosure agreements signed by his former employees, Warren orchestrated what has been described as“one of the most precise and devastating political attacks”on a debate stage in recent memory. Over the course of the two-hour event, Bloomberg, who spoke for just over 13 minutes and struggled at times to defend himself, was targeted by his opponents 45 times, according to NBC News. Warren was behind 11 of those instances, NBC reported.

To the extent that these debates matter (which is still an open question) the candidate who went into this one with momentum—Michael Bloomberg—will stall out. On the flip side, Warren might have revitalized her sagging campaign.

But Warren didn’t just train her sights on Bloomberg. She called Buttigieg’s health care plan a “PowerPoint” and suggested that Klobuchar’s is a “post-it note.” In other words, she took the fight to other competitors as well. However, as she’s done in previous debates, Warren held back when it came to Bernie Sanders. Early on in the debate, she suggested that he should take responsibility for the vicious attacks his supporters launched on members of the Culinary Union, but other than that, she kept her powder dry.

It was actually Mayor Pete who effectively took on both Bloomberg and Sanders by saying that Democrats shouldn’t nominate a candidate who wants to burn the party down (Sanders) or one who wants to buy it out (Bloomberg). He effectively made the case for what distinguishes Warren from Sanders. It isn’t merely the fact that she doesn’t share his antipathy for the Democratic Party. As I suggested previously, she has shown an awareness of what it takes to govern as the chief executive in a democracy.

The fact of the matter is that Bernie Sanders is currently the front-runner in the Democratic primary. He especially stands in the way of Warren’s path to the nomination, because their proposals have more in common. In order to open a path for her candidacy, Warren will need to clarify why she is the better choice between the two.

During Wednesday’s debate, Warren demonstrated that she can be downright feisty. She did so by taking on the other candidates directly, which was a welcome change from her previous passive-aggressive attacks on their motivations (ie, they “don’t have the courage to fight off the powerful interests.”)

But if Warren really wants to stay in this race and make herself competitive, she’s going to have to be direct and feisty when it comes to letting everyone know why she would be a better choice than Bernie Sanders. Is she willing to take on that fight? We’ll see.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.