AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren held a call with her campaign staff today, told them she loved them and announced that it was over. The now-former presidential candidate then went outside her home in Cambridge, Mass., and spoke to reporters. She spoke about the reality that the only candidates with pass to the Democratic nomination now are men.
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ELIZABETH WARREN: One of the hardest parts of this is all those pinky promises and all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years.
CORNISH: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi.
CORNISH: We can hear in her voice what a tough decision this was for the senator. At one point, she was at the front of this Democratic field. Why didn't it work out for her?
LIASSON: Well, that is one of the big mysteries of this race. She was the front-runner, as you said. She was considered to be the candidate with the best political skills on the stump. She was able to translate her plans into commonsense, ordinary, down-to-earth language for - that ordinary people who are struggling economically could understand. Today, she took a stab at answering that question - why didn't it work out? Here's what she said.
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WARREN: I was told at the beginning of this whole undertaking that there are two lanes - a progressive lane that Bernie Sanders is the incumbent for and a moderate lane that Joe Biden is the incumbent for - and there's no room for anyone else in this. I thought that wasn't right, but evidently I was wrong.
LIASSON: That's what she says now. But her original theory of the case was that she had to cleave to Bernie Sanders. She didn't forge a moderate path when it came to health care. She felt she had to make Sanders' health care plan for mandatory Medicare for All add up on paper without raising middle-class taxes.
And that was kind of a trap for her because when she came out with her plan and people realized it meant no more private health insurance, people who wanted a purely progressive candidate stuck with the OG, Bernie Sanders, and other white, college-educated liberals kind of abandoned her for Pete Buttigieg. So it was hard for her to forge that middle path.
CORNISH: In the meantime, her reference to little girls having to wait four more years invites the question about what role gender played in this race. Is there any way to answer that?
LIASSON: Gender definitely played a role. How much of a role it played is hard to tease out from all the other problems. But today, she did talk about it. She said, gender is the trap question for every woman. If you say, yes, there was sexism, everyone calls you a whiner; if you say, no, there was no sexism, a billion women will say, what planet are you living on? She said that she has a lot more to say about this in the future. But that being said, we should point out that there is still a woman in this race, Tulsi Gabbard - she has two delegates - and that a woman won the popular vote in 2016.
CORNISH: The big political question today was, would she actually do a formal endorsement - right? - of Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders? She's not ready to endorse yet, she says. So what kind of calculation is that for her?
LIASSON: Well, on the one hand, she's under pressure to endorse Bernie Sanders, for whom her policy agenda and his have a lot of overlaps. But Elizabeth Warren is also a player. Don't forget - she is the only politician in modern history, recent history, who came up with an idea for a major government agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and made it happen. She stood that up.
So she wants to have results. Maybe she'd want to go into the administration if a Democratic wins - Democrat wins the White House. I think she is a thought leader in the party. If the Democrats get the White House and the Senate back, I think they will pass many of Elizabeth Warren's many plans, and maybe that means that she wants to go with the current front-runner, Joe Biden. We'll have to wait and see.
CORNISH: I want to talk about the people who are left in the race. Bernie Sanders is headed to Michigan, and that's interesting because he canceled a rally in Mississippi. This is another Southern state that's got a large black Democratic electorate. People see that as favoring Joe Biden. Is Bernie abandoning the South? What's going on?
LIASSON: Well, that is pretty significant. This is definitely become the whiplash election. A couple weeks ago, Bernie looked like he might be developing an unstoppable lead for the nomination or at least a plurality of delegates; now he's going back to try to save his campaign in Michigan, which was a state where he won in 2016. So it shows you how much this race has changed so quickly.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Mara Liasson.
Thanks for your analysis.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.