Elizabeth Warren spent the end of last week's Senate recess selling her memoir A Fighting Chance, flogging it on TV and flogging it across Massachusetts. ABC News was there at one stop, asking the senator and her fans the only important question.
ZELENY: A draft movement is already under way. But so far Warren says no thanks.
WARREN: I'm not running for president. I'm not running for president. I'm not running for president. You can ask it lots of different ways.
ZELENY: When you hear Elizabeth Warren saying, look, I'm not running for president now, you take her at her word.
It was the second ABC News story about Warren this week, and the second that led with questions about Warren not wanting to be a candidate for president. It was the only story that claimed "a draft movement is under way," which isn't, strictly speaking, true. Reporters often focus on the Progressive Change Campaign Commitee's successful campaign to brand themselves and their supporters as "the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party," but that's an effort to change the party through applied pressure, not a presidential campaign. The PCCC is pretty clear about this—it wants Democrats to have to answer to populists, personified by Warren—but a typical story about the PCCC's branding says it's "promoting [Warren's] political profile in presidential primary states."
You know what isn't boosting Warren's profile in primary states? A Fighting Chance. Warren's book tour schedule, posted on the promo site, draws two lines down the coasts, with a cluster (four of the 11 total) of events in the senator's state of Massachusetts. There's one event (this Saturday) in Chicago, but nothing in Iowa, or South Carolina, or Nevada. There's nothing even in New Hampshire, though taking the wrong turn around Lowell can throw you into the state by accident. Ted Cruz, whose Texas is not quite as close to New Hampshire, has visited the Granite State twice already this month.
The press always treats a famous politician's book as the trial balloon for a presidential race, and, to be fair, the tour does not always wend through Iowa. Barack Obama's 2006 Audacity of Hope tour sent him into states that voted for George W. Bush—Colorado, Arizona, Texas—where local reporters could see what a draw he was. The tour for Sarah Palin's most recent book sent her, mostly, around red America, with a couple of stops in the Midwest, but nothing on the Left Coast.
Warren's publicity run looks more like Palin's. It's a tear around cities where people are sure to buy the book, read it, and find stuff they like by someone who's not running for president. Now, sure, it's drawing out people who love Warren already and want her to run for president, as Politico found. But it's not planting seeds with some Draft-Anybody-But-Hillary group in Des Moines or Iowa City or Manchester. As Alex Seitz-Wald has patiently explained, this may be because Democrats overwhelmingly are excited about a post-Obama Clinton restoration. The plural of anecdote is not "data"—the very nice people who show up on a weeknight for a politician's book event may not represent a groundswell that can send her into the presidency.
So Warren is using one of the just-add-water conventions of political journalism—popular figure may run for president!—to fool people into learning about and debating policy. Strange that she has to do it like that, but them's the rules.
TODAY IN SLATE
Meet the New Bosses
How the Republicans would run the Senate.
The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy
The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers
The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC
Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom
This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?
A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.