With policy impact, a winner
Senator Elizabeth Warren drove many of the dominant policy conversations in the race.
By Victoria McGrane, Globe Staff

She didn’t win a single state, amassed only a handful of delegates, and placed a dismal third in her own state. But Senator Elizabeth Warren nonetheless had an outsize influence on the 2020 presidential race, one that will extend to the Democratic convention and beyond.

From modernizing retail politics with her joyful “selfie’’ lines to her meaty policy proposals to elevating many progressive ideas into the mainstream, she formed the contours of the contest.

“She not only shaped this race, but I think she is going to have a dramatic impact on future presidential races," said Representative Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat, who had endorsed Warren.

But history may most remember her candidacy, analysts said, for her political disembowelment on national TV of billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who many Democratic voters desperate to defeat Trump believed could be the best suited for the job. She effectively ended his campaign in about 40 seconds.

Her takedown of the eighth-richest man in the world not only made for exciting television, but it also instantly altered the political terrain and contributed to the rapid winnowing in the field’s moderate lane in favor of former vice president Joe Biden.

“Taking on Bloomberg the way she did clearly had a massive impact on his candidacy. There’s no two ways about that,’’ said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist.

Warren’s influence went further than proving even half a billion dollars can’t buy you a presidential nomination, political strategists said. The Cambridge Democrat, whose catchphrase centered on having a plan for everything, drove many of the dominant policy conversations in the race, even as she paid a price for her specificity on issues such as Medicare for All.

Her juggernaut of a policy shop forced rivals to play catch-up and flesh out their own platforms.

“She pushed the field. She came with ideas,’’ said Julie McClain Downey, who was director of state communications for Senator Cory Booker’s presidential campaign and a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 race.

Several strategists credited Warren’s signature wealth tax — and the way she pitched it — as particularly consequential.

Brian Fallon, a former top campaign aide to Clinton, said there have been two key moments in the last several years that signaled the evolution of Democratic thinking and comfort levels on raising taxes on the wealthy.

The first was Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggesting in a “60 Minutes’’ interview that a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the richest Americans could pay for the Green New Deal climate change plan.

The other was Warren’s proposed 2 percent wealth tax, he said. And not just the plan, but the way she broke down the substance into an easily understandable concept of mega-rich people paying two cents out of every dollar of their net worth over $50 million. So simple, her supporters turned it into a rallying cry at her events: “Two cents! Two cents!’’

“I think that has totally shifted the window. It has created the political permission structure for Democrats to call for much higher taxes on the wealthy’’ and not spend a second worrying about the political fallout, which had hampered the party on the issue since the 1980s, Fallon said.

Warren, by contrast, appeared to relish the angst her proposal evoked from the ultra-wealthy, weaving in scorn of freaked-out billionaires into her stump speeches, selling mugs to hold all those “billionaire tears," and even cutting a TV ad calling on billionaires to share the wealth that slammed four of them by name and net worth.

The polling backed her strategy up, finding more than 60 percent of Americans supported the concept. Indeed, her case has been so convincing, even former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin — whose brand of Wall Street-friendly economic policy is exactly what Warren has focused her entire political career fighting against — said this week that moderate Democrats “must recognize the popular resonance of a wealth tax,’’ even if they don’t support it.

“A wealth tax is on the table,’’ he wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

“She clearly furthered the progressive agenda,’’ said pollster John Zogby. “For a while, she really owned those issues as far as people were talking about them. . . . [Senator Bernie Sanders has] been saying the same stuff. She mainstreamed it.“

Clark said Warren’s candidacy was powerful because she elevated issues that resonate with women and everyday families, talking about her own experiences as a single mother and her parents’ financial struggles and connecting those stories with her policy prescriptions.

“She’s not only a model for girls with her pinkie swears around the country, but she really did set a standard for how to cede families the pain many of them are in and how to make that into bold policy’’ to address their struggles, said Clark.

And while Warren’s departure means Americans yearning for a woman president must wait at least four more years, as she emotionally noted at her press conference Thursday, she disrupted the prevailing power dynamics surrounding the male dominance of presidential politics, said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, in an e-mail.

“She was willing to call out gender bias directly and, as is consistent with all she does, explain it as a means to combating it," Dittmar said. “For example, when she was called angry, she pushed back by noting that women are subject to this criticism ‘over and over’ again as a way to discredit them.’’

Warren not only wounded Bloomberg, calling out his alleged mistreatment of women and shaming him to release three women from nondisclosure agreements so they could freely speak about their experiences at his company, she also played a role in getting MSNBC host Chris Matthews off the air, when he seemed incredulous that she didn’t believe Bloomberg’s denials.

“She was willing to confront their sexism head on, even when some may have argued the political benefit was minimal and/or not going to [help] her,’’ Dittmar said.

That fearlessness, predict those who know Warren well, will persist long after November.

Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@ globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.