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Warren's hand shapes Biden's policies

As Joe Biden rolls out new policy details and speeches around his major campaign platforms, the hand of one primary-rival-turned-VP-contender is increasingly visible: Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Why it matters: If Biden wins in November, it's clear that Warren will significantly shape his approach — on domestic policy in particular — whether or not her name's on the ticket.


  • Her influence helps explain why Warren is still seen as a strong potential pick in a year when being 71 and white probably works against her.
  • Biden is expected to announce his running mate in early August from an all-female shortlist of candidates.

Driving the news: The climate plan Biden touted in a speech this week includes an expedited target date for 100% clean electricity on a timetable favored by Warren and another former contender, Jay Inslee, as Reuters noted.

  • Several elements of Biden's economic recovery plan released last week were directly influenced by Warren and her team, three people familiar with the discussions told Axios and Biden campaign officials confirmed.

The big picture: Biden has so far publicly adopted at least six policy stances shaped by Warren and her team.

  • On March 14, Biden endorsed Warren's bankruptcy proposal, which includes a student debt relief portion.
  • About a week later he tweeted about increasing Social Security checks by $200 per month and forgiving a minimum of $10,000 per person in federal student loans — two of Warren's plans.
  • For his "Build Back Better" economic recovery plan, three sources familiar told Axios that the Biden and Warren teams consulted closely together on this plan and many of Warren’s ideas are reflected in it.
  • Specifically, the procurement investment and a focus on green manufacturing were derived from two of Warren’s plans she unveiled during the primary.
  • "Biden’s recent bold moves seem less like a political hat tip to progressives and more like he’s genuinely aiming to meet this moment and smartly consulting with people like Elizabeth Warren as he comes up with big plans for this moment," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which endorsed Warren in the primary. 

Between the lines: People familiar with Warren's engagement told Axios they generally don't read it as a strategy to secure a spot on the ticket so much as a reflection of her keen interest in policy and defeating President Trump.

  • She's earned a name for herself as a policy wonk who loves "nerding out," and "I've got a plan for that!" was a signature line of her campaign.
  • Warren and Biden have been holding regular policy discussions since she dropped out in early March.
  • While Biden and Warren mostly work together behind the scenes, they've appeared together in joint op-eds, outlining policy proposals for addressing government corruption and providing more oversight.
  • Warren's progressive brand has rubbed off Biden rhetorically as well as substantively. “We must reward work as much as we rewarded wealth," Biden he said in a speech last week in Pennsylvania.

The backstory: The VP calculus changed as George Floyd's killing led to louder demands from activists, allies and politicians alike that a Black woman should be selected as Biden's running mate. Sen. Amy Klobuchar took herself out of the running and said Biden should pick a woman of color. 

  • There's a real desire for representation, but a greater desire to find someone who can authentically speak to the concerns of Black communities. Many Black and racial justice leaders say that describes Warren.
  • She is, according to several Democratic activists and donors and people close to Biden, the only remaining white woman in serious consideration for the 2020 ticket.
  • Warren has "established a track record of speaking inconvenient truths about racism and taking on the fight that matters," Angela Peoples and Phillip Agnew wrote Wednesday in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.
  • In an online survey in April of 800 Black voters across eight battleground states, conducted for BlackPAC, 15% of those who stayed home in 2016 said they'd be more likely to turn out in November if Biden picks a Black woman — but Warren had the highest favorability.

The bottom line: Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, told Axios that if Biden were to choose "any other white woman" besides Warren, "they will need every day to explain to black people why they did that."

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