Sen. Elizabeth Warren said citizens would decide in 2020 that elections matter and every person says: "I'm off the sidelines and ready to get into the fight."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

She finally got it: the mojo, the attention, the dough.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has raised millions of dollars since her killer debate performance last week.

Luckily for her, it was the largest Democratic debate audience—over 20 million viewers.

Even the press was unanimous about her win.

Warren now has enough momentum and showcased talent—with a new focus—to go the distance.

However, she needs more delegates to get into the championship ring with the final contenders.

The Democratic convention will most likely be brokered—meaning no one candidate will secure the magic 1,991 delegates to clinch the nomination.

Nonetheless, getting any delegates is tricky.

Sanders has earned the lion’s share—through well-defined grievance politics—and more years of on-the-ground organizing. His small-donor fundraising and field base are legendary.

Warren was late to the party, and likely just now realized her dilemma–the proportional trap.

If you do not receive 15% of the vote in any Congressional district, you do not receive any delegates. The delegate pool is divided proportionately among those candidates receiving 15% or more.

Do the math. Bernie’s resounding win in Nevada—achieved with massive Latino support—deprived several candidates of even one delegate. Yet, he and Biden and Buttigieg will divide up the remainder of the pie.

How did they win? By targeting specific demographic groups.

By concentrating on precincts with heavy populations of designated minority supporters, these three candidates almost guaranteed a shot above 15% popular vote in those districts—and, hence, some delegates.

Latino strength delivered Sanders’ impressive Nevada win. Black precincts are targeted by Biden in the upcoming South Carolina primary. The LGBTQ neighborhoods selected by Buttigieg’s campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada—as well as the upcoming Super Tuesday states—promise him a strong showing.

What is Warren missing? Women. They live in everyone’s neighborhoods, but dominate none.

Over 65% of the registered Democratic voters are women. However, they do not live in easily identifiable neighborhoods or enclaves.

Thirteen states, America Samoa and Democrats abroad will all vote on Super Tuesday’s March 3 primaries, with a massive 1,357 delegates at stake. If Sanders wins as big as he did in Nevada, he will take a near insurmountable lead in delegates.

Thus Warren’s new focus on gender politics and “billionaire” harassers.

Her opening smack-down of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s past sexism and a pitch to the LGBTQ voters—without dinging Buttigieg’s gay base—catapulted her to winner status.

“I’d like to tell you about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians,’” she said. “And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

Then she pounced on Bloomberg’s non-disclosure agreements that prevent women “from telling their side of the story” regarding harassment allegations against the former mayor–lumping him in with Trump’s many transgressions. 

“Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk,”  she said.

Do not “substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” she argued.

This was more than just a hint of Warren’ strategy for survival—secure women and cut into minority allegiances.

Women—as a bloc—need to deliver Warren at least 15% of the vote in states like California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Illinois—states which Hillary won.

The day after the debate, and before the questioner on MSNBC’s Town Hall could even ask a question, Warren (a former contract law professor) read a simple NDA release form to the audience that she would text to Bloomberg—for his signature—that would allow these women to speak without reprisal. 

Cheers from the audience.

Warren’s new concentration on women voters seems to be working. She raised nearly $3 million in the 24 hours since that debate—eclipsing even front-runner Sanders.

Super Tuesday will tell.

Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.