But perhaps more significantly, Warren displayed a restraint that has kept her, largely, in the good graces of her colleagues. Unlike Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, to whom she often is compared, Warren made her opinion known and then allowed her colleagues to vote as they saw fit. Cruz and Lee, meanwhile, threatened to tank the whole funding package and kept their colleagues in Washington for a few late-night and weekend sessions ahead of their holiday recess.
Warren's restraint may have lost her the battle, but has earned her a tremendous amount of respect from her colleagues. Warren allies say that, coupled with her fundraising for candidates across the Democratic party spectrum, is what has helped to keep her relevant within the conference—though thousands of avid supporters willing to put their votes and their dollars behind her ideology, and against those who oppose her, don't hurt either.
That's helped Warren to continue to hold outsized sway over the conversation among Democratic policymakers in Washington, particularly for a freshman. "Democrats in Congress were talking about cutting Social Security in 2012, and Warren got 42 of 44 Democrats to vote yes on expanding Social Security benefits instead," Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Campaign Change Committee said in a statement.
And while she's become a popular foil for Republicans in Congress and in races across the country, there's some early evidence that Warren's messaging is breaking through to voters on both sides. Warren allies point to a focus group conducted by pollster Peter Hart in Colorado this year (granted, among just 12 individuals), in which the Massachusetts Democrat received positive reviews from Democrats, Republicans, and independents.
But perhaps the best evidence is Warren's campaign warpath during the most recent election cycle. The liberal senator campaigned not just for left-leaning candidates, but also in red states for struggling moderate Democratic candidates Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and Natalie Tennant in West Virginia. She's expected to be a force on the campaign trail in blue and red districts again this cycle.
"President Obama ran on many of the same themes as Warren in his reelection campaign, as did many of the Democratic senators who won close contests in 2014," said Gary Ritterstein, an adviser for Ready for Warren which continues to encourage the senator to enter the 2016 presidential race. "Some Republicans are now paying lip service to income inequality because they are worried that Warren is breaking through to voters in both parties. This is part of the reason Democratic leaders, including Secretary Clinton, have turned to Warren for advice."
Warren is constantly trying to hold her own party accountable, while avoiding crying wolf to the point that her own colleagues ignore her. And so far it seems to be working, colleagues say. After growing frustrated with Warren's limelight-seeking on trade in an interview with the The New York Times, Sen. Claire McCaskill apologized in a tweet, saying Warren deserves the attention she gets.