Just like every other group of voters, DNC members have their own interests, and Warren tried to appeal to the things that make them tick. In her speech on Thursday, she reminded the audience that in March 2018, she wrote $5,000 checks to each state party from her campaign account, part of an overall $11 million she raised for Democratic Party efforts. During the midterms, she also endorsed and campaigned for candidates across the country. Her work on behalf of other Democrats is likely helpful with the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately types who live for these major meetings of Democrats.
And even if most DNC members are staying studiously neutral in the primaries, several of them told me they like what they’ve seen in the massive ground operation Warren is assembling in the early-voting states. To those who spend their professional lives thinking about campaign mechanics, this is alluring.
“To her advantage, it appears as though she did not let the growing pains of the early stage of her campaign sidetrack her from creating an infrastructure,” said Trav Robertson, the Democratic Party chair in South Carolina, one of the early states where campaign action is already under way. “Her campaign’s been fascinating to watch,” he told me. “It’s a study of ‘Steady and slow wins the race.’”
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Warren has made her detailed policy plans a core part of her brand on the campaign trail, and that approach seems to interest establishment Democrats too. After all, they’re the type of voters most likely to actually read those proposals.
Sanders “is providing more of economic aspirations; she’s providing more of a road map,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and a member of the DNC executive committee. “Even in this room, she comes across as practical, smart,” he said, standing in the hotel ballroom. “I think there is a sense of respect for her and the way she’s conducting her campaign.”
Do the opinions of party insiders even matter anymore? The answer is a resounding “maybe.” DNC members are among the superdelegates whose power in the presidential-nominating process was stripped last year. But all the people at the summer meeting are active and influential in local politics, and they have the potential to softly sway opinions in ways that could ripple out of their communities.
The DNC members won’t come together like this again for almost a year. The next meeting, announced on Saturday afternoon, is set for July 17, 2020, in Milwaukee—the day after the Democratic nominee delivers his or her acceptance speech at the next convention. Democrats have a history of summer flings with lefty insurgents ahead of presidential primaries—think Howard Dean in 2003 and Sanders in 2015. At least for now, though, Democrats seem to be having fun watching Warren.
“Most of all, she’s smart as shit,” Fowler told me as he tried to put his finger on why he and others like her. “You don’t want a dumb-ass president.”