Sen. Elizabeth Warren's "I have a plan for that" run for the presidency foundered, leaving the Massachusetts Democrat unable to convert enough admirers into supporters. But six weeks after she left the race, a span in which the country convulsed fromtwin health and economic crises, she and her allies now see opportunity in an environment more receptive to detailed policies and a bigger role for government.
Allies who have spoken to her since she left the race have touted her as a potential partner for presumptive nominee Joe Biden, who has pledged that a woman will be his running mate. Failing that, they envision her securing a leading role in his administration should he win in November - potentially as the country's first female treasury secretary or running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she helped create.
Another alternative is a more prominent role in the Senate, akin to that played by the late Edward Kennedy, another Massachusetts legislator whose White House ambitions fell short.
"She became the candidate with ideas," said Gary Gensler, a friend of Warren's who was a top adviser in Barack Obama's administration and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. "Though those ideas may sometimes make people uncomfortable, she's going take positions that make a difference in people's lives."
In a sign of her stature coming out of the presidential contest, Warren earned a slot in Biden's week of premier endorsements, officially giving him her support Wednesday. She followed former president Barack Obama, who endorsed Biden on Tuesday, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the last competitor to leave the presidential race, who backed Biden on Monday.
In Warren's endorsement video, she embedded a compliment to Biden when she said he was raised on the "ragged edge of the middle class" - a phrase she has used to refer to her own hardscrabble past.
Warren's boosters say her high profile this week pays appropriate homage to her role as the last woman to leave the presidential race and to the work she has done on economic relief packages in the Senate in the weeks since she dropped out.
She played a key, behind-the-scenes role in pushing for increased oversight for the roughly $500 billion pool of federal funds intended to help businesses and local governments recover from financial devastation due to the closure of large sections of the economy to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
She was also the architect of other Democratic proposals, including boosting Social Security payments by $200, canceling federal student loan debt and pushing for restrictions on companies that receive federal bailout funds. These concepts were adopted by Biden and congressional leaders and earned her rare praise from Obama.
"As she often does, @SenWarren provides a cogent summary of how federal policymakers should be thinking about the pandemic in the coming months," Obama wrote earlier this month in a tweet that referred to an interview she gave to Vox on her economic recovery plans.
In his video endorsing Biden, the former president cribbed from Warren's 2020 campaign slogan, saying that this moment calls for "real structural change."
Party leaders were also grateful for her swift departure from the presidential race, which helped Democrats coalesce around Biden earlier than they had once thought possible.
"There was a lot of warming to her after she got out right after Super Tuesday," said Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, referring to the March 3 primaries in which 14 states voted. "And despite a lot of pressure from the Bernie bros, she declined to make an endorsement - which was a very significant step to unifying the party under Biden. I think that step was noticed."
Weingarten had endorsed Warren in her personal capacity during the campaign and was part of a group that pushed Biden to commit to picking a female vice president. "It would be great if he gives her real consideration" for that job, Weingarten said.
But other key allies said they are hoping that Biden, 77, picks a woman of color or someone who offers a bridge to the next generation.
"I don't think it makes sense to have the potential president and the potential vice president both being in their 70s," said one Democratic leader, who requested anonymity to speak frankly without offending Warren, who is 70.
Warren has declined to discuss her future goals, as did a spokeswoman.
The question of what Warren wants to do with her influence is one that's been raised in Washington for years.
She has long seeded powerful institutions with her acolytes, including Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., who was once Warren's law student, and Bharat Ramamurti, a longtime policy aide who was recently tapped by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to help oversee the stimulus fund for businesses. And Warren suggested Richard Cordray, whom she knew from his days as Ohio's attorney general, to run the consumer agency after Obama declined to name her because of expected opposition.
When Clinton was planning her potential administration, Warren came armed with lists of people she believed should be in key roles. She is expected to repeat that with Biden.
"In the summer, as Biden is setting up a transition team, Warren will likely try to influence it," said one person familiar with Warren's thinking, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about her plans. "She's not going to dominate it - she didn't dominate in 2016 - but nobody really wants to end up in a place where different parts of the party can't support the president's nominee."
Offering Warren a place on the ticket or telegraphing that she might have a real role in his administration comes with some risk to Biden. Some of his donors, particularly in the financial services industry, have bridled at Warren's anti-corporatist worldview.
"Lol," one Biden donor wrote in a text when asked how Wall Street would react to Warren on the ticket.
But she also has assets important to Biden. Unlike Sanders and Warren, he has had little luck raising money from small-dollar donors, who now loom as a powerful and necessary financial need. Warren raised more than $100 million without doing traditional big-money fundraisers and, as part of her endorsement, allowed Biden to send a note to the lucrative email list of donors she built while running for president.
"You know, primaries can often put a magnifying glass on small differences and bury broad consensus," Biden wrote in the fundraising appeal. "I know, for some of you, that you might be skeptical of me or my campaign. I understand that. But I intend to earn your votes. And I intend to earn your trust."
In her endorsement message, Warren focused on the former vice president's character and competence rather than his policies.
"In this moment of crisis, it's more important than ever that the next president restores Americans' faith in good, effective government - and I've seen Joe Biden help our nation rebuild," Warren said in a tweet.
"Empathy matters," Warren added in a video released Wednesday.
She and Biden have a history of clashing ideologically - starting in the 1990s, when the two were on the opposite sides of a massive fight centered on overhauling the country's bankruptcy rules. But their relationship thawed - and Biden hinted that she should consider being his running mate in 2015, when he was mulling a presidential bid. Ultimately, he did not run.
After Warren left the presidential race last month, Biden adopted her plans to loosen rules for consumers facing financial ruin, a reversal that nodded to their decades-old fight. Warren has spoken to Biden several times since she left the race, according to a person familiar with her schedule.
"Among all the other candidates I competed with in the Democratic primary, there's no one who I've agreed with 100 percent of the time over the years," Warren said in her video. "But one thing I appreciate about Joe Biden is that he will always tell you where he stands."
This article was written by Annie Linksey, a reporter for The Washington Post.