Seven years before Elizabeth Warren said “I’m with Bernie on Medicare for All,” she was campaigning for the Senate and didn’t want to talk about single-payer health care.
Running a tough race against Republican incumbent Scott Brown, the first-time candidate repeatedly distanced herself from the idea. In one interview, she was grilled by New England Cable News host Jim Braude: He wanted to know if she’d support single-payer if she were “the tsarina” — in other words, if politics weren’t an obstacle.
“I think right now what we have to do — I’m serious about this — I think you’ve got to stay with what’s possible,” Warren said, nodding to the recently passed Affordable Care Act. “And I think what we’re doing — and look at the dust-up around this — we really need to consolidate our gains around what we’ve got on the table.”
Warren, a front-runner in the 2020 presidential primary, is known today as one of the most vocal champions for Medicare for All in the Democratic Party. But during her first Senate campaign in 2012, she and her aides were pressed on single-payer and dodged the question again and again, according to an analysis of newspaper reports, TV, and interviews with health care reform activists at the time.
“It was frustrating,” Ture Turnbull, former executive director of Mass-Care, a single-payer advocacy group in Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, said of her comments in the 2012 race. “There were multiple times where we would approach her, and that was the standard response.”