Elizabeth Warren's Supporters Persist on 2016, One Meeting at a Time

PHOTO: The group poses for a photo at the Run Warren Run meeting Feb. 1 at Martin Luther King Jr. Library in DC. Stephanie Ebbs/ABC News
The group poses for a photo at the Run Warren Run meeting Feb. 1 at Martin Luther King Jr. Library in DC.

Elizabeth Warren has said over and over that she isn't running for president in 2016. Her supporters don't wanna hear it.

A group of Warren super fans gathered at the Martin Luther King library in downtown Washington, D.C., on a recent Sunday afternoon to talk about how to spread the word about the Massachusetts senator, who is hailed as a progressive icon and mentioned as potential Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Only 15 of the 70 people who RSVP'd for what was billed as a pro-Warren "strategy session" showed up. And the only decor adorning the walls in the windowless basement room were two hand-written posters: An agenda for the meeting and Warren's "8 point plan to restore the American middle class," taken from a speech she delivered at the AFL-CIO.

But the humble surroundings did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of these supporters of the "Run Warren Run" effort, which included members of a trio of liberal groups (Ready for Warren, MoveOn.org and Democracy for America), from making big plans for the next few months. In fact, this gathering was one of more than 200 held by the Warren faithful around the country last weekend -- mostly small groups in living rooms or around a kitchen table.

Those who gathered in Washington included college students, veterans of Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns and people who said it was their first political meeting ever. Some described themselves as big Elizabeth Warren fans, others as “outraged citizens,” and a few who said they were seeking an alternative to Clinton.

"Most of the people there were attending a Warren event for the first time, which is a testament to how quickly this organic movement is spreading," organizer Luísa Abbott Galvão told ABC News in an email message after the event. "There were people there of all ages and all walks of life and it was really empowering to see what a vast web we are part of. Now it's just a matter of activating it."

Warren's office has said previously that she does not support this effort and is not running for president in 2016. But group members say "drafting" her into a campaign just might work. They cite as evidence a passage in Warren's book, "A Fighting Chance."

Warren writes that “in my heart of hearts -- I really didn’t want to run” for Senate in 2012. She describes an interaction with a woman who walked two miles to a meeting to talk to Warren and share her struggle to find a job. The woman asked her to fight and Warren said that was the moment she committed to run for Senate.

Run Warren Run is a project of MoveOn.org’s political action committee and affiliated with Democracy for America. Both organizations are working with the Ready for Warren group. Since December, MoveOn has gathered almost 282,000 signatures on a petition urging Warren to run for president, invested $1 million and even set up offices in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to MoveOn Media Relations Director Brian Stewart.

And the draft movement appears to be picking up steam. Recently a group of celebrities including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Moore, Olivia Wilde and Susan Sarandon fired off a letter encouraging Warren to run and formed an offshoot called “Artists for Warren.”

The PAC raised close to $7 million in 2014, according to Federal Election Commission reports, but that is not exclusively for the Warren effort.

Still, the effort is much more modest than the pro-Clinton super PAC, Ready for Hillary, which launched in 2013 and now boasts more than 3 million supporters. The group has brought in almost $13 million as of the end of 2014, according to reports submitted to the FEC.

Galvão, one of the event organizers, argued that the amount of press attention on Warren shows that she is already being treated like a candidate. As part of MoveOn's effort to make this official, the campaign has set up offices in Iowa and New Hampshire, held kickoff events, and encouraged local chapters like the one in D.C. to spread the word.

One of the most vocal attendees at the D.C. meeting was Jim McBride, a communications specialist who worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in D.C. and Virginia and is still active in progressive politics.

“I really want to get a discussion going about what kind of party we want to be,” he said in an interview after the event.

Most of the almost two-and-a-half hour meeting was cordial. The one noticeable moment of tension was when members of the group disagreed on whether their efforts should try to contrast Warren from Clinton, who some even described as "Republican light."

McBride cautioned against anything that might alienate Democrats, such as going negative toward Clinton or the president.

MoveOn and the local chapters of Run Warren Run are planning recruitment efforts and events leading up to President’s Day weekend. MoveOn and its individual members donated more than $450,000 to Warren’s campaign committee from 2011-2014, the second highest amount behind EMILY’s list, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“We want to make a lot of noise between now and June,” Galvão said.