Working Families Party Endorses Elizabeth Warren. Here’s Why It Matters.

The Working Families Party, the labor-aligned progressive group whose electoral influence has grown since the 2016 election, has endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for the Democratic presidential nomination, a boon to her candidacy as she attempts to position herself as the main challenger to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Mitchell and other Working Families Party leaders said in interviews that their endorsement came with a message to other progressive organizations. Rather than passively observe the primary, they said, these groups should choose a side and flex their organizing muscle during the early stages to help knock Mr. Biden off his perch.

“If our focus is on victory, we can’t be delusional about it,” Mr. Mitchell said. “You don’t defeat the moderate wing of Democrats through thought pieces or pithy tweets, you defeat their politics through organizing.”

Traditional bellwether endorsements from labor unions like American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union have not yet materialized, though Mr. Sanders picked up an endorsement from the United Electrical workers in August. With less than five months to go before the Iowa caucuses formally begin the nominating contest, many organizations are still wrestling with a sprawling Democratic field.

“There are some great arguments for progressives rallying around a single candidate as soon as possible and others for taking the time to see how the contest develops,” said Yvette Simpson, chief executive of Democracy for America, another progressive group that endorsed Mr. Sanders four years ago. Ms. Simpson said her group did not plan to endorse a candidate before December.

Mr. Sanders finished second in the Working Families Party vote, ahead of three other candidates: the former housing secretary Julián Castro, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

Most national polls show a top tier of three candidates in the Democratic primary — Mr. Biden, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders — and Mr. Biden has remained the front-runner.

Among the two leading progressive candidates, Mr. Sanders has traditionally enjoyed more support from working-class voters, helped by his name recognition held over from 2016. Ms. Warren has made significant gains in the last six months, but polling shows that most of that growth has come from college-educated voters.

Mr. Mitchell took over as national director for the party in 2018, after he rose in prominence during the Black Lives Matter movement born out of protests in Ferguson, Mo.

The group’s leaders stressed that, even with their endorsement, their intention was not to divide the progressive left between Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders. The senators are longtime friends and have been publicly supportive of each other’s candidacies.

But they are still locked in a battle to be the progressive standard-bearer. After the Working Families endorsement was announced on Monday, Misty Rebik, Mr. Sanders’s Iowa state director, wrote on Twitter: “There is one movement politics presidential candidate. One. It’s @BernieSanders.”

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