As the top candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination prepare for their last debate before the all-important Iowa caucuses, two of the progressive front-runners are on the attack over a conversation they had more than a year ago.
On Monday, CNN reported on a conversation between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders at Warren’s Washington apartment in December 2018. The two met to discuss the 2020 election, the report said, and focused on how they could “remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement.”
But the report cites four anonymous sources who say Sanders told Warren, after she made her case for her candidacy for the Democratic nomination, that he did not believe a woman could win the election.
Sanders denied the account.
“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders told CNN. “It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened.”
Sanders said he called President Donald Trump “a sexist, a racist and a liar” during that conversation.
“Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by three million votes in 2016.”
Kristin Orthman, Warren’s communications director, initially declined to comment to CNN. But Monday evening, she posted a statement from the candidate to Twitter. In it, Warren contradicts Sanders’s claim.
“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if the Democrats nominated a female candidate,” she said. “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”
In response to a great deal of questions we’ve had today, below is a statement from Elizabeth Warren: <a href=”https://t.co/PdBCHJQCJE”>pic.twitter.com/PdBCHJQCJE</a>
In her statement, Warren said the two-hour meeting was focused on how they could best work together on their “shared goals: beating Donald Trump, taking back our government from the wealthy and well-connected, and building an economy that works for everyone.”
Warren says she has “no interest” in discussing the meeting further because the two hopefuls “have far more in common than our differences on punditry.
“I’m in this race to talk about what’s broken in this country and how to fix it — and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I know Bernie is in the race for the same reason.”
She said the two “have been friends and allies for a long time,” and said she has “no doubt” the two will continue to work together to defeat Trump.
Debate set for Tuesday
The crack in the foundation of their cordial relationship could grow wider in Tuesday evening’s debate, which will see the two face off against former vice-president Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and billionaire investor and environmentalist Tom Steyer.
As the crowd of Democratic nominee hopefuls thins and the campaign barrels toward the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, the remaining candidates will be looking for any edge they can gain in the first major primary contest. The candidates’ showings that day can make or break their candidacies, including having a big impact on fundraising.
Warren and Sanders, long the two most progressive candidates, will start differentiating themselves as they head into primary season, and polls show Sanders with a slight edge in Iowa. Those efforts could produce fireworks at Tuesday’s debate.
Last week, a CNN/Des Moines Register poll put Sanders at the top of the field with 20 per cent support. Warren and Buttigieg were in a statistical tie with Sanders, while Biden was behind at 15 per cent support. On Monday, a new poll from Monmouth University put Biden ahead at 24 per cent support, with Sanders at 18 per cent, Buttigieg at 17 per cent and Warren at 15 per cent. The poll’s five-point margin of error put the four in a statistical tie.
The war of words between Warren and Sanders follows an uptick in sexist attacks on Warren, including on social media after, and not for the first time, video of her dancing at a campaign rally last week went viral.
Cory Booker, who has dropped out of the Democratic race, came to her defence on Twitter, and wondered why Warren comes under fire for awkward dance moves while his “dad jokes” get a pass.
Raise your hand if you know why people are trolling Elizabeth’s dance moves and not my dad jokes <a href=”https://t.co/SUsyIQDlPZ”>https://t.co/SUsyIQDlPZ</a>