Over the course of the last several days, a public feud has erupted between Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ respective presidential campaigns as we draw ever closer to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, which take place on Feb. 3rd.

Since before either of their campaigns officially began, both Warren and Sanders made an off-the-record pact not to attack each other as they ran for president out of respect for their collegial working relationship in the U.S. Senate and similar political philosophies.

As time went on, however, and as Warren started rising in the polls, that agreement began to be tested, especially after she closed the gap and made it to the top tier alongside Sanders and Joe Biden.

But Sanders and Biden are now firmly in the lead again in national polling after two months of declining numbers for Warren nationally and in crucial states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Sanders campaign has made it clear they want it to stay that way:

Sanders’ campaign has begun stealthily attacking Warren as a candidate of the upper crust who could not expand the Democratic base in a general election, according to talking points his campaign is using to sway voters and obtained by POLITICO.

The script instructs Sanders volunteers to tell voters leaning toward the Massachusetts senator that the “people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what” and that “she’s bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party.”

“I like Elizabeth Warren. [optional]” the script begins. “In fact, she’s my second choice. But here’s my concern about her.” It then pivots to the criticisms of Warren.

In response to Politico’s report, Warren expressed disappointment:

“I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” she told reporters after a town hall in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Sunday. “Bernie knows me, and has known me for a long time. He knows who I am, where I come from, what I have worked on and fought for, and the coalition and grassroots movement we’re trying to build.”

Seeking to calm ruffled feathers, Sanders stated in so many words that attacks on Warren were not authorized by him:

“Look I just read about it. We have over 500 people on our campaign. People do certain things. I’m sure that in Elizabeth’s campaign, people do certain things as well. But you have heard me for months,” Sanders told reporters. “I have never said a negative word about Elizabeth Warren who is a friend of mine. We have differences of issues, that’s what the campaign is about, but no one is going to be attacking Elizabeth.”

But that directly contradicts an anonymous source close to the Sanders campaign who told Politico that “Bernie would let us know when it was O.K. [to go negative]. So if that’s happening, he’s aware.”

And like clockwork, CNN is now reporting that during that same December 2018 meeting where they made the agreement not to attack each other, Sanders allegedly told Warren he didn’t believe a woman could win:

They also discussed how to best take on President Donald Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters.

Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.

The description of that meeting is based on the accounts of four people: two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter, and two people familiar with the meeting.

That evening, Sanders expressed frustration at what he saw as a growing focus among Democrats on identity politics, according to one of the people familiar with the conversation. Warren told Sanders she disagreed with his assessment that a woman could not win, three of the four sources said.

Sanders is, of course, denying it:

“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 said. “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. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

Regardless of who authorized who to say what and who actually said what, though, President Trump inserted himself into the discussion Monday morning by way of stoking the feud and keeping the fires on it burning:

As of this writing, neither Warren nor Sanders have responded to Trump’s tweet. But the two Democratic presidential candidates will have the chance to respond to each other face to face on Tuesday night when the next Democratic debate takes place.

And thanks to the recently-announced podium order, we know that gaffetastic Joe Biden will be the only person standing between Warren and Sanders, which could make things entertaining and dramatic:

Time to stock up on more popcorn. Stay tuned.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —

 

 
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