Written by Shane Goldmacher and Sydney Ember
A nearly yearlong run of goodwill between two of the leading progressives in the 2020 presidential race, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, appears to be evaporating in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.
On Sunday, Warren said she was “disappointed” that Sanders’ campaign had been using a script for volunteers that suggested she was appealing mainly to highly educated voters and would not be able to expand the Democratic Party coalition.
“I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” Warren, of Massachusetts, said. “I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.”
After months of studiously avoiding any negative words about Sanders, Warren went on to cite the divisiveness of the 2016 primary between Sanders and Hillary Clinton, implying it had helped President Donald Trump.
Sanders denied responsibility for the script, saying he himself had never attacked Warren. And he blamed the news media for overstating the tension between the two campaigns. “I think this is a little bit of a media blowup that kind of wants conflict,” he said.
Until Sunday, the two liberal senators, who are each other’s chief ideological rivals, were wary of saying anything inflammatory about the other.
That changed swiftly after Politico published a report late Saturday night on the talking points for Sanders volunteers, known as a call script. Its authenticity was not disputed by the Sanders campaign. It begins: “I like Elizabeth Warren. (optional) In fact, she’s my second choice. But here’s my concern about her. The people who support her are highly educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what.”
It goes on: “She’s bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party.”
The Sanders campaign declined to comment. His national press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, wrote on Twitter that “Warren has plenty to recommend her” but that “only Bernie’s volunteer army, fundraising numbers, and popularity with a diverse working-class coalition can compete” with Trump.
Warren’s campaign has begun to project her as a “unity candidate,” and her latest big-name endorser, former housing secretary Julián Castro, has sharpened that message as a cudgel against her rivals. Warren’s campaign and supporters also pushed back at the idea that she had an affluent-only coalition.