Home New York Magazine The Sanders-Warren Face-Off Begins Cordially, Gets Weird

The Sanders-Warren Face-Off Begins Cordially, Gets Weird

The Sanders-Warren Face-Off Begins Cordially, Gets Weird

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Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

It took around 45 minutes, but moderators at Tuesday night’s debate finally addressed the elephant in the room: How would Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren respond to the report that Sanders told Warren he did not think a female candidate could win in 2020? CNN moderator Abby Phillip began the exchange with a question that left no room for interpretation, despite the Vermont senator’s denial of the private exchange: “Why did you say that?”

After his direct denial, Sanders dismissed the importance of the allegation of sexism, claiming that serious focus on the matter is “what Donald Trump, maybe some of the media, want.” He said it was “incomprehensible that I would think a woman could not be president of the United States,” citing his record of supporting the idea of a putting a woman in the Oval Office; Sanders also noted Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win in 2016 as evidence of the irrelevancy of the sexist myth.

After Sanders again denied the contents of the conversation, Phillip essentially ignored his answer, asking Warren what she thought “when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election.” In her response, the Massachusetts senator again countered his account, saying that she “disagreed” with Bernie’s statement.

From there, Warren smoothly deescalated the conflict, while making the case for her electability. “Bernie is my friend,” she said, “and I’m not here to try and fight with Bernie.” She then attacked the underlying concern of electoral sexism “head on,” noting that the men on the stage had lost 10 elections. “The only people on stage who’ve won every single election they’ve been in are the women, Amy [Klobuchar] and me,” Warren said. “The only person on this stage who’s beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years is me,” referring to her win over Scott Brown in 2012.

Senator Klobuchar then added that all types of candidates can win, they just have to “be competent.” But while listing examples of competent female candidates, she forgot the name of Kansas Governor Laura Kelly:

The exchange then return to Sanders, who wanted to let the audience know that he, too, defeated a Republican incumbent in Congress in 1990, leading to an all-together unnecessary back-and-forth over the definition of how long ago 30 years was:

And though the conversation on stage remained cordial, after the closing comments, the body language of the two senators appeared far more contentious than their words onstage. (Tom Steyer will be able to prove the the case for his candidacy if, and only if, he reveals the exchange between the pair of progressives.)

The Sanders-Warren Face-Off Begins Cordially, Gets Weird

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With three weeks left

There was a time and a place for the “assume Biden will collapse” strategy, but I think it’s pretty clear at this point that’s not going to work.


democratic debates

democratic debates

The Sanders-Warren Face-Off Begins Cordially, Gets Weird

By Matt Stieb

After Sanders denied the report that he told Warren he didn’t think a woman could win in 2020, Warren “disagreed.” It got strange from there.

Bloomberg wasn’t at the debate, so his campaign’s social team whipped out a kazoo

Mike can telepathically communicate with dolphins. #BloombergFacts #DemDebate


The unbruised frontrunner

Joe Biden has been the consistent frontrunner in the polls, but the other candidates certainly didn’t treat him like their main problem on the debate stage tonight.

And this was their last chance before people start voting.


The anti-Twitter vote (on Twitter)

Not watching the debate but has any of the candidates made a firm commitment that they will never tweet as President? That will sway my vote


A primary contrast

None of the candidates use the impeachment prompt to describe Trump’s offenses or go after him as unfit for office. Hard to imagine Republicans in a similar position wasting an opportunity like that.



Free limits

Pete Buttigieg, asked why libraries and public schools should be free for all including rich people but college shouldn’t, says higher education is different.

“I don’t think subsidizing the children of millionaires and billionaires” is something government should do, he says.


The missing debate, cont.

seeing some complaints about no questions abt race but all these questions could be about race. health care, child care, college, foreign policy, whatever u want. it is a failure of candidate imagination that racial inequities only come up when it’s a formal question abt it


Cashing in

Bernie Sanders campaign says the first hour of this debate was the single best hour for fundraising of any debate so far. More than 250K donations, at a rate of about 250 per minute.


The missing debate

voting rights

criminal justice

census & redistricting

hijacking of the federal courts

no civil rights enforcement at DOJ

Not hearing much on issues that directly impact African Americans & people of color. This is the impact when we are excluded from the debate stage. #DemDebate


An early review

Warren has really owned this debate. I see no way to deny that. But winning a debate on points doesn’t always translate into the race. Biden has also had a good debate simply by no one really attacking him.


The massive barrier to change

I would love for any mainstream media debate question to acknowledge that whomever the next Dem president is, they’ll be constrained by either a GOP Senate or one where moderate Dems are the swing votes. Asking how we’ll pass X policy that won’t pass Congress is a waste of time


The Sanders slide

Warren’s downslide began in the October debate, when she was unwilling to provide her plan to pay for Medicare for All. It’s three months and three debates later, and Sanders is still unwilling to provide his plan to pay for Medicare for All.


Here we go

Bernie Sanders on reports that he told Warren that a woman could not beat Donald Trump:

“I didn’t say it.”

“This is what Donald Trump and maybe some in the media want..it’s incomprehensible that i don’t think that a woman could be president of the United States.”


An aerial view on USMCA

The progressive coalition is divided over USMCA – Labor is generally pro, Environmentalists are generally anti. Nobody thinks it’s that great, nobody really thinks it’s that bad when you get them talking straight.


Puppy politics

A: are puppies good?

Bernie: I’ve been petting puppies for the last 45 years

Biden: I was the one who told President Obama about puppies

Warren: I have a plan for more puppies

Klobuchar: only some puppies are good

Pete: (chuckles) some of us are too young to know about puppies


Close encounters of the debated kind?

Can not express how small this room is — I think it’s causing a flattened energy tonight.



This is perhaps the most substantive foreign policy debate we’ve seen in any of these debates so far.

Nuance between the candidates. But broadly – there’s consensus among the candidates to “pull out” or maintain only “limited troops” in the Middle East. How times have changed…


Recapping question #1

What qualifies you to be commander in chief?

Biden: Barack picked me

Bernie: Bush is a liar

Klobuchar: I defeated a Republican

Pete: I am young

Warren: Corruption

Steyer: Lotta rank amateurs do fine out there


The event pageant

Among those on the #DemDebate stage tonight, here’s who has held the most events in Iowa.

Amy Klobuchar: 165

Bernie Sanders: 126

Pete Buttigieg: 105

Joe Biden: 90

Elizabeth Warren: 88

Tom Steyer: 66https://t.co/jv2Djfmo55


The forever war

this is the fourth straight contested Democratic primary that’s down to the wire in Iowa, and that revolves at least in part around 2002-era Iraq War votes


It’s Klobbering time?

everybody: the Bernie/Warren beef will dominate the debate

wolf blitzer: Senator Klobuchar would you please fight with Pete Buttigieg