Democratic Debate: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren Grilled About 2018 Meeting And Whether A Woman Can Win The White House

Ted Johnson

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UPDATE, 7:10 PM PT: The second half hour of the Democratic debate brought the moment that much of the media had been waiting for: That was whether Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren would spar over what was said at a 2018 meeting, in which Sanders reportedly told Warren that a woman could not win the White House.

Asked at the debate why he said that, Sanders said, “Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it.” He added that the story, posing a rift between the Sanders and Warren campaigns, “is what Donald Trump and maybe some in the media want.”

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Warren, however, said that she “disagreed” with Sanders over whether a woman can win, but didn’t try to get into an argument with her opponent. “Bernie is a friend and I am not here to try and fight with Bernie.”

Warren said that she was “the only one who has beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years. The only people on this stage who have won every election they’ve been in are women.”

Sanders took some exception to that statement, noting that he defeated an incumbent Republican when he was elected to the House in 1990. Warren, though, reminded him that that was 30 years ago.

The narrative of an emerging rift between the Sanders and Warren campaigns, representing the leftward wing of the part, gained some steam on Monday. That’s when CNN reported that in a meeting late in 2018, Sanders told Warren that he did not believe that a woman could win the presidency in 2020. Sanders denied that was what he said; Warren put out a statement in which she said, “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”

At the debate, Sanders insisted that he would support a woman nominee against Trump.

“Who believes that a woman can’t win?” Sanders said. “Of course they can win.” He noted that Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump in 2016.

PREVIOUSLY, 6:31 PM PT: The initial focus of the Democratic debate on Tuesday was on how would handle Iran and Iraq, and how they would try to get the country out of the cycle of “endless war.”

That immediately put a spotlight on Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, both of whom are at the top of polls, and the 2002 vote to give George W. Bush’s administration that authorization for the use of force in Iraq.

Biden called his vote for the authorization a “mistake,” but said that he later opposed U.S. involvement when it became clear that the administration invaded Iraq based on false pretenses. He also noted that Barack Obama, who opposed the authorization, selected him as vice president and “asked me to end that war.”

“I think my record overall on everything we’ve done has been … I’m prepared to compare it to anybody’s on this stage,” Biden said.

But Sanders, who voted against that authorization when he was in the House, said, “Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and [Donald] Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. I didn’t believe them for a moment. I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently.”

Their answer was in response to moderator Wolf Blitzer, who asked, in view of potential escalation with Iran, why they would be the best prepared candidate to handle an international crisis.

The debate’s focus on foreign policy to start the debate was a bit of a surprise, given the headlines over a potential rift between Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

CNN and later The New York Times reported on Monday that in a meeting late in 2018, Sanders told Warren that he did not believe that a woman could win the presidency in 2020. Sanders denied that was what he said; Warren put out a statement in which she said, “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”

The debate was the seventh this cycle, but perhaps the most consequential: It is the final such gathering of the candidates before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

Ratings for the debates have fallen, from a high of 18.1 million viewers for the first debate in June, to a low of 6.5 million viewers at the debate in December.

 

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