Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have spent recent months battling each other for the Democratic presidential nomination, appealing to the party's liberal factions by touting their progressive track records and unleashing bold policy agendas.
While their campaigns support a list of similar goals — Medicare-for-All, robust climate action, student loan debt relief and comprehensive immigration reform, to name a few — the two politicians occasionally employ vastly different styles to get their messaging across.
That analysis was seemingly more present than ever after the death of billionaire political activist David Koch, who passed away last week at age 79 after a battle with advanced prostate cancer. While Mr Sanders attempted to divert attention from the death and instead focus on his plans to fix a “fundamentally broken” and “racist” criminal justice system, Ms Warren leaned into the news developments while reminding her supporters the Koch brothers funded “experts who deny climate science” instead of supporting renewable energy policies.
Speaking at the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, Mr Sanders was asked a question by an audience member who began by saying, “Yesterday, oligarch David Koch passed away”.
The introduction to the question sparked an eruption of cheers — but not from the Vermont senator.
“I don’t applaud, you know, the death of somebody,” Mr Sanders said. “We needn’t do that.”
“I think what we can say is that the Koch brothers and other billionaires, because of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, have been able to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to represent the wealthy and the powerful, and the fossil fuel industry,” he added, “which is where the Koch brothers made a lot of their money.”
Ms Warren then declined to rebut applause as she dug into the Koch brothers and other billionaires funding right-wing groups and ideologies while speaking at a Seattle town hall the next day.
“And then along come big oil, big polluters, the Koch brothers," she said while discussing the history of climate change policy in the US, sparking audible boos from the crowd. “They come in, and they say you know this could be a problem. If our government, our federal government gets really serious about climate change, they’re going to bite into our own profits. If they change the regulations, that’s going to disrupt how we do business. So they have an investment decision to make.”
Why Bernie Sanders' attacks on Harris and Warren are so unwise
The difference was notable to many observers, since both politicians have routinely targeted the Koch brothers in their political speeches deriding the financially elite for their control over economic decisions in the US.
Ms Warren laid into the Koch political network just weeks before the billionaire’s death for allegedly battling against sustainable farming policies.
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The two Democratic candidates are tied as the frontrunners of the race in the latest Monmouth national poll with 20 per cent support each, followed by Joe Biden with 19 per cent and Kamala Harris with eight per cent.