Days before the seventh Democratic presidential debate, a report about a 2018 meeting between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren emerged. The report alleges that Sanders told his personal friend and colleague that a woman can never be President of the United States, questioning her chances against President Donald Trump. Warren repeated the accusation during the debate, prompting Sanders to vehemently deny it once again.
Although both campaigns have since downplayed the importance of the conflict between the two senators, the feud has not faded away, and media outlets such as MSNBC appear to have jumped at the chance to inject themselves into the conversation. According to a new report from The Hill, Democratic strategists believe that the situation alters the dynamic of the primary race and possibly benefits former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Strategically speaking, it’s the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen,” a strategist who requested anonymity said. “There is only one winner out of this battle: It’s Joe Biden,” they added.
Former presidential candidate and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s campaign manager, Joe Trippi, echoed the sentiment, suggesting that a third person — in this case, Biden — usually benefits from a conflict between two candidates in a crowded field.
“It’s always a really bad idea for two candidates to get into this kind of back-and-forth in a multi-candidate field. It usually ends up hurting both of them,” he said.
“What you risk is that even the people who liked you as their second choice, now don’t like you because you hit their first choice,” he added.
In 2004, when Dean ran for president, he and then-Rep. Dick Gephardt relentlessly attacked each other before the caucuses, which allowed then-Sen. John Kerry to coast to the nomination, and eventually, lose the general election to President George W. Bush.
Some have a different perspective. Hank Sheinkopf, a strategist who is neutral in the 2020 race, praised Warren for pulling off what he described as a “great strategic move.” According to Sheinkopf, by launching the allegation against Sanders, Warren managed to “position herself as the demonstrative woman in the race.”
According to The Hill, the Warren-Sanders spat “has added more volatility to a race that was already fluid,” just weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses. However, as Sheinkopf argued, the fight could further escalate by the New Hampshire primary, given that the Granite State could become a must-win for both candidates.
According to the latest 7News/Emerson College Poll of New Hampshire voters, Sanders leads the field with 23 percent. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is in second place with 18 percent. Warren and Biden are in third place, polling at 14 percent.