Warren Appears to Brush off Sanders' Attempt for Post-Debate Handshake


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appeared to rebuff Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during an end of debate exchange on Tuesday night.

The moment came after days of rising tension between the longtime friends who are now progressive rivals in the Democratic primary. It appeared that Sanders approached Warren for a handshake, which she did not accept, and then after a brief exchange, Sanders turned away and left the conversation.

That exchange was the latest in a series of stories that have left people wondering about how the two candidates are getting along.

Over the weekend, Politico reported that Sanders volunteers were framing Warren as a candidate for the elite in door-to-door campaigning by telling voters “people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what.” Then it ran a story claiming that “Sanders surges as progressives flock to him over Warren.”

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On Monday, CNN dropped an anonymously sourced report, during a private conversation in 2018, where Sanders had apparently told Warren a woman couldn’t win the election. Sanders denied the report, calling it “ludicrous.”

But Warren’s team let it run without commenting for the entire day. And then, later that night, Warren released a statement confirming the report.

Inevitably, the question about this story was going to come up at the debate. When it did, Sanders once again flatly denied it.

This was the exchange between debate moderator Abby Phillip and Sanders:

PHILLIP: “Let’s now turn to — let’s now turn to an issue that’s come up in the last 48 hours. Sen. Sanders, CNN reported yesterday that — and Sen. Sanders, Sen. Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?”

SANDERS: “Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it. And I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want. Anybody knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States.”

Then Phillip turned to Warren and asked her a similar question.

PHILLIP: “Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”

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WARREN: “I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on. And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women…”

When the debate moderators moved on, it appeared this story might go away. But the exchange at the end of the night set speculation on fire once again that the two were experiencing some serious tension.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump stepped into the fracas, throwing his support behind Sanders during a rally in Wisconsin.

“I don’t believe that Bernie said that. I really don’t. It’s not the kind of a thing he would say,” Trump said, before adding that he did not like Sanders.

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Isaac Saul is a senior politics reporter, editor and founding member at A Plus, the positive news oulet founded by Ashton Kutcher. He also writes the independent, non-partisan, ad-free politics newsletter Tangle. His reporting focuses on Congress, elections, immigration and climate change. His writing has appeared in CNN, The New York Daily News, The Forward, Yahoo!, The Huffington Post, Quartz, and been cited by The Washington Post, The New York Times and Fox News, among others. Before A Plus, he was an Associate Editor at The Huffington Post and the sports editor at The Pitt News.

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