Bernie Sanders vs. Elizabeth Warren: Split progressive voter crowd | News Coverage from USA

Bernie Sanders vs. Elizabeth Warren: Split progressive voter crowd

SAN FRANCISCO – Democratic presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are hitting many of the same economic populist notes on the campaign trail, albeit with slightly different inflections, as they make their case to voters.

When Warren stumped in the Bay Area over the weekend, she linked the influence of corporate money in politics and corruption as the driving forces that too often keep Washington from helping Americans. She intoned that “health care is a human right” and plugged her plan to pay for cradle-to-college education and other programs by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Meanwhile, Sanders decried “economic starvation” wages and urged primary voters to accept “no middle ground” on issues like abortion, gun control and health care from their Democratic nominee. It was a thinly-veiled jab at the Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden who has cast himself as a moderate who can salve Washington’s hyper-partisanship.

“They would be my dream ticket – put (Sanders and Warren) together on a ticket,” said Robert Means, 69, a Sanders supporter from Milpitas, Calif., as he waited for the Vermont senator to address the California Democratic Party Convention. “I don’t care if they are both from the East Coast.”

But at the moment, Means’ fantasy political team is fishing from the same pool of progressive voters, while Biden makes headway arguing his case that a center-left message will be the winning one in 2020.

Since officially entering the race in late April, Biden has maintained a substantial lead in most national and early-voting state polls. But Sanders and Warren – and the rest of the nearly two dozen major Democratic candidates – are hoping they can begin cutting into Biden’s lead as voters begin to pay more attention.

On paper, Warren and Sanders are ideologically similar. Warren had the most liberal voting record of any senator in the current Congress, while Sanders had the fourth most liberal voting record, according to an analysis by Voteview, a project managed by UCLA’s Department of Political Science and Social Science Computing.

But as Sanders and Warren make their play for voters attracted to their populist message, political analysts and early polls suggest they could be crowding each other out and unintentionally paving the way for Biden.

Biden leads the pack nationally sitting at 38%, according to a Morning Consult poll published last week. Sanders sits second with 20% and Warren at 9%.

When asked who they’d select as a second choice, 22% of Warren voters chose Sanders, 21% named California Sen. Kamala Harris and 17% picked Biden.

The poll finds fewer in the Sanders camp like Means, who said he would enthusiastically support Warren if she were to get the nomination. Just 19% of Sanders voters identified Warren as their second choice, while 33% said they’d throw their support to Biden.

Overall, national polls show Warren has gained support since Biden entered the race, while Sanders has lost ground.

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What it could mean in New Hampshire

The battle within the primary between Sanders vs. Warren should be of great concern to both campaigns in the “do-or-die” early voting state of New Hampshire, said James Demers, a Democratic strategist based in Concord. Biden had 33% of the vote, Sanders 12% and Warren 11% in New Hampshire, according to the latest TEL Opinion Research poll.

Primary voters in the Granite State have frequently shown favor to fellow New Englanders over the last 50 years. Past New Hampshire Democratic primary winners have included Sen. Edmund Muskie, of Maine; Sens. John Kerry, Paul Tsongas, and John F. Kennedy, of Massachusetts; Gov. Michael Dukakis, of Massachusetts; and Sanders. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also won the New Hampshire primary on the Republican side.

“It does make for a dynamic where they are hurting each other in a state that’s crucial for both candidates’ path to the nomination,” Demers said. “They’re going to have to make a judgment call later this fall. At that point, they may have to have that hard conversation of whether they can both stay in the campaign and beat Biden.”

But at this point in the race, backers of both Warren and Sanders say it is too early to worry about the senators cannibalizing each other’s support.

What supporters are saying

Christina Ogburn-Chow, a Warren campaign volunteer, said she’s tried not to game the electability of candidates or consider who might be pulling from her top choice.

“I do think we need bold progressive views, and I think as Warren continues to put out policy and continues to gain momentum, we’ll see her rise in the polls,” said Ogburn-Chow, who stood outside the California Democratic Party convention hall to hand out Warren campaign stickers as Sanders prepared to speak. “Frankly, I’ve decided I’m not going to worry about the polls yet. It’s too early, and to quote Han Solo, ‘Never tell me the odds.’ ”

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Malcolm Barnes, a Palo Alto, Calif.-resident who is backing Sanders, argued the presence of both candidates is helping amplify issues important to him and other progressive voters.

“The more progressive voices that are heard this election cycle the better,” Barnes said. “I think Bernie and Elizabeth Warren are going to push the Democratic Party to be more progressive.”

Barnes added he is not worried that Sanders and Warren will split the progressive vote.

“I think he’s going to do well enough to stand out from the other progressives.”

On the stump, Sanders has pushed hard for “Medicare for All,” a policy which would upend the private insurance system by expanding Medicare to cover every American. He’s also railed against corporate power and economic inequality.

Warren has joined Sanders’ legislative push on Medicare for All, while treading her own ground through a series of proposals – a free college tuition program, expanding affordable housing, providing universal child care to American families and others –through a $2.75 trillion tax hike on American households making more than $50 million.

A split in backers

Backers of both Sanders and Warren point to faults – some cosmetic and some more substantive – that they see in each to make the case why their candidate is the better progressive voice in the race.

Rebecca Haney, an accountant from Santa Clara, Calif, said Warren’s “way of speaking isn’t that strong.”

“When you hear Bernie talk, he gets your attention,” she said. “With her, it’s like being in a classroom.

But she added, “I can imagine them on a ticket together!”

Ena Silva, another Sanders backer from Pleasant Hill, Calif., said she remains angry that Warren did not endorse Sanders during his 2016 run.

“She appeared too concerned with pleasing the party rather than doing the right thing,” Silva said.

Ogburn-Chow, the Warren campaign volunteer, backed Sanders in the 2016 primary and still thinks highly of his politics. But she said that Sanders is not among her top 3 preferred nominees.

“I do feel like for me there is too much 2016 baggage,” she said. “I want someone different. I want a fresh face.”

Aamer Madhani reported from San Francisco. Elizabeth Weise reported from San Jose.

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