By Benjamin Kail
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Can a woman be president? That question hung in the air at last night’s debate after several days of back-and-forth between Warren’s and Sanders’ campaigns over a private conversation during which, Warren says, Sanders disagreed that a woman could win the presidency in 2020.
Of the six Democratic presidential contenders on the debate stage in Iowa Tuesday night, only two — Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — had won every race they’d entered.
Just one, Warren, had defeated an incumbent Republican in the last 30 years.
Warren played up those key points to her advantage in an exchange on gender and electability with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The issue arose at the CNN/Des Moines Register debate after several days of back-and-forth between Warren’s and Sanders’ campaigns over a private meeting in December 2018, during which, Warren says, Sanders disagreed that a woman could win the presidency in 2020.
Warren said she disagreed with Sanders. And Sanders denied he ever said a woman couldn’t win, noting that he supported Warren’s potential candidacy in 2016 before his own run; that Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes than President Donald Trump; and that any YouTube visitor could find decades-old videos of comments proving he believed a woman could be president.
“How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could be president?” Sanders asked.
Warren noted that, “Since Donald Trump was elected, women candidates have outperformed men candidates in competitive races. In 2018 we took back the House we took back statehouses because of women candidates and women voters.”
Warren, currently second place to Sanders in polls of Iowa caucusgoers, added that Democrats have historically overcome questions about electability.
“In the 1960s, people asked if a Catholic could win. In 2008, people asked if an African American can win. Both times, the Democratic Party said, ‘yes,’ got behind their candidate and we changed America.”
At the debate and in a follow up email to supporters on Wednesday morning, Warren said the danger Democrats face “is picking a candidate who can’t pull our party together or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency. We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party and bring everyone in and give everyone a Democrat to believe in. That’s my plan and that’s why I’m going to win.”
Sanders noted he had defeated an incumbent Republican in 1990. Warren reminded him that was “30 years ago.”
Sanders said he believed his strong grassroots campaign was the best bet to defeat Trump, whom he described as “the most dangerous president” in U.S. history. But he also said he would adamantly support any candidate on the debate stage, including the women, should he not win the nomination, which joked that he “hope doesn’t happen.”
Tuesday’s debate was the last one before Iowa’s caucus in three weeks. Democrats debate again in February a few weeks before the New Hampshire primary.
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