Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), 70, and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), 78, engaged in an awkward squabble over the passage of time and the meaning of "30 years" during Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate in Iowa.
Neither candidate won the argument, but both adequately demonstrated the extent to which President Donald J. Trump, a man of formidable stamina and intellect, will ruin them on a general election debate stage.
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The elderly candidates started bickering after Warren delivered a pre-rehearsed zinger in response to allegations that Sanders privately told Warren in 2018 that he did not think a woman could be elected president. The allegations were quite obviously leaked by Warren's campaign to CNN days prior to the debate, and CNN moderator Abby Phillip essentially accused Sanders of lying after he denied ever saying a woman couldn't be elected.
Warren pivoted from the claims against Sanders to a pitch for her electability.
"The only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me," Warren said.
Sanders objected to Warren's assertion. "Just to set the record straight, I defeated an incumbent Republican running for Congress," the socialist clapped back.
The exchange, which seemed less appropriate for a presidential debate stage than it did for a Wendy's—the fast-food restaurant beloved by elderly patrons for its generous senior-citizen discount—quickly went off the rails.
WARREN: [attempts to perform math in head]
SANDERS: That's how I won. Beat a Republican congressman.
SANDERS: Number two—
WARREN: 30 years ago.
SANDERS: Of course, I don't think there's any debate up here—
WARREN: Wasn't that 30 years ago?
SANDERS: [attempts to do math in head] I beat an incumbent Republican congressman.
WARREN: And I said I was the only one who has beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years.
SANDERS: Well, 30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact.
So ended the exchange between two of the "top-tier" contenders to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2020. The current frontrunner, former vice president Joe Biden, 77, is generally considered to have had a good debate performance if he can string together a handful of complete sentences and doesn't cite Manuel Noriega in response to a question about health care reform. The other leading candidate, Pete Buttigieg, is an unemployed 37-year-old.