Thursday, 20 Feb 2020

Trump defends Sanders in dispute with Warren, stoking Democratic divisions

As tensions between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren rose earlier this month, Sanders found himself with an unusual ally: President Donald Trump.

During a raucous campaign rally in which Trump critiqued some of his Democratic challengers, the president launched into an unprompted defence of Sanders. Warren had accused Sanders of telling her that a woman couldn’t win the White House in November, but Sanders insisted he would never say such a thing. Trump concurred.

“I don’t believe that Bernie said that. I really don’t,” Trump told his supporters. “It’s not the kind of thing he would say.”

As the Democratic primary intensifies before the first contests to decide the nominee, Trump and his allies have issued a series of curiously favourable comments about Sanders.

They’ve played up the Vermont senator’s electoral strength and fundraising prowess. And they’ve suggested that if Sanders doesn’t secure the nomination, it will be because the party rigged the primary against him. It’s a sentiment that resonates with some Sanders’ backers who believe the Democratic National Committee worked against him in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won the nomination.

In offering occasional support for Sanders, Trump is taking a page out of his own playbook from the election four years ago and betting that the Democratic divisions that helped him win the White House are even deeper now.

Indeed, more moderate Democrats fear that Sanders — a self-described democratic socialist — would struggle to pull together a robust coalition in the general election. But they also worry his supporters might not vote in large enough numbers for any other nominee if Sanders fails in his second quest for the party’s nomination.

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