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Democrats offer substance but few fireworks for undecided voters at seventh debate

David Catanese, Alex Roarty and Emily Cadei, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

THE SANDERS-WARREN SPAT THAT WASN'T

In the night's most anticipated moment, Sanders and Warren appeared to agree to disagree about allegations he once told her a woman couldn't become president, content to avoid relitigating the simmering controversy.

Sanders vehemently denied ever thinking a woman couldn't win, pointing out that Hillary Clinton won 3 million more voters nationally than Trump in 2016.

But even if both candidates stuck closely to their story, Warren used the controversy to forcefully argue not only why women are electable, but why she was the party's strongest possible nominee. The men on stage, Warren pointed out, had together lost 10 elections among them, while she and Klobuchar were the only candidates with a perfect electoral record.

"We need a candidate who excites all parts of the Democratic Party, brings everyone in and gives everyone a Democrat to believe in," she said. "That's my plan, and that's why I'm going to win."

It was perhaps Warren's clearest articulation yet of why she thinks she'd be the party's best opponent against Trump, and it directly addressed a lingering concern many Democratic voters have about her candidacy, even if many may remain unconvinced. It also fit squarely with the senator's emerging strategy to present herself as a unity candidate among all the party's different factions as she tries to reverse months of stagnant poll numbers.

 

The lack of sparks between Sanders and Warren also indicates both candidates want to deescalate the conflict that has built up between their campaigns in recent days, a development that will please progressives worried that a damaging fight between the race's two leftmost candidates would hand the race to Biden.

THE OTHER SANDERS-WARREN SPLIT

Sanders and Warren did have one other confrontation, albeit a polite one, on trade. It was a rare point of policy disagreement between the two liberals.

Warren said she will vote to ratify the revised NAFTA trade, now known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, in the Senate, calling the deal "a modest improvement" that will bring some relief to farmers and workers in places like Iowa.

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