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Sanders and Warren are splitting up, and that's a good thing.

By S.E. Cupp, Tribune Content Agency on

In the hours before Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were set to take the final debate stage before the Iowa caucuses in February, what began as a mutual protection pact between the two progressive candidates for president devolved into a he-said, she-said war of the far-left worlds.

To which I say, it's about time. And if you're a supporter of either Warren or Sanders, or any other Democrat for that matter, you should welcome this development with open arms. The sooner there is a strong frontrunner in the Democratic primary, the better positioned he or she is to take on President Trump.

The do-no-harm strategy Warren and Sanders had been naively employing up until now was doomed from the start for one simple reason: There cannot be two Democratic nominees for president. And the longer they postpone the inevitable -- that one of them will have to get out or decisively fell the other if either is to win -- the worse either of their chances become.

The break in détente began on Sunday, Jan. 12, as the Sanders camp pushed the notion that Warren was the candidate of the elite, seemingly piggybacking on an earlier attack by Joe Biden against the Massachusetts senator. Warren returned fire by calling out her rival for "sending his volunteers out to trash me," seemingly surprised that this sort of thing is what happens in a contested race.

Then came a report that Sanders told Warren in a private meeting in 2018 that a woman couldn't win the presidency. He denies ever saying that, calling it "sad," but Warren insists it was what she heard. Sanders supporters claim Warren is now playing dirty. Again, welcome to politics, guys.

To listen to progressive operatives, you'd think they never saw this squaring off coming, or that they hoped, somehow, to stave it off until the bitter end. But it seems rather obvious that two candidates who were closely aligned politically and fighting over the same voters, donors and resources would eventually have to take on each other. The primary was never going to end like a twin-sister wedding, with both candidates walking down the aisle arm in arm.

And yet, the dismay is palpable.

Democracy for America chairman Charles Chamberlain told CNN, "Our movement needs to see [Sanders and Warren] working together to defeat the corporate wing, not attack each other."

Similarly, Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid said, "Warren and Sanders should be focusing their fire on their two corporate-friendly opponents and earning the trust of voters for why their vision will defeat Trump and provide relief for the American people."

 

"Their vision"? "Working together"? Unless they're planning on running on the same all-progressive ticket -- which would be an unmitigated disaster for Democrats -- Sanders and Warren have to get out of each others' shadows, and tell voters how they are different, not how they are the same.

This is important no matter which Democratic frontrunner you are rooting for. While conventional wisdom is that most Democratic voters will line up behind whoever is the eventual nominee, they'll need every Democratic voter they can get.

About 12% of Sanders voters in that Democratic primary ended up voting for Trump in the general election, according to a massive Cooperative Congressional Election Study survey. "[I]f the Sanders-Trump voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania had voted for Clinton, or even stayed home on Election Day," NPR noted, "those states would have swung to Clinton, and she would have won 46 more electoral votes, putting her at 278 -- enough to win, in other words."

The longer Democratic candidates insist on solidarity instead of distinction, the more entrenched in support for their candidate voters' may become, and the less enthusiastic they may end up being if the nominee is not their favorite.

It may be brutal. But it's better to get the bloodbath over with sooner so that voters can consolidate behind a strong frontrunner and take on Trump. So it's about time Sanders and Warren consciously uncoupled -- for the sake of their own candidacies, the Democratic primary, and indeed, perhaps, the country.

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(S.E. Cupp is the host of "S.E. Cupp Unfiltered" on CNN.)

 

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