Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is on the rise, and it’s coming at a cost for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign is struggling to mount the same kind of support as it did in 2016.
The two farthest left candidates in the crowded Democratic primary contest have been allies in the Senate and on the campaign trail, often appearing as if they were running mates on debate stages parrying off moderate attacks on their socialist proposals. But now, as Warren begins to soar over a sinking Sanders, the time has come for the Vermont senator to distinguish himself from his fellow left-wing White House rival.
Just four months away from the first Democratic caucus in Iowa, Warren has come into October surging as several national polls show the Massachusetts senator breaking away from Sanders in the race after being virtually tied with her fellow leftist in second and third place for several months. Meanwhile, Sanders is holding a steady third place nationally and barely holding on to double digits in critical early primary states.
In September, several polls have even shown Warren replacing former Vice President Joe Biden as the frontrunner in Iowa and New Hampshire, although within the margin of error in New Hampshire. She’s rising at a clear cost to Sanders and Biden, who are both seeing their levels of support shrink.
“Warren continues to look stronger with every new poll,” said Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray after releasing a poll showing Warren leading in New Hampshire. “She seems to be picking up support across the spectrum with gains coming at the expense of both Biden and Sanders.”
Last month, Warren also picked up the endorsement of the Working Families Party, an openly socialist and communist-affiliated smaller group operating across 19 states that backed Sanders in 2016.
While the two senators are remarkably similar, they still have some minute differences, and each candidates’ base of supporters display their differences. On major issues dominating the policy discussions in the race such as taxes and health care, the two are almost perfectly in sync. Each supports “Medicare for All” and doing away with private insurance. Warren was even a co-sponsor of Sanders’s socializing health-care bill in 2017 and again when re-introduced in April.
On taxes, Sanders and Warren both support soaking the rich to help pay for their prohibitively expensive government programs on the far left’s wish-list that will still fall short of funds even at the most extreme tax rates imaginable.
Where Sanders and Warren primarily differ is in their philosophy and approach. Sanders describes himself as a “democratic-socialist” while Warren says she is a “capitalist to my bones,” although her policies clearly show otherwise. When out campaigning, Warren loves the “selfie line,” whereas Sanders tends to avoid the crowds.
On policy, their differences are almost trivial. For example, Sanders believes incarcerated people should have the ability to vote, while Warren supports restoring voting rights after prisoner release. On education, both candidates want taxpayers to bail out more than $1 trillion in student debt, but disagree on for whom. Sanders wants to cancel all student debt regardless of the bailed out people’s income, while Warren’s proposal cuts the amount of debt taxpayers take on as recipients’ income rises.
While the two senators share few policy differences, their supporters aren’t quite so similar. Warren does better with voters who have earned college degrees and with seniors who closely follow politics. Sanders on the other hand, does better among lower-income and lesser-educated voters. While Warren polls better with women, Sanders does better with men. Sanders also polls better with African Americans and young people who do not vote in every election.
Despite the differences in constituency, Warren’s break from Sanders in the race spells trouble for the Vermont senator. The alliance between the two candidates was likely to come to an end at some point in the race, and now is the time Sanders must try to reclaim the banner of the democratic-socialist movement spearheaded four years ago.
The next Democratic primary debate is now less than two weeks away. It’s slated to be held in Ohio, providing Sanders a primetime opportunity to distinguish himself from the far left’s seemingly new favorite candidate.