As the 2020 Democratic presidential primary draws closer to the Iowa caucuses next month, there's some new drama starting to play out between two of the field's top contenders.
This particular square-off began Saturday, when Politico reported that volunteers for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had been being using a script on how to sway voters who are thinking about voting for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and painting her as a candidate for the wealthy:
The script instructs Sanders volunteers to tell voters leaning toward the Massachusetts senator that the "people who support her are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what" and that "she's bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party."
"I like Elizabeth Warren. [optional]" the script begins. "In fact, she's my second choice. But here's my concern about her."
The script — the authenticity of which Politico says was unchallenged by the Sanders campaign — also has instructions for how to deal with voters leaning toward other candidates. For example, the story notes, it says that former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg lacks support among black voters and also says that "no one is really excited about" former Vice President Joe Biden's candidacy.
When asked about the document on Sunday, Warren fired back, saying that she was "disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me," and called on her Senate colleague to change his campaign tactics to help foster more unity among Democrats.
"We cannot nominate someone who takes big chunks of the Democratic Coalition for granted," Warren was quoted as saying in a story at NBC News. "We need someone who will bring our party together. We need someone who will excite every part of the Democratic Party, someone who will be there. Someone that every Democrat can believe in. I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction."
The exchange between the two candidates comes just ahead of Tuesday's Democratic National Committee primary debate — which will be the last such event before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses — meaning there's a chance that the two senators could end up swapping some televised blows over the claims in the volunteer script. With only six candidates qualifying, the debate at Drake University in Des Moines will be the smallest such event yet.
As far as polling goes, Sanders is currently a few points ahead of Warren with a RealClearPolitics average of 20.3 percentage points in contrast to the Massachusetts senator's 14.8 as of Monday. Biden's 29.3 RCP average still has him at the head of the pack. However, Sanders also led the Democratic field in Iowa in a recent poll of likely caucus-goers conducted by the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom.