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Biden could be winner in Warren-Sanders fight

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE is an interested observer of the squabble between Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere MORE (I-Vt.).

Biden, who after downplaying expectations in Iowa is now signaling he believes the state’s caucuses are in play for his campaign, could end up benefiting if voters in the state are turned off by the fight between his two progressive rivals.

Allies of Biden say that while Sanders has been ascending in the polls, the fight could bring down his popularity — particularly with women who see his fight with Warren as petty and sexist. 

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They also think it could provide a nice contrast for Biden.

“This proves that once again, even on our side, he’s above all the pettiness that we see in politics today," said one longtime ally who has spoken to Biden in recent days. “And he doesn't have to do a thing. He just needs to kick back and let them prove his point.”

After months of refusing to attack one another on the campaign trail, tensions between Warren and Sanders flared this week after CNN revealed that Warren said Sanders told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not be elected to the White House. 

The fight grew bitter on Tuesday night following the latest Democratic debate when Warren accused Sanders of calling her “a liar on national TV.” Warren was referring to a moment during the debate in which Sanders denied that he ever said a woman couldn't be elected president.  

Television cameras caught the viral moment between Warren and Sanders, with billionaire candidate Tom SteyerTom SteyerBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Late donor surges push election spending projections to new heights New voters surge to the polls MORE an awkward third party. On Wednesday night, audio was released, allowing the nation to hear both candidates.

Democratic strategist Basil Smikle, who has not sided with any campaign, said the barbs were good news for Biden — especially coming from more than a fortnight from the caucuses.

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“A tussle between Warren and Sanders has the potential to make both of them unlikeable while helping Biden, who has been conspicuously even-keeled and gaffe-free in the last few weeks,” said Smikle, who served as the executive director of the New York state Democratic Party and is a former aide to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonValadao unseats Cox in election rematch Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College Federal workers stuck it out with Trump — now, we're ready to get back to work MORE.

Aides and allies to Warren and Sanders say the fight between the two progressive senators once linked in arms is a negative. Progressive groups have sought to get the two to call off their fight for fear it will hurt both candidates. Their allies hope that if one candidate surges ahead of the other, they can count on the other candidate's support to win the nomination. 

Now they are worried the fight will linger, with supporters in each camp harboring ill will.

“It's really unhelpful,” one Sanders ally acknowledged. “I never thought this would happen especially so close to Iowa.”

“They need each other,” the ally said. “That’s the only way one of them wins.” 

On Thursday, several progressive organizations including Our Revolution and Democracy for America issued a joint unity statement to express their concern about ceding the nomination to an establishment Democrat like Biden. 

“Our best chance of defeating Trump does not lie with an establishment or corporate Democrat,” the statement read. “Sanders and Warren, as well as their campaigns and supporters, will need to find ways to cooperate.”

The skirmish comes at a moment when the race in Iowa and nationally appears to be anybody’s game. 

A CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll out last week showed Sanders in the lead in Iowa with 20 percent while Warren came in at 17 percent. Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly MORE, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., received 16 percent of support among potential caucusgoers while Biden received 15 percent. 

At the same time, Biden leads in a New Hampshire poll out this week from Franklin Pierce University/The Boston Herald/NBC 10. The former vice president received 26 percent while Sanders came in second with 22 percent and Warren receiving 18 percent. 

Some Biden supporters downplay the Warren-Sanders friction, arguing it is unlikely to move voters.

“Honestly I don’t think it matters,” said one former Biden aide. “I mean, it makes Biden look like a grown-up but I don’t think it moves voters to him, especially from those two camps.” 

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Grant Reeher, director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute and a professor of political science at Syracuse University, agreed with that sentiment. 

“I don’t think the conflict between Warren and Sanders will help Biden, at least of the face of it,” Reeher said. “The two of them are struggling for the same general bloc of Democratic voters, and Biden is offering an alternative to both of them — so it’s not like someone might abandon Sanders because of this conflict and then go to Biden."

But one beneficiary, Reeher said, could be Buttigieg “because of the identity politics.”

“Sanders and Warren’s supporters are more on the left and part of that left includes folks who are younger, and also folks who are more identity-based than class-based,” he said. “And even though Buttigieg is running a more moderate campaign on the issues, he’s got youth and identity on his side, compared with Biden.” 

Reeher added that Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (Minn.) who also shares the more moderate lane with Biden and Buttigieg could also be a recipient of Warren supporters “because of the gender issue.” 

But the Biden ally said the former vice president will reap the benefits of the fight.

“Let’s put it this way. I can’t see how this is a net positive for either of them,” the ally said.