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Warren "disappointed" by reports of negative script from Sanders campaign while Sanders distances himself

New Iowa poll shows close race
New Iowa poll shows Bernie Sanders in lead in close race in Iowa 07:26

In a rare split between two Democratic candidates who have so far been friendly on the campaign trail, Senator Elizabeth Warren on Sunday said that she's "disappointed" by a report that Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign had prepared a negative script for volunteers to use about her. Sanders appeared to dismiss the criticism, calling it a "bit of a media blow-up."

Politico first reported on the script, which has not been challenged by Sanders or his campaign. According to Politico, campaign volunteers were told to say "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."

Warren, who was campaigning Sunday in Iowa, told reporters that she was "disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me."

"Bernie knows me, and has known me for a long time," Warren said. "He knows who I am, where I come from, what I have worked on and more, and the coalition and grassroots movement. We're trying to build Democrats we want to win. In 2020, we all saw the impact of the factionalism in 2016, and we can't have a repeat of that."

Sanders has been dogged by criticism since 2016 of sowing division within the Democratic party, but Warren has so far avoided taking part in that particular line of attack. Sanders and Warren, the leading candidates on the left, have so far refrained from attacking each other on the campaign trail and at the debates. They both will be at Tuesday's debate, along with former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer.   

Sanders, who was also campaigning in Iowa, on Sunday called Warren a "very good friend of mine" and said "no one is going to trash Elizabeth."

"We have hundreds of employees," Sanders said. "Elizabeth Warren has hundreds of employees. And people sometimes say things they shouldn't." 

Warren's campaign Sunday night sent out a fundraising email focused on Sanders.

"This type of attack isn't about disagreeing on issues — it's about dismissing the potency of our grassroots movement," campaign manager Roger Lau wrote. "Let's be clear: As a party, and as a country, we can't afford to repeat the factionalism of the 2016 primary."

"I have all the respect in the world for Bernie Sanders, but when talking about our movement, his campaign has it backwards," the email continues. "I hope he reconsiders what he's encouraging."

Sanders and Warren are locked in a tight race in Iowa, which will caucus on February 3. A Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll released earlier this week had Sanders leading with 20%, followed by Warren at 17%, Buttigieg at 16% and Biden at 15%. 

The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, focused this weekend on Biden. In South Carolina, where Biden has a sizable lead, campaign surrogate Nina Turner wrote an op-ed in the newspaper The State titled "While Bernie Sanders has always stood up for African Americans, Joe Biden has repeatedly let us down." Senior campaign adviser Jeff Weaver attacked Biden campaign surrogate John Kerry for saying Biden wasn't voting for war in the 2002 Iraq vote. 

"It is appalling that after 18 years Joe Biden still refuses to admit he was dead wrong on the Iraq War, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history," Weaver said.  

Sanders's campaign said Sunday that he approved Weaver's statement. For his part, Sanders said Sunday that he wanted voters to look at Biden's record.

"Compare and contrast records. Nothing wrong with that. That's what a serious campaign is about," Sanders said. 

Zak Hudak and Cara Korte contributed reporting.

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