Washington (CNN) — The uneasy peace between the two leading Democratic 2020 progressives broke down Monday night, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren publicly accused Sen. Bernie Sanders of telling her during a private meeting in December 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could win.
The explosive accusation, which Sanders had previously denied in response to a CNN report, opened a chasm between the two leading liberals in the race and significantly raised the stakes ahead of Tuesday night’s CNN/Des Moines Register Democratic presidential debate, the final one before voters cast their first ballots of the presidential season next month. Later on Monday night, Sanders senior adviser Jeff Weaver suggested in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo that Warren had misconstrued the conversation with Sanders.
The controversy raised fresh questions about the importance of identity politics in Democratic politics amid ongoing accusations that the top of the party’s field isn’t sufficiently diverse.
“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate,” Warren said of the meeting with Sanders in a news release Monday night.
“I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”
Four sources previously told CNN that during the 2018 meeting, Sanders had told Warren he did not believe a woman could win.