The Atlantic

How Sanders and Warren Will Decide Which One Runs for President

The two senators are natural allies. But when it comes to 2020, each side’s camp believes the Democratic primary is only big enough for one of them.
Source: Alex Wong / Chip Somodevilla / Getty / Thanh Do / The Atlantic

It was April 2014 and Bernie Sanders was seriously pondering the notion of diving into the 2016 presidential race. But as the senator from Vermont huddled with his advisers inside a Capitol Hill townhouse one balmy Wednesday evening, he wondered if he could compete against a political heavyweight on the ascent.

The woman he dreaded running against was being recruited by liberals across the country. Petitions were being drafted and signed en masse. Professional progressive leaders were prodding, coaxing, and tempting her. The country was “ready” for her candidacy, they pleaded.

But Elizabeth Warren was repeatedly adamant in her public professions: She wasn’t interested.

Still, Sanders watched the organic campaign warily, wondering if the enthusiasm for Warren forestalled his own opportunity for an insurgency. “He kind of hesitated,” recalls a Sanders adviser, who, like other sources in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “He was worried about it.”

New to the national limelight as a first-term senator from Massachusetts, Warren was averse to an inevitably bloody battle with the front-running Hillary Clinton. She never opened the door to 2016, giving Sanders the chance to seize the moment and inspire a movement.

Now, four years later, as the 76-year-old Sanders positions himself toward a second run for president, it’s Warren who again looms largest over his designs. At a January strategy meeting at the Washington, D.C., apartment of the aide Ari Rabin-Havt, Sanders acknowledged to confidantes in the room that the biggest threat to his pursuit of the 2020 nomination would be the 69-year-old former Harvard Law professor, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

As the two most recognizable

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