Joe Biden said Elizabeth Warren has an “elitist attitude” in a radio interview. He wrote on Medium that the Massachusetts senator is “condescending.” He told donors her 2020 Democratic campaign is based on a “my-way-or-the-highway attitude.”
And he told reporters on Wednesday that Warren was the one who started it.
The former vice president has sharply escalated his attacks on Warren in recent days, shifting from dismissing Warren’s policy ideas as unrealistic to a more personal attack on the former Harvard professor. Three months from the Iowa caucuses, Biden’s new approach reflects a new phase in the 2020 primary, with Democratic candidates sharpening their criticism of their foes and drawing more distinctions.
The campaign is reframing its critiques of Warren, a source close to Biden’s campaign told CNN. It is no longer that “she is a liar,” the source said.
“It’s ‘Warren is a smarty britches who thinks if you don’t agree with her, you’re an idiot,’” the source said in describing Biden’s new approach.
It comes as a new Monmouth University poll shows Warren catching Biden at the top of the field among Democrats nationally. She has also placed in the top tier in the most recent surveys of likely Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, while Biden has fallen behind the pack in some early state polls.
Biden has repeatedly accused Warren of elitism at public and private events over the last week.
At a fundraiser Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh, Biden pointed out that Warren is a former registered Republican who changed her party affiliation in the 1990s.
Without using Warren’s name, he complained at the fundraiser chaired by commercial real estate executives, where co-hosts pledged to raise more than $15,000 for the campaign, that some in the Democratic Party represent “elitism” that isn’t shared by the party’s base.
He called it “condescending” to have what he characterized as a “my-way-or-the-highway attitude” and to suggest that “you agree with me or you have no courage. You agree with me or you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
At a fundraiser Wednesday at a law firm in Washington, Biden again brought up Warren.
“Now the people that are running against me tell me I’m naïve. One said I should be in the Republican primary, God love her,” he said. “That’s not the way you get things done, man. You don’t go in and tell people that they disagree there’s something fundamentally wrong with them.”
Asked by reporters after the fundraiser Wednesday why he was escalating his criticism of Warren, Biden responded that the Massachusetts senator had initiated the fight.
“I’m responding to her attack, her comments,” he said.
Biden was referring to what Warren had told reporters last week, and later said during a speech in front of more than 13,000 Democrats in Iowa on Friday night.
Warren responded to Biden’s criticism of her Medicare for All proposal by saying that Democratic candidates defending health insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers are “running in the wrong presidential primary.”
Then, at the Liberty and Justice Celebration in Des Moines, she criticized Democrats who she said “think that running some vague campaign that nibbles around the edges is safe.”
“I’m not running some consultant-driven campaign with some vague ideas that are designed not to offend anyone,” she said. “I’m running a campaign based on a lifetime of fighting for working families. I’m running a campaign from the heart.”
She didn’t use any of her opponents’ names – but the comment was taken as a swipe at South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, as well as Biden.
This week, Biden has responded forcefully, shifting from questioning the feasibility and funding of Warren’s policy proposals – particularly Medicare for All – to a more personal criticism.
“If you don’t agree with Elizabeth Warren, you must somehow be not a Democrat. You must somehow be corrupt. You must somehow not be as smart as she is,” Biden said on SiriusXM’s Urban View. “It’s just something we don’t do in our party. It’s not who we are.”
He added that Warren “has things in her plan that are just not realistic, but if you question it, she says you don’t understand or you’re talking like a Republican.”
“It’s just an elitist attitude that it’s either my way or the highway,” Biden said.
In a Medium post on Tuesday that didn’t use Warren’s name but was clearly aimed at her, Biden accused Warren of portraying anyone who disagrees with her as “a coward or corrupt or a small thinker.” He called that “condescending to the millions of Democrats who have a different view.”
“It’s representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share,” he wrote.
“I learned a long time ago that if you question someone’s motivations rather than their judgment you get nowhere. It’s hard to get past go if you start off by saying the other person is in the pocket of special interests or is corrupt,” he wrote. “To get anything big done in this country, we need to persuade, to compromise, to reach consensus. That’s the way a democracy works.”
Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, said Wednesday on CNN that the former vice president “believes that we are in a really damaging place in our politics if we can’t disagree on the details about how to get to a shared goal, universal coverage, without dismissing those who disagree as small thinkers or not willing to fight big fights or not willing to take on a challenge.”