A former top pollster and strategist for Bill and Hillary Clinton said that after Sen. Elizabeth Warren's performance on the Democratic debate stage Tuesday night, he is convinced that she is carrying water for the current front-runner, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
"You got to get into the Warren psychology at this point," said Mark Penn, Stagwell Group managing director, on Fox Nation's live coverage of the debate. "Her window here is shrinking. What is she going to do?"
For the second time in two weeks, Warren, D-Mass., went right at former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Warren, shown by the RealClearPolitics average of polls in South Carolina to be in a distant fourth place ahead of the Saturday primary, challenged Bloomberg over offensive remarks that he allegedly made to female employees and his past financial support for Republicans.
In many ways, it was a repeat of Warren's clashes with Bloomberg during the ninth Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas last week.
Penn said that Warren is making calculated moves to keep her in the race.
"She didn't come out with her first choice win like she thought she would," observed Penn, pointing to Warren's poor results in the first three primary contests.
"She knows that. So what are you doing here?" he continued. "She's Bloomberg slaying. Who is she doing that for? She's doing that for Sanders in anticipation that that's the way this race is going to go."
Brad Blakeman, a Republican consultant and former George H.W. Bush staffer, agreed with Penn's assessment.
"I think this is a perfect episode of Survivor," said Blakeman. "She's forming alliances. And we saw it early on when she teamed up with [former Democratic presidential candidate Julian] Castro."
"But tonight, there seemed to be an alliance, a pact, with Bernie that I'll do some of the dirty work for Bernie and start attacking Bloomberg again," he argued.
Fox News co-anchor Ed Henry pointed to one moment in the debate, in which Warren challenged Sanders over his Medicare-for-all plan and the 78-year-old senator's ability to achieve his goals.
"Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie," said Warren on the debate stage Tuesday night. "The reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard, and it's going to take someone who digs into the details to make it happen."
"Bernie and I both wanted to help rein in Wall Street. In 2008, we both got our chance. But I dug in. I fought the big banks. I built the coalitions, and I won," she continued, "Bernie and I both want to see universal health care, but Bernie's plan doesn't explain how to get there."
"There's some gentle criticism," observed Henry. "What does that mean?"
"What it means is they've made some kind of [unofficial] alliance -- that until the field winnows -- 'I'm going to help you out because I want to be on the stage. I want to be maybe one of the three and get rid of the other three. And we'll live to fight another day," said Blakeman.
"Or his V.P.?" suggested Henry, to which Blakeman agreed.
"If there is this sort of unofficial budding alliance between Warren and Sanders, could that be a knockout blow with the other candidates if she somehow gets behind him?" Henry asked Penn.
Yes, said Penn, with one caveat -- Warren has to drop out of the race soon.
"If Warren drops out, most of her votes would go to Sanders, particularly if she drops out and endorses Sanders. That would put Sanders over the top almost immediately," Penn explained. "Everyone's kind of saying, 'What am I going to do here post-Super Tuesday? Who's going to get out? Who's going to stay in?"
"Biden's expecting to be revived here [in South Carolina] and at least go into Super Tuesday and pull out a reasonable vote," concluded Penn. "The real question here is if Warren stays in. If she splits the progressive vote, Bernie probably will win, but could be in trouble, you can't tell or it goes to a brokered convention."
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