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How Bernie Sanders Lost the Debate Before the Debate

2 minute read

Before the Democratic debate even began Saturday night, Bernie Sanders was losing. A story, first reported on Yahoo News, began widely circulating that a top aide to the Vermont Senator had vigorously protested CBS’ decision to focus more on foreign policy in the wake of the Paris attacks on a conference call.

It was tailor-made to make Sanders look bad. And Sanders’ aides say that’s because it was “fabricated” and their account was backed up Saturday by a Democratic National Committee official who was also on the call, along with representatives for Sanders, front-runner Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Sanders aide Mark Longabaugh said it is true that he argued with CBS about opening and closing statements, which he views as vital to a candidate who is not as well-known as Clinton and who is running an issues-based campaign. But he said the claim that he objected to a foreign policy focus, which came from a rival campaign, was bogus.

“The only bone of contention was, were you going to have closing statement and original opening statement which we agreed to? The rest of it was all baloney,” said Sanders aide Mark Longabaugh. “Any story that implied we were not fully prepared and ready to engage on foreign policy or Paris strategy in any way is just not true.”

A DNC official confirmed Longabaugh’s account on Saturday.

“Mark pushed back aggressively on opening statements. It was about opening statements,” said the official, who did not want to be quoted taking sides in a dispute between the Democratic campaigns. “The debate was never what are we going to talk about during the first 20 minutes.”

Sanders’ spokesman, Michael Briggs, said that the Vermont senator was prepared to talk about Paris.

“From the Senator’s standpoint, it wasn’t ever a question about whether there would be a discussion about what happened in Paris,” Briggs said. “Somebody is making a mountain out of a molehill and it’s still a molehill.”

CBS gave the candidates 90 seconds for opening remarks, as Sanders’ campaign wanted.

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