KEY POINTS

  • Trump has come to Sanders' defense over allegations of sexist remarks
  • Trump's campaign said Sanders was treated unfairly at the last debate
  • It's likely Trump is concerned about Sanders, who's beating him in polls
  • By supporting Sanders, Trump knows he can also harm him

In an unusual turn, President Donald Trump has offered words of support to a Democratic candidate – though likely not out of the kindness of his heart. With the increased friction between Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Trump decided to weigh in on Sanders’ side.

In the latest barb between the two, Warren accused Sanders of having privately told her that a woman cannot win the White House. When the charge was raised during Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, Sanders wholly denied ever saying that, despite Warren’s insistence.

Discussing the claims of sexism, Fox News reported that Trump said, “I don't believe Bernie said that. I really don't. It's not kind of a thing he'd say.”

A representative of Trump’s reelection campaign spoke with The Hill about the Democratic debate and accused CNN of treating Sanders unfairly. He said that it was “probably one of the first times we felt we had something in common with Bernie Sanders. The folks on the stage were out to get Bernie or at least align against him.”

These affable remarks about Sanders from Trump and his campaign aren’t necessarily acts of generosity. In all likelihood it reveals two things: First, Trump has concerns about Sander’s surging support across the country and second, he’s aware that he’s completely toxic to any Democratic candidate he touches.

Sanders has consistently polled ahead of Trump when pitted head to head for the White House. Although former Vice President Joe Biden still maintains the top spot among Democratic nominees, Trump realizes if Sanders wins, he could pose a serious threat.

The Daily Beast spoke with several Trump insiders, who said that the president has been especially fixated on Sanders recently. Behind closed doors, Trump has asked about Sanders’ polling in battleground states, particularly in Pennsylvania. There, polling has Sanders beating Trump by 8 percent.

With this in mind, Trump knows that by giving a few polite nods toward Sanders he can actually hurt the senator’s campaign. At the end of the day, if Trump is following the polls, he knows that he’d have much better odds this fall if he didn’t have to face off against either Sanders or former Vice President Joe Biden.