Moderate Democrats are worried about Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonSamantha Bee roasts Trump at mock correspondents' dinner Dems seeing big increase in midterm House candidates When it comes to Israel, Trump’s first 100 days were one big fail MORE’s recent embrace of liberal policies.
After positioning herself as a centrist and steely potential commander in chief in the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton has shifted.
The former first lady says same-sex marriage should be a constitutional right and endorsed Obama’s executive action shielding millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. She wants broad reform of a criminal justice system and calls for automatic voter registration.
Red-state Democrats in Congress don’t want Clinton to lose sight of a broadly appealing economic message that can win over white working-class voters who have deserted the party in droves recently.
“It’s important that she has an economic platform that people can get on board with regardless of what state they live in,” said Sen. Jon TesterJon TesterDem senator to appear with Romney: report Battle begins over Wall Street rules Dems hunt for a win in Montana special election MORE (Mont.), the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“Be everywhere — Montana, Missouri, everywhere,” Tester added.
Centrist Democrats say Clinton should broaden, not narrow, her approach.
“I don’t think you write anything off. You show that you’re not afraid and you show the ability to go into an area, and it will help lift spirits,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDems struggle with abortion litmus test Senators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Congress nears deal on help for miners MORE (D-W.Va.). “I always do visit all 55 counties in my state. So when I ran statewide, I didn’t give up on certain counties and never visited. So you don’t give up on anybody.”
It is very common for presidential candidates to move closer to their base in the primary and shift back to the center in the general election. But Clinton’s strategy suggests she needs to shore up more of the base and is responding to pressure from liberal leaders such as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren reads middle school students' letters on climate change Warren on attending Trump’s inauguration: ‘I wanted it burned in my eyes’ Maher on Obama speaking fee: Isn’t that what cost Clinton the election? MORE (D-Mass.).
Still, moderate Democrats are particularly concerned about Clinton’s potential effect on state legislative races in Republican dominated states. They worry if she stays away from solid-red states, they will have a hard time winning down-ballot races that could shape the congressional districts of the future.
Some were alarmed when The New York Times reported that she is discarding the nationwide electoral strategy that her husband employed in the 1990s to win Southern states such as Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee.
The Times reported she is poised to “retrace Barack ObamaBarack ObamaComedian Hasan Minhaj blasts Trump, media at correspondents' dinner Trump invites Philippine's Duterte to the White House Social media users rip Fox graphic on economy under Trump, Obama MORE’s far narrower path to the presidency” by focusing on the liberal base in a handful of battleground states in the Midwest and West instead of persuading undecided voters.
They fear a reprise of the failed electoral strategies of John KerryJohn KerryEgypt’s death squads and America's deafening silence With help from US, transformative change in Iran is within reach Ellison comments on Obama criticized as 'a stupid thing to say' MORE in 2004 and Al GoreAl GoreDiCaprio, Gore spotted at Climate March Overnight Energy: Trump orders review of national monuments, claiming ‘egregious abuse’ Al Gore: Trump climate moves ‘a shame’ MORE in 2000, who poured their resources into a handful of swing states instead of attempting to widen the playing field by playing offense in traditionally Republican territory.
“The election to look at was in 2004. John Kerry had conceded 227 electoral votes before Election Day. That means George Bush only had to get 43. That is the danger you run into. It took Al Gore down in 2000. You can’t concede but so much. I don’t think you concede anything. I think you battle them everywhere,” said David “Mudcat” Saunders, a Democratic strategist who specializes in reaching white, working-class voters.
Saunders says Kerry blundered by suspending campaign operations in seven states — Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado — after winning the Democratic nomination in 2004. It didn’t help, he added, that Democrats decided to nominate him at a convention held in liberal-leaning Boston.
While Clinton might not have much hope of winning in Louisiana, Missouri or South Carolina, strategists argue that making a good-faith effort in those states can help candidates down ballot.
“The problem you got is the state legislatures. Take South Carolina for instance. In 2016 they’re going to have house elections and senate elections in their statehouse. If the Democrats don’t play there, it doesn’t increase turnout. Turnout in all cases always helps the Democrats in those areas,” Saunders said.
Clinton’s current chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders calls for renewed focus on fighting climate change Maher on Obama speaking fee: Isn’t that what cost Clinton the election? NRA head: Sanders 'a political predator' MORE, has aggressively pushed a 50-state strategy for more than a year.
Last year he met with activists, unionized workers and college students in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. This month he wrote a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz calling for presidential debates in red states.
“By expanding the scope geographically of debates beyond the early calendar states we can begin to awaken activism at the grassroots level in those states and signal to Democrats and progressives in places like Texas, Mississippi, Utah, and Wyoming that their states are not forgotten by the Democratic Party,” he wrote.
Rep. David Price (N.C.), one of only a handful of white Southern Democrats left in the House, said, “I agree with what people in the so-called red states are saying about the down-ballot effects. A successful president is going to have to have some support from those states and members elected from those states.
“There’s a stake for the presidential candidate in spending a reasonable amount of time in non-blue-state areas,” he added.
The Clinton campaign, which did not comment for this article, has not publicly acknowledged giving up on a 50-state strategy.
It unveiled a nationwide organizing effort in April with a video in which Clinton vowed “there’s gonna be campaigns in all 50 states and we’re gonna need as many people as we can to volunteer, to sign up, to help us organize because I need your voices to be speaking out.”
Rep. John YarmuthJohn YarmuthTrump becomes wild card in spending fight House Democrat introduces bill to amend presidential removal procedures CBO: Budget deficits, debt to reach record highs in 30 years MORE, a Democrat from Kentucky, said he has heard Clinton already has a field director in his home state.
He believes Clinton has a chance of winning Kentucky, which her husband carried twice; he urged her to visit.
Some Democrats, however, argue that Clinton won’t alienate voters in Southern states if she pushes immigration reform and same-sex marriage.
“In my district we have over 100 languages spoken in the public school system. It’s become a very diverse population,” said Yarmuth. “We have a huge thoroughbred breeding operation and thoroughbred breeding industry that relies heavily on immigrant labor. The people of Kentucky understand how important immigration reform is.
“Voting rights are important everywhere. Gay marriage is an issue right now that doesn’t move voters away from somebody,” he added.