Centrist Dems push back on Warren

Moderate Democrats are pushing back at Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump floats tariffs on European cars | Nikki Haley slams UN report on US poverty | Will tax law help GOP? It's a mystery Bill to protect work licenses of student loan debtors is welcome development Federal court rules consumer bureau structure unconstitutional MORE’s (D-Mass.) view that progressives have taken control of the party. 

“We can't win the House back with progressives running in swing states,” said former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), a surrogate for 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Judiciary Committee subpoenas FBI agent who sent anti-Trump texts Clapper: Trump was serious when he said he wants citizens to act like North Koreans do for Kim Hillary Clinton: Fundamental rights are 'under assault like never before' MORE who is leading the Fight Back California super PAC aimed at winning back seven House seats in the Golden State.

Interviews with Democratic strategists, donors and organizers from across the country reveal deep disagreement with Warren’s premise that progressives make up the “heart and soul” of the Democratic Party.  

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Warren offered that synopsis during a speech at the liberal Netroots Nation conference last weekend, adding that progressives are in control of the party. 

The Democrats who disagree with Warren are generally from the center of the party, and many were staunch supporters of former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama to visit Kenya, South Africa for Obama Foundation in July Overnight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos Clarifying the power of federal agencies could offer Trump a lasting legacy MORE and Clinton. 

The clash is further proof of the divide in the party after 2016’s disappointment. Even as they face a Republican Party torn over how to deal with President Trump, Democrats are still trying to figure out what kind of a party they are.

The Obama and Clinton supporters say they have grown tired of having to deal with fighting over progressivism and 1990s-era battles over former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBill Clinton blasts family separation: 'Children should not be bargaining chips' In memory of Charles Krauthammer, an American genius and dear friend The case for a ‘Presidents’ Club’ to advise Trump MORE’s work on welfare and criminal justice reform, which were campaign issues last year and subjects of criticism by Warren just last week.

"I'm wary of pendulum politics," one former senior administration official to Obama said. "We can't whiplash the country."

Tauscher called it "a tired, old debate." 

"And it's certainly not going to help us win,” she said. “Our party should be looking to expand the tent. If we divide ourselves, we're doing our opponents' jobs for them.”

Democratic strategist Jim Manley, who served as a spokesman to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.), said while support has grown for many progressive issues, including a single-payer healthcare system, the party is in the midst of a rebuilding process and trying to figure out its next steps.

“I don't think we as a party can be casting too many people aside,” Manley said. “We need to figure out how to grow and bring everybody together. I realize that's happy talk but that's the reality. When you start talking about purity tests, that's a little problematic.”

Warren’s remarks at the conference in Atlanta last weekend sparked an instant headline from The New York Times saying she was taking aim at moderates. And while she didn’t mention either of the Clintons by name, the Times wrote: “Ms. Warren sent an unambiguous message that she believes the Clinton effort to push Democrats toward the political center should be relegated to history.”

Reached for comment, Kristen Orthman, Warren’s spokeswoman, pointed to a passage further down in the senator’s remarks that spoke more to inclusiveness among both sides of the party. 

"If we’re going to be the people who lead the Democratic Party back from the wilderness and lead our country out of this dark time, then we can’t waste energy arguing about whose issue matters most or who in our alliance should be voted off the island,” Warren said at the conference. “We need to see each other’s fights as our own. And I believe we can.”

Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist, defended Warren, saying she’s right about progressives being at the epicenter of the party. 

“They are the dominant voice in the party,” Bannon said.

Because of that, Warren has a decent chance of climbing the ranks of potential 2020 candidates for president — particularly if Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSen. Sanders: 'Hypocrite' Trump rants against undocumented immigrants, but hires them at his properties On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump floats tariffs on European cars | Nikki Haley slams UN report on US poverty | Will tax law help GOP? It's a mystery Nikki Haley: 'Ridiculous' for UN to analyze poverty in America MORE (I-Vt.) doesn’t run again.

“She definitely will inherit the Sanders vote,” Bannon predicted. “And I think a candidate who is willing to speak their mind and talk like Warren does has a better chance than a centrist who is calculating about everything he or she says. I don't think the electorate wants someone calculating. … They had cool and calculating with Hillary Clinton.”

A Gallup poll out this week showed that more than 6 in 10 liberal respondents have favorable views of Warren. But the same poll showed some respondents were split in support of her: 34 percent said they had a favorable opinion of her while 31 percent viewed her negatively. 

While it’s still early in the 2020 race, Obama and Clinton loyalists have signaled that they have a favorite or two among potential candidates, including former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

In recent months, Harris has preached inclusivity, calling on Democrats to embrace centrist Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Trump caves under immense pressure — what now? Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Manchin up 9 points over GOP challenger in W.Va. Senate race MORE (D-W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHeitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up Supreme Court rules states can require online sellers to collect sales tax Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral MORE (D-N.D.), who have been targeted by the party’s liberal wing. 

Amid the 2020 speculation looming around Harris, she has maintained that her immediate priority is helping embattled candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, including moderates and centrists.

“We can’t afford to be purists,” Harris said at an event earlier this year, according to the Los Angeles Times. “You have to ask that question of yourself. Are we going to be purists to this resistance to the point that you let these guys go? Or can you understand that you may not agree with 50 percent of their policy positions, but I can guarantee you will disagree with 100 percent of their replacements’ policy positions. So, that is part of the question. What do we have to do in this movement to be pragmatic?” 

At the same time, Warren is fighting to preserve her own space in the 2020 battle, should she choose to run, Manley said. 

“She’s fighting not only for her own space but she’s fighting to win the argument, and I have no problem with that,” Manley said. “That’s what this party is all about.”