Centrist Dems push back on Warren

Moderate Democrats are pushing back at Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration Dems call for action against Cassidy-Graham ObamaCare repeal 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 ClintonBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain 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 ObamaGOP rep: North Korea wants Iran-type nuclear deal Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight Iran's president warns US will pay 'high cost' if Trump ditches nuclear deal 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 ClintonBill ClintonGOP rep: North Korea wants Iran-type nuclear deal Lawmakers, pick up the ball on health care and reform Medicaid The art of the small deal 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 ReidThe Memo: Trump pulls off a stone-cold stunner The Memo: Ending DACA a risky move for Trump Manchin pressed from both sides in reelection fight 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) SandersOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight 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) ManchinGOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace Trump steps up courtship of Dems The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampJustice Dept investigating Equifax stock sales: report Dem senator: Trump 'very serious' about infrastructure Trump steps up courtship of Dems 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.”