Bernie surrogate: Moderate candidates more frightened by Sanders than Trump

Adolph Reed Jr., a surrogate for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders 'outraged' after MLB threatens to cut ties with minor league teams Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE’s (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign, said Tuesday that he was not at all surprised by former President Obama’s warning to the crowded Democratic primary field not to swing too far left.

Reed Jr. added that what he finds most revealing in the Democratic primary race this time around is how Sanders’s moderate rivals seem to be more frightened by a potential Sanders’s presidency than they are of President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE getting reelected.

“The thing that is most telling about the Democratic race this time, however, is how many of the so-called moderates or centrists ... seem pretty clearly to be less frightened by a Trump reelection than an election by the left in this race [of] Bernie Sanders,” Reed Jr., who is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told Hill.TV.

Reed Jr.’s comments come after Obama cautioned 2020 contenders during a fundraiser last week that their vision has to be “rooted in reality,” warning that the “average American doesn't think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it."

Obama pointed to health care and immigration as issues where some of the 2020 contenders may have gone too far, but he didn’t mention any of the candidates by name.

However, both Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump executive order aimed at combating anti-Semitism stirs up controversy Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE (D-Mass.), have called for broad structural change and a “political revolution” through progressive policies like Medicare for All.

This is not the first time Obama has expressed concern that the crowded 2020 field could be turning too liberal; in April, the former president warned that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party could be adopting purity tests that could wind up undercutting allies. 

"One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States — maybe it’s true here as well — is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, 'Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be,' and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a 'circular firing squad,' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues," he said at the time.

"And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens,” he added.

—Tess Bonn