Centrist Dems push back on Warren

Moderate Democrats are pushing back at Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night 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 ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring 4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report 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 Obama4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Obama goes viral after sporting black bomber jacket with '44' on sleeve at basketball game Obama attends UNC-Duke basketball game 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 ClintonInviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Howard Schultz must run as a Democrat for chance in 2020 Trump says he never told McCabe his wife was 'a loser' 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 ReidHarry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Sanders hires veteran progressive operative to manage 2020 bid Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency 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) SandersKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night 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) ManchinOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Gabbard cites ‘concerns’ about ‘vagueness’ of Green New Deal MORE (D-W.Va.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction 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.”