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Ex-Obama aide Axelrod: Warren an emerging 'Yes We Can' candidate

Former Obama aide and Democratic strategist David AxelrodDavid AxelrodBiden leans on foreign policy establishment to build team Biden rolls out national security team What a Biden administration should look like MORE is praising Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE's presidential campaign, touting the Massachusetts Democrat as an emerging "Yes We Can" candidate for 2020.

Axelrod, who served as a senior adviser to former President Obama in the White House and worked as a chief strategist on his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, penned an opinion piece late Friday lauding Warren's performance in the second round of Democratic debates earlier this week in Detroit.

Warren "is running a strategically brilliant campaign," and "more than any other candidate, she has a clear, unambiguous message that is thoroughly integrated with her biography," Axelrod wrote in his piece for CNN, where he serves as a senior political commentator.

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Axelrod said that "Warren has put critics of her grand plans on the defensive in much the same way Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' Texas warehouse where migrants housed in 'cages' closed for humane renovation North Carolina — still purple but up for grabs MORE put Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College Federal workers stuck it out with Trump — now, we're ready to get back to work Biden soars as leader of the free world MORE on the defensive in 2008, when she argued that Obama's plans were fantastical in the real world of Washington."

"A big aspirational message is more satisfying than a cramped, political one. Warren is positioning herself as Big Change versus the status quo. Yes We Can versus No We Can't," he added.

The Massachusetts senator appeared alongside Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care MORE (I-Vt.) in the first of two back-to-back Democratic presidential debates this week that featured a total of 20 candidates. The race's front-runner, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE, appeared alongside Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Biden can rebuild trust in our justice system by prioritizing prosecutorial reform Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence MORE (D-Calif.) on the second night.

Warren and Sanders, who are battling to shore up support among progressives in the party, teamed up in the debate Tuesday night to push back against an onslaught of attacks from more moderate candidates who argued that many of the senators' proposals on issues such as health care and the economy would spell electoral doom for Democrats as they seek to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE next year.

At one point in the debate, Warren slammed those who might dismiss the proposals being advocated by the progressives on stage, saying, "I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn't fight for."

Axelrod argued Friday that Warren's "unsparing critique of corporate excess and her expansive -- and expensive -- agenda for change mirror those of the reigning left champion, Bernie Sanders, in places" but added that "Warren seems fresher, deeper and more precise in her execution."

"I don't know if Elizabeth Warren will win the nomination. Her sometimes professorial style can be off-putting and she has yet to break through with the white working class voters with whom Biden and Sanders are doing well," he added later.

"Moreover, there are legitimate critiques of her policy on substantive and not just political grounds. But it is going to take more than what we saw on either stage this week to win that battle," he said. "Warren has a theory of the case and is prosecuting it very skillfully."