Moderate Democratic think tank Third Way is urging Iowa Democrats not to vote for Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn Washington, the road almost never taken Don't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE as the Vermont senator surges in polls ahead of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus.
"Iowa Democrats: Please don't do what [President] Trump wants you to do," Third Way wrote in a memo released Tuesday, disparaging Sanders's chances at winning if he takes on Trump in November.
It said Sanders's record and "controversial background" makes him the “easiest target for Trump to beat."
“Of course, Trump will lie about any Democratic nominee, but with Bernie, much of what he’d say would be easily backed up. When political charges are supported by evidence, they are very tough to combat,” wrote Third Way, which has long opposed the democratic socialist's White House bid.
Third Way called out several of Sanders's progressive proposals, including his signature “Medicare For All” health care plan, that the think tank claims would make the progressive a vulnerable nominee. Several of Sanders's opponents have backed the same or similar universal health care plans, including Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn Washington, the road almost never taken Senate poised to battle over Biden's pick of big bank critic Treasury says more rental aid is reaching tenants, preventing evictions MORE (D-Mass.), who is not named in the Third Way memo.
“Committed Democrats, like us, would vote for Sanders against Trump. But no Democrat remotely as far left as Sanders has ever won the presidency, and swing voters in crucial states would reject the radicalism of Sanders' background and ideas,” Third Way said.
Polls show Sanders leading the Democratic pack in Iowa, and multiple surveys of battleground states have found him beating or close to Trump.
In response to Third Way’s memo, the Sanders campaign highlighted its “growing support” from a diverse group of working-class Americans.
"Let’s be clear: our growing support results from working-class Americans from diverse backgrounds demanding an agenda that transforms our country. All Democrats, even Wall Street-funded groups like Third Way, should be ecstatic to witness this movement attracting new supporters to strengthen the party and expand the electorate,” Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement.
“To win seats up and down the ballot, we need to generate excitement and enthusiasm that drives a huge voter turnout among working people, not stifle it to protect special interests. Bernie Sanders has demonstrated over the course of this primary that this campaign is able to do that — and that’s why Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE is nervous."
Sanders and his grassroots-funded campaign have been gaining momentum in Iowa in recent weeks.
A Des Moines Register-CNN poll, widely considered the most authoritative in Iowa, released earlier this month showed Sanders in the top spot with 20 percent support.
Sanders and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHaiti prime minister warns inequality will cause migration to continue Pelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Erdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system MORE are in a statistical dead heat at the top of the field in Iowa, based on a CBS News poll released Sunday.
And an Emerson College poll released Sunday found Sanders with a commanding 9-point lead over Biden in Iowa.