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Democrats' choice: Unite or go down to defeat

The first six weeks of 2020 were supposed to provide a degree of clarity and direction in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary race. The state of the race — and of the party — is far from certain, however. 

For one thing, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida Supreme Court reinstates ban on curbside voting in Alabama MORE, who was once thought to be the clear Democratic frontrunner, experienced two disappointing primary losses and has seen his poll numbers precipitously decline, creating a high level of uncertainty in the race.

Further, following the botched Iowa Democratic caucus, which left the party in a state of disarray, last week’s New Hampshire primary only served to exacerbate inner Democratic Party divisions.

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While Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver Ocasio-Cortez rolls out Twitch channel to urge voting Calls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas MORE (I-Vt.), a self-described Democratic socialist, may have won, a more comprehensive look at the results reveals a Democratic Party at war with itself.

While the far-left or more liberal candidates — including Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race MORE (D-Mass.) — collectively earned 35 percent of the New Hampshire vote, the center-left and more moderate candidates — including Biden, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegLGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress Buttigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDurbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Minn.) — collectively earned more than one-half of the vote, with 53 percent between the three of them.

Indeed, while Sanders may have eked out a victory, a majority of the New Hampshire voters aligned with the moderate bloc of the party.

This discrepancy poses a serious problem for Democrats as the primary season continues. In order to build a broad-based coalition of voters to defeat Trump, there needs to be an understanding within the party that the message will be inclusive, will encourage unity and will eventually focus on supporting the nominee.

An encouraging sign for the future of party unity is that two primary candidates with fundamentally different world views — Sen. Sanders and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg — have both openly stated that they will support whomever is the party’s eventual nominee.

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Bloomberg, who is not competing in any of the early states, has indicated that even if Sanders or Warren are the nominee, he would be willing to put inner-party differences aside and support them, as it is most important that the Democrats defeat President Donald Trump.

To be clear, I am working for the Bloomberg campaign now and have worked with the former New York City mayor for more than two decades; indeed, I am proud that somebody like Bloomberg is spending his time, his money and his energy to try to bring America together.

Moreover, Bloomberg is working to do exactly what the Democratic Party needs to do — working to unite African American voters, Hispanic voters, White voters, progressives, moderates and voters with varying degrees of education — so that the Democratic movement against Trump spans wider than the party’s base.

Bloomberg’s campaign message of unity and compromise cultivates the precise spirit that Democrats need to animate the party, while also anticipating and planning for the realities of the general election political landscape.

To be sure, defeating an incumbent president is a difficult task for any opposition party, especially when the incumbent president is Donald Trump, who has proven himself able to weather even the most torrential political storms.

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Further, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE is emboldened by a strong economy, soaring fundraising, his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial, and a record high job approval of 49 percent, according to a February 2020 Gallup poll.

To counteract Trump’s relative strengths, it is critical that the Democratic Party coalesces around a cohesive, inclusive, pro-growth message centered on jobs, the economy, health care and advancing equality of opportunity, while also highlighting President Trump’s own policy failures in these areas.

Just this week, President Trump released his $4.8 trillion budget that included deep cuts to popular government programs, including Medicaid, student loan assistance and affordable housing — prompting Democrats to immediately denounce it. “There is absolutely no chance of his ruthless cuts to critical programs ever becoming law,” said Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), the chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

Put simply, President Trump’s budget is draconian. Instead of Democratic candidates attacking each other over ideology and experience, they need to clearly communicate how Trump’s policies hurt the very Americans who voted for him.

If the Democratic Party rips itself apart, the only winner will be Trump — and, given the threat posed by another four years of him in the Oval Office, we must to come together to unite behind a candidate who can actually defeat him.

Pollster and strategist Douglas SchoenDouglas SchoenSunday shows - Focus shifts to Judiciary impeachment hearing Bloomberg pollster: Candidate's campaign will focus on climate change, guns, education and income inequality Ukraine scandal shows that foreign influence is a bipartisan affair MORE (@DouglasESchoen) is an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergEverytown hits GOP on gun safety in closing .5M battleground ad barrage A closing argument: Why voters cannot trust Trump on healthcare Biden campaign swamps Trump on TV airwaves MORE, and previously was an adviser to President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton'Democrat-run cities' fuel the economy, keep many red states afloat Late-night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study A closing argument: Why voters cannot trust Trump on healthcare MORE. He is the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”