As President Trump fixates on Joe Biden as his opponent in the 2020 general election, some moderate Democrats are more afraid of Bernie Sanders becoming the eventual nominee, Alexi McCammond reports from Charleston, S.C.
Driving the news: A two-day conference by the centrist Democratic group Third Way focused on helping the party figure out "the way to win" in 2020.
- These Dems are sick of economic messages that focus on "free stuff" rather than opportunity, as former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp put it.
- Ideas like free college are "fluffy" and perceived as "handouts," said Anna Tovar, mayor of Tolleson, Arizona. Particularly with Latinx Democrats, she said, "They want to work towards [those opportunities] and be proud of that."
- Third Way argues these plans can be politically potent for Republicans. "We shouldn't be running on these ideas; we should be running from them," said Jon Cowan, the group's president.
They're not down with Medicare for All: Among 1,291 Democratic primary voters polled by Third Way, there's a 17-point difference in support for Medicare for All between "Twitter Democrats" and primary voters as a whole.
- In fact, they'd love if all the 2020 Democrats got off Twitter entirely. Listening to the Twitterverse "will help re-elect Donald Trump," said Lanae Erickson, Third Way's SVP for social policy and politics.
- They're also trying to obliterate the "blue bubble" created by liberals — perpetuated, they say, by appearances on cable and by obsession with online reach. "If you killed it on that podcast, I assure you we did not hear you," said Steve Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, S.C.
A twist: Elizabeth Warren — who’s viewed as the closest candidate to Bernie ideologically — gets a pass with these moderates.
- They say she’s focused on a Democratic capitalist message, while they view Bernie as a full-blown socialist.
Be smart: President Trump is likely to label any of the candidates some sort of a Democratic socialist. But these folks are adamant anyone but Bernie can win — a gay mayor, an African American woman, a Latino from Texas.
- The bottom line: Expect the tension between liberals and centrists within the Democratic Party to grow even more as these issues (Medicare for All, the Green New Deal) get prime airtime at the debates.