Jun 22, 2019

Centrist Democrats are spooked by Bernie

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

CHARLESTON, S.C. — As President Trump fixates on former Vice President Joe Biden as his opponent in the 2020 general election, some moderate Democrats are more afraid of Bernie Sanders becoming the eventual nominee.

Driving the news: A two-day conference hosted here by the centrist Democratic group Third Way focused on helping Democrats figure out "the way to win" in 2020 — and they're sick of economic messages that focus on "free stuff" rather than opportunity, as former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp put it.

  • They're not down with Medicare for All, and shared data to back up their fear. 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 Democratic 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," according to 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 networks like MSNBC and an 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.
  • Things 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."

Yes, but: Many of the serious 2020 Democratic contenders are calling for and engaging with the things they decry — so the problem is bigger than Bernie.

  • But 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.

What they're saying: These things are politically potent for Republicans. "We shouldn't be running on these ideas; we should be running from them," said Jon Cowan, Third Way's president.

Be smart: President Trump will label any of the candidates a Democratic socialist, to varying degrees of success, but these folks are adamant anyone but Bernie can win: a gay mayor; an African American woman; a Latino from Texas; a former vice president.

  • "But I don't believe a self-described Democratic socialist can beat Donald Trump," said Cowan.

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, etc.) get prime airtime at the debates.

Go deeper: Little-known liberals reshape Democratic policy

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,014,673 — Total deaths: 52,973 — Total recoveries: 210,335Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 244,678 — Total deaths: 5,911 — Total recoveries: 9,058Map.
  3. 2020 updates: The Democratic National Committee said its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus. A federal judge declined to delay Wisconsin's April 7 primary election.
  4. Jobs latest: Coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state.
  5. Public health latest: Anthony Fauci called for all states across the U.S. to issue stay-at-home orders. The FDA will allow blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need."
  6. Business latest: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said oil companies are eligible for aid from new lending programs the Federal Reserve is setting up, but not direct loans from his department.
  7. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Navy removes captain of aircraft carrier who sounded alarm about coronavirus.
  8. 1 future thing: In developing countries, consequences of COVID-19 could be deeper and far more difficult to recover from.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Mark Meadows considers new White House press secretary

Photos: Alyssa Farah, Defense Department; Stephanie Grisham, Alex Wong/Getty Images; Kayleigh McEnany, Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has privately discussed bringing on Pentagon spokesperson Alyssa Farah or Trump campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany as a new White House press secretary, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Meadows' start on Tuesday as Trump's new chief presents a chance to overhaul a press shop that's kept a low profile since President Trump ended the tradition of daily press secretary briefings.

CNN: Fauci advises all states issue stay-at-home orders

Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to President Trump speak during a briefing on April 1. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci recommended on Thursday that all states across the U.S. implement stay-at-home orders, at a CNN town hall.

Why it matters: The recommendation stands in contrast to President Trump's calls for "flexibility." Nearly 4o states have issued stay-at-home orders to promote social distancing as a way to combat the novel coronavirus — but the orders vary in strictness and duration.

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