The same day that the head of the Democratic National Committee told a group of Iowans that the party's "unity is our greatest strength," the top-ranking Democrat in Congress ripped apart a major policy proposal of the two leading 2020 presidential candidates.
The dichotomy between DNC Chair Tom Perez's feel-good vibes and cold water dousing delivered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a push for Medicare for All portended what appears to be one of the more trying weeks for Democrats to date. At a time when President Trump is on the precipice of impeachment, the opposition party finds itself in an increasingly dour state, with a renewed sense of fright about the prospects of the president's re-election and infighting between primary candidates heating up in uncomfortable ways .
At the heart of internal friction is Sens. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) advocacy for Medicare for All, with former introducing an expansive — and possibly unwieldy — set of provisions to pay for a multi-trillion dollar health-care overhaul this past week. In remarks to Bloomberg News on Friday, Pelosi offered a pointed warning to two (and other Democrats in the general) that the idea would be a disaster for national Democrats looking to emerge victorious against Trump in less than one year's time.
“You must win the Electoral College,” Pelosi said. “What works in San Francisco doesn't necessarily work in Michigan,” she said. Protect the Affordable Care Act — I think the path to health care for all Americans. Medicare for All has its complications. ”Pelosi sharply criticized the universal health-care proposal. But it was the most direct attack on its potential general election ramifications.
By Monday, other Democrats echoed Speaker's blunt political warnings, noting, in part, new polling from The New York Times and Siena that in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina — critical Electoral College states — Trump lags behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who does not support Medicare for All, but does better than Warren or Sanders in some states, who do .
Former Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who narrowly lost his re-election contest in 201
“The answer is yes,” Nelson, who is backing Biden's candidacy, said when asked if Florida is gone if Warren or Sanders win the nomination. “I say this with the greatest respect and admiration and friendship for those other senators who embrace Medicare for All. But the hard reality is, it's going to be a stretch too far for the Democrat candidate. ”
Warren's campaign did not return a request for comment. But Nina Turner, Sanders' campaign co-chair, told The Daily Beast that Democrats will simply have to get over their aversion to a universal health care plan under a hypothetical Sanders administration.
“When he is the nominee, there will be no more hiding from this,” Turner said. "Neoliberal Democrats will have to accept the fact that they will have a presidential nominee who will fight like hell for Medicare for All."
Murshed Zaheed, a partner at Megaphone Strategies and former leadership staff for Harry Reid, said Pelosi's comments " do not hurt Sen. Warren or Sen. Sanders at all. ”
“ It is a truism of national politics that Democrats will go through several dozen bed-wetting periods during the course of a campaign. ”
“ Nancy Pelosi is just not in touch with the majority of Democratic voters. If she was listening to the people, she'd know the majority of voters actually support Democrats running on Medicare for All, ”Zaheed said.
It is a truism of national politics that Democrats will go through several dozen bed-wetting periods during the course of a campaign — so much so that the phrase “Dems in Disarray” has become one of the more overused clichés in all of the punditry. And several top operatives cautioned that the party's fears that blowing the Trump rematch — or, worse, delivering self-inflicting wounds heading into the election — were vastly overblown. One top Democrat said internal polling of swing states was much more rosier than what the Times and Siena's study showed. Others chalked up the increasingly public frictions to the tides and turns of the primary race.
"This is a frenzied period," Brian Fallon, a Democratic operative who worked on Hillary Clinton's former secretary of state, told The Daily Beast. "We're entering the home stretch before Iowa."
But even Fallon conceded that the party had entered a period where "there's a lot of crossfire."
In recent days, Biden has escalated attacks on the financing of Warren's Medicare for All plan, with his deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield saying it would, in fact, raise middle class taxes by redirecting employer contributions towards employee health-care coverage. To which, Warren shot back, by questioning the logic and accusing Biden of “running in the wrong presidential primary” —an assertion that Biden, in an email to supporters, called “almost laughable.”
The two were hardly the only top-tier Democrats fighting in recent days. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg suggests the presidential primary has already won a two-person race between himself and Warren in an appearance he made on Showtime's The Circus .
He later backtracked. But the line earned him some raised eyebrows from Democratic contenders and operatives. Among them was Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who has plummeted in recent months in several early state and national polls, and recently raised much of her campaign staff to refocus on Iowa. "It's naive to think that at this point, that the fate of this election has been determined," Harris told CBS ' Face the Nation .
Even the lower-tier candidates have been getting into the act of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has spent the last few weeks campaigning against Hillary Clinton, who suggested Gabbard was propped up by Republicans as a third-party candidate; and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) mocked Buttigieg by noting that the budget he had as a chancellor of the Denver Public School system was “about three times the size of a certain municipality in the state of Indiana.”
There was even fighting among candidates who supported Medicare for All over Sanders, who has written the “damn bill” signature of his campaign platform, has taken steps in recent days to draw distinctions between his approach to financing the plan compared to Warren's. on the campaign trail as a candidate with “a plan” for almost every facet of governance, was met with significant pushback.
"I think the approach that we have, in fact, will be much more progressive in terms of protecting the financial well-being of middle-income families," Sanders told ABC News on Saturday, arguing that Warren's proposal could ultimately have a
But that squabble, others feared, was akin to two boat captains yapping at each other over who had the best chair arrangement for the decks on the Titanic
“Some people in the Democratic Party want to use the Jeremy Corbyn strategy,” James Carville, a Democratic strategist who ran former President Bill Clinton's campaign, told The Daily Beast, referencing the British Labor Party leader who has failed to convert left-wing resurgence into electoral victory. “There's this whole thinking where 'The Democrats are going to win so we need to be bold,'” he added, “but no, look at the UK”
“I don't want to party with Jeremy Corbyn , ”He said. “It worries me.”