Obama cautions Democratic hopefuls on tacking too far left

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama on Friday warned the Democratic field of White House hopefuls not to veer too far to the left, a move he said would alienate many who would otherwise be open to voting for the party’s nominee next year.

Though Obama did not mention anyone by name, the message delivered before a room of Democratic donors in Washington was a clear word of caution about the candidacies of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The two have called for massive structural changes — and in Sanders’ case “revolution” — that would dramatically alter the role of government in people’s lives.

The centrist wing of the party has warned for months that a far-left nominee could alienate moderate Republicans and independent voters needed to oust President Donald Trump.

“The average American doesn't think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it's important for us not to lose sight of that,” Obama said. “There are a lot of persuadable voters and there are a lot of Democrats out there who just want to see things make sense. They just don't want to see crazy stuff. They want to see things a little more fair, they want to see things a little more just. And how we approach that I think will be important.”

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Barack Obama playing sports over the years
U.S. President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after chipping onto the 18th green as he finishes a round of golf at the Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii December 29, 2014. The President and his family are currently on their annual Christmas holiday season vacation. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SPORT GOLF)
U.S. President Barack Obama plays basketball with Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir (R) as he takes a tour of the exercise activities at the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington April 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama throws out the first pitch before the 2009 All-Star Game at Busch Stadium July 14, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. The American League beat the National League 4-3. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama plays tennis with tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, one of the activities at the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington April 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama is photographed playing football on the South Lawn of the White House with the family dog Bo in this handout photo taken in Washington, on May 12, 2009 and later released by the White House.. REUTERS/Pete Souza/The White House/Handout (UNITED STATES ENTERTAINMENT POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
U.S. President Barack Obama walks to putt his ball on the 18th green at Kapolei Golf Club during his Christmas holiday vacation in Kapolei, Hawaii, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
U.S. President Barack Obama takes a bike ride with his family on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts August 22, 2015. Obama is on a two-week vacation on the Vineyard. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) holds onto a rebound during a 3 on 3 basketball game during a campaign stop in Kokomo, Indiana April 25, 2008. REUTERS/Frank Polich (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd L) attempts to block a shot by personal aide Reggie Love during a basketball game at Fort McNair in Washington, in this White House handout photograph taken on May 16, 2010 and released on June 7, 2010. REUTERS/Pete Souza/The White House (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
U.S. President Barack Obama plays with a football in the Oval Office of the White House in this handout photo taken in Washington, April 23, 2009 and later released by the White House. REUTERS/Pete Souza/The White House/Handout (UNITED STATES POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles on the 18th green at Kapolei Golf Club with friend Derrell Harrington during his Christmas holiday vacation in Kapolei, Hawaii, December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is seen swinging a baseball bat as a child in an undated family snapshot released by his presidential campaign, February 4, 2008. Obama, now a 46-year-old first-term U.S. senator from Illinois who would be the first black US president, heads into Super Tuesday's slate of 22 Democratic state primaries and caucuses in a tight race with Hillary Clinton to become the party's presidential nominee. REUTERS/Obama For America/Handout (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA). EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
U.S. President Barack Obama and NBA basketball player Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers play golf at Farm Neck Golf Club during Obama's annual summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard, in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, U.S. August 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) plays basketball during an impromptu stop at Riverview Elementary School in Elkhart, Indiana, May 4, 2008. The Indiana Presidential Primary will be held on May 6. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
U.S. President Barack Obama is photographed playing football on the South Lawn of the White House with the family dog Bo in this handout photo taken in Washington, on May 12, 2009 and later released by the White House.. REUTERS/Pete Souza/The White House/Handout (UNITED STATES ENTERTAINMENT POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
U.S. President Barack Obama plays golf with British Prime Minister David Cameron at The Grove golf course in Watford, England April 23, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) chases an errant ball as he plays basketball during an impromptu stop at Riverview Elementary School in Elkhart, Indiana, May 4, 2008. The Indiana Presidential Primary will be held on May 6. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
U.S. President Barack Obama celebrates after chipping in on the 18th green to end his round of golf with friends at the Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii December 21, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama gets hit on the head by a rebound while playing basketball, an exercise activity during the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington April 6, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 12: U.S. Senator for Illinois, Barack Obama, throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of Game Two of the American League Championship Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on October 12, 2005 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) competes for a loose ball with Ja'Rob McCallum (L) and Kory McKay (R) as he plays in a 3 on 3 basketball game during a campaign stop in Kokomo, Indiana April 25, 2008. REUTERS/Frank Polich (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama greets people after playing basketball at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 30, 2008. Obama graduated from Punahou in 1979. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry (UNITED STATES)
President Barack Obama shoots a basketball on the White House South Lawn basketball court in this handout photo taken in Washington, March 6, 2009 and later released by the White House. REUTERS/Pete Souza/The White House/Handout (UNITED STATES POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) plays basketball at Fort McNair in Washington in this handout photo taken in Washington, May 9, 2009 and later released by the White House. REUTERS/Pete Souza/The White House/Handout (UNITED STATES POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
U.S. President Barack Obama plays basketball during the annual 2010 Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, April 5, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
US President Barack Obama bikes with his daughter Malia at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on August 15, 2014 during their annual summer vacation on the island. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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Obama has largely refrained from publicly opining on the Democratic primary, which has exposed a growing rift between an ascendant progressive wing of the party and old-guard centrists like his former vice president, Joe Biden. But on Friday he said he felt compelled to weigh in because some of the loudest and most strident voices, particularly on social media, aren’t representative of where most in the party are at.

Immigration and health care are two issues he cited as cases where Democratic candidates are out of sync with public sentiment.

“Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters, including the Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans, are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds,” Obama said.

Obama delivered his remarks at a gathering of the Democracy Alliance, a group of wealthy Democrats who raise large sums for the party. He was interviewed by Stacey Abrams, a rising star in the party who narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race last year.

He also sought also to ease jittery Democrats who have been wringing their hands over the size of the sprawling field, which some worry will lead to a prolonged contest that will leave the eventual nominee with limited time to prepare for the general election.

“I just have to remind you that I had a very robust primary,” Obama said. “Not only did I win ultimately a remarkably tough and lengthy primary process with Hillary Clinton, but people forget that even before that we had a big field of really serious, accomplished people.”

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