Centrist Democrats pushing back against Bernie Sanders, liberal wing

The high-profile stars of the Democratic Party‘s populist wing have steered the agenda their way on Capitol Hill this year, but the fight over the party’s direction is far from settled.

As the party faces great expectations of big gains in the 2018 midterms, Democratic centrists are increasingly worried that the disproportionate share of attention shown to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and the agenda pushed by his anti-establishment allies will do more harm than good.

That direction, the thinking goes, will energize liberals in places that Democrats are already winning by big margins. But it might drive away the voters needed to win inland races that will shape the House majority and determine which governors and state legislators are in charge of redrawing federal and state legislative districts early next decade.

Enter a group called New Democracy, a combination think tank and super PAC trying to reimagine the party’s brand in regions where Democrats have suffered deep losses.

Leaders of the group want to focus on rebuilding in states where, during the Obama presidency, Democrats lost nearly 1,000 legislative seats and more than a dozen governor’s mansions.

“Our most important work will be done outside of Washington,” Will Marshall, founder of New Democracy, said in an interview.

The effort is publicly being labeled as sand”supplemental” to the emerging agenda being crafted on Capitol Hill, including the highly populist “Better Deal” proposal touted by party leaders in the House and Senate last month. But the new group’s leaders do not see that agenda, including a push for lower prescription-drug prices, as particularly helpful to Democrats in exurban districts or key Midwestern states where President Trump won last year.

“That is an accurate reflection of many Democrats who represent deep blue districts. But it has limited appeal beyond the coasts,” Marshall said.

To be sure, Senate Minority…

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