Former President Obama cautioned the crowded Democratic 2020 primary field from moving too far to the left, saying voters could be turned off by messages calling for massive societal and government transformations.
"Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality," Obama said at a meeting of fundraisers, according to The New York Times, which was in attendance at the event. "The average American doesn't think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it."
The former president cited health care and immigration as issues where certain proposals from 2020 contenders, none of whom he mentioned by name, may be beyond the pale for many voters.
His comments could be implied as critiques of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have called for a “political revolution” and “big structural change," introducing policies that would eliminate private health insurance and place a moratorium on deportations.
Obama, who is still widely liked among the Democratic Party faithful, recognized that 2020 candidates would have to move beyond his White House’s platforms, but that there could be a limit to how far left the contenders’ plans could go.
"I don't think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven't heard a bold enough proposal and if they hear something as bold as possible then immediately that's going to activate them," he said.
Obama has expressed worries in the past that the 2020 field could be too liberal, saying in April that progressives could be adopting purity tests.
"One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States — maybe it’s true here as well — is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, 'Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be,' and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a 'circular firing squad,' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues," he said at the time. "And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens."
The comments come amid a possible rejiggering of the primary pack with the late entrance of former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and the possible entrance of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The pair's moves come amid establishment hand-wringing that former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading centrist in the race, was slipping and opening the door to progressives like Sanders and Warren.