Democrats in either of the emerging camps aligned with Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are not quite ready to fight, as a mini-debate moderated by msnbc's Steve Kornacki Sunday demonstrated.
Kornacki hosted former Gov. Howard Dean, who this week wrote an op-ed in Politico explaining why he’s supporting Clinton in 2016, and Ben Wikler, director of MoveOn.org, which recently launched a campaign to draft Warren into the 2016 president race.
Despite Kornacki's nudge to engage in battle, Dean, who pioneered online progressive organizing when he ran for president in 2004, went out of his way to praise Warren – and Wikler – even while reiterating his support for Clinton.
“What Elizabeth Warren just did is great for the country,” Dean said of Warren’s high-profile fight this week against a government funding bill that included a provision to roll back the Dodd-Fank Wall Street reform law. “I wouldn’t agree with her rhetoric, but I absolutely agree with her position."
“I’m just delighted to have Elizabeth Warren take this role,” he continued. "This is not a choice between the lesser of two evils -- I've made my choice because I've known Hillary for 25 years, she's incredibly experienced, we need strong leadership at the top ... I think Elizabeth Warren in the race or not in the race is good for the country, but I am steadfast in supporting Hillary because I think she would make a great president.”
For his part, Wikler too praised Dean and Clinton, the former secretary of state and presumed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. “MoveOn members have enormous respect for Hillary Clinton,” he said. "The thing about Elizabeth Warren is that she embodies the fighting spirit of the Democratic base that resonates with the entire country.”
In case it wasn’t clear, Dean went out of his way to praise Wikler as well. “I appreciate you trying to pick a fight between Ben and I. I happen to know Ben, and he's one of the smartest people under 35 in the entire country,” the former Democratic National Committee chairman said to Kornacki with a laugh. "You're not going to get us in a big ugly fight here," Dead said.
Supporters of the effort to draft Warren gathered in Washington this weekend at RootsCamp, a conference of progressive organizers and techies, where they saw momentum on their side but also declined to say anything negative about Clinton.
Of course, neither Clinton nor Warren are candidates for any office at the moment. Warren has repeatedly said she is not running for president, and she disavowed another draft group through her lawyer. Clinton, meanwhile, has said she will make a decision next year, but has scheduled speeches later in the spring, which raise questions about her timing.