Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks to guests after her speech Friday at the National Press Club in Washington. Later, she participated in a “fireside chat” with former President Barack Obama during the Democracy Alliance conference. (TIA MITCHELL/TIA.MITCHELL@AJC.COM)

Stacey Abrams, Barack Obama discuss strategy for Democrats in 2020

But their “fireside” chat Friday evening during a joint appearance before Democratic mega-donors focused mostly on the presidential race. The former president said he is not concerned about the still-crowded field for the party’s nomination, but he does worry that some candidates may be taking positions that are too liberal for many voters.

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

Candidates should think carefully about the positions they take on issues such as the country’s response to climate change or how to reform immigration laws and focus on incremental changes, Obama said.

“The average voter doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system,” he said.

As the interviewee, Obama did most of the talking during the 45-minute session at the conference for Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy benefactors to Democratic candidates. But he also encouraged the group to support initiatives launched by Abrams, who became the first black woman to become a major political party’s nominee for governor when she won Georgia’s primary in 2018.

Even though she ultimately lost to Republican Brian Kemp by 1.4 percentage points, Abrams is credited with drastically increasing turnout in minority communities and became a darling of the Democratic Party.

She later launched two organizations: Fair Fight, a national initiative focused on protecting the rights of voters in battleground states, and Fair Count, ensuring that minority communities are full participants in the upcoming census.

“I love me some Stacey Abrams,” Obama told the crowd of about 300 people. “If you’re not already supporting Fair Fight and getting behind the work she is doing, you need to.”

Earlier on Friday, Abrams was the one doing the talking, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington. Her appearance there was so popular that the luncheon was moved to a larger room to accommodate demand for tickets.

Her speech focused on her recent work to combat voter suppression and how her gubernatorial race changed the scope of what Democrats believed was possible in states such as Georgia.

She also fielded questions from the audience about whether she will reconsider running for president or the U.S. Senate. Not happening, Abrams said, although she has described a run for the White House as a long-term goal.

Like Obama, Abrams also plans to refrain from endorsing any of the Democrats now running for president although plenty have asked.

“I support the winner,” she quipped, adding later that she wants to allow the election process to sort the field. “You have a primary so the people can speak. Let’s wait and see what they say.”

Abrams said that she would serve as a running mate to any one of the handful of leading candidates in the race. There is no sense in being coy about her ambitions, she told the group.

And she announced that her upcoming novel, a “legal thriller,” will be released soon and she dropped the Selena Montgomery pen name since the anonymity that came with it is long gone.

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