Rachael Bade and Erica Werner at WP:
An angry dispute erupted among House Democrats on Thursday, with centrist members blasting their liberal colleagues during a private conference call for pushing far-left views that cost the party seats in Tuesday’s election that they had worked hard to win two years ago.
The bitter exchange, which lasted more than three hours as members sniped back and forth over tactics and ideology, reflected the extent to which the 2020 campaign exposed simmering tensions in the party even as its presidential nominee, Joe Biden, stands on the brink of achieving their biggest goal of the year — ousting President Trump.
Party leaders had expressed certainty that Trump’s divisiveness and mishandling of the pandemic would help them expand their majority with wins in GOP-held districts — and yet they lost at least a half-dozen seats and failed to retake the Senate. The explanation laid out by centrists, according to multiple people who were on the call and spoke on the condition of anonymity, is that Republicans were easily able to paint them all as socialists and radical leftists who endorse far-left positions such as defunding the police.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., a former CIA officer who narrowly defeated her opponent in a moderate suburban district around Richmond, was blunt with her colleagues about the results.
"From a congressional standpoint, it was a failure. It was not a success," she said. "We lost members we shouldn't have lost."
She said Democrats should watch GOP ads and the attacks leveled against members before deciding how to talk about issues.
"We have to commit to not saying the words "defund the police" ever again," she said. "We have to not use the words 'socialist' or 'socialism' ever again."
"If we are classifying Tuesday as a success and we run this way again, we will get f------ torn apart in 2022," she said flatly.
Pelosi disputed Spanberger's characterization of the results as a "failure," noting that Democrats kept the House.
National Republican Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (R., Minn.) said GOP attacks against Democrats over defunding was effective “everywhere that it was used.” He added: “You can’t equivocate. You either support the men and women of law enforcement or you don’t.”
Some Democrats acknowledged the strategy had worked. “I think the defund the police issue hurt a lot of our candidates,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio), who said Democrats in his state lost after facing attacks over the topic.