Doug Thornell, who formerly served as a senior adviser at the Democratic National Committee, said on Friday that 2020 Democratic presidential candidates should be attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual Policy Conference over the weekend.
Thornell, a strategist for the SKDKnickerbocker public affairs firm, was asked about 2020 Democrats not attending the AIPAC conference during an appearance on MSNBC, prompting him to tell the panel that he disagreed with their decision not to attend the conference.
Host Hallie Jackson mentioned the Democratic candidates who said they weren't attending the conference and asked Thornell how this is playing into a strategy for Democrats or whether it could play into a strategy for President Trump, who said earlier this morning that the Democrats were "totally anti-Israel" for skipping the event.
"I actually think Democrats probably should go even if they totally disagree with Netanyahu or how the president is treating Israel right now, but I think it's an important audience to communicate with," Thornell said. "It doesn't mean you're endorsing AIPAC's policies. It doesn't mean you're endorsing Netanyahu's policies, but I do think there are voters and I think Democrats need to go everywhere."
"We're seeing that with Beto O'Rourke. We're see that from other candidates trying to campaign for independent voters, even some Republican voters in the general election," Thornell continued. "I think you can disagree with AIPAC. You can disagree with Netanyahu, but you can still go the conference and lay that out."
Several Democratic candidates have come out in the last couple days to say they will not be attending the conference. It is unclear whether their decision was a result of pressure from MoveOn.org, a large progressive activist group. Iram Ali, the campaign director at MoveOn Political Action, told Politico that "It's no secret that that AIPAC has worked to hinder diplomatic efforts like the Iran deal, is undermining Palestinian self-determination, and inviting figures actively involved in human rights violations to its stage."
Ali added that the call should "give a clear insight to 2020 candidates on where their base stands instead of prioritizing lobbying groups and policy people who rarely step outside of D.C."
"the list of 2020 presidential candidates who have made the decision to #SkipAIPAC continues to grow. Thank you for your leadership here @PeteButtigieg, @ewarren, @BernieSanders, @KamalaHarris, @JulianCastro, @BetoORourke, @JayInslee… who is next?" MoveOn tweeted.
& the list of 2020 presidential candidates who have made the decision to #SkipAIPAC continues to grow. Thank you for your leadership here @PeteButtigieg, @ewarren, @BernieSanders, @KamalaHarris, @JulianCastro, @BetoORourke, @JayInslee… who is next? pic.twitter.com/Bol61vv8Bc
— MoveOn (@MoveOn) March 21, 2019