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Prominent Democrats reject taking the high road as a viable political strategy

Michelle Obama has often repeated a mantra from her speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, in which she urged voters to deflect political attacks by taking the high road. "When they go low, we go high," she said.

Nearly two years of Donald Trump's presidency later, prominent Democrats have begun to reconsidering that advice. Mr. Trump's opponent in 2016, Hillary Clinton, said in an interview with CNN Tuesday that Democrats needed to be "tougher" with their opponents.

"You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about," she said. Clinton was specifically referring to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after he had been accused of sexual misconduct. Kavanaugh is likely to be a very conservative justice.

While campaigning for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Wednesday, former attorney general Eric Holder also said that Democrats needed to get as "tough" as Republicans are.

"Michelle (Obama) always says, 'When they go low, we go high.' No. When they go low, we kick them. That's what this new Democratic Party is about," he said. Holder is mulling a presidential bid in 2020.

Holder's comments in particular echoed those of another potential presidential contender -- attorney and cable news staple Michael Avenatti. Avenatti has cast himself as the Democratic answer to Trump, someone equally brash as the president.

"I think there's a huge appetite within the party for a fighter," Avenatti said in August. "I think the party has yearned for a fighter — a fighter for good, if you will — for a significant period of time. And for many, I'm probably seen as that individual."

On Twitter, Avenatti took note of a headline about Holder's comments and possible presidential ambitions.

As Democrats gear up for the 2020 presidential race, there are differing theories about how to defeat Mr. Trump. Holder, Clinton and Avenatti seem to be suggesting that these times call for war footing, rather than the high road.

  • Grace Segers

    Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.