With opposition Democrats preparing for crucial 2018 midterm elections and the nation's next presidential race on the distant 2020 horizon, nothing less than the future of the party is at stake.
The race to chair the Democratic National Committee (DNC) features front-runners Tom Perez, a Hispanic-American and former secretary of labor under Barack Obama who is the establishment pick, and Keith Ellison, a black Muslim congressman from the party's progressive wing who has left open the prospect of pushing to impeach Trump.
The race is narrowing -- one of the second-tier challengers, South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jamie Harrison dropped out of the race Thursday and supported Perez -- and culminates in a vote Saturday at a DNC meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
During a debate with several DNC candidates Wednesday night, Perez and Ellison expressed similar views about how they would run the party.
They acknowledged that it needs to take a solid economic message to working-class and middle-class Americans, many of whom said during last year's campaign that they felt abandoned by Democrats.
Perez, 55, said Democrats need to "get back to basics" by making house calls in all 50 states and establishing a year-round organizing presence to remind American workers that the Democratic Party represents their values and interests.
"When we lead with our message, our message of economic opportunity, that's how we win," he said during the debate broadcast on CNN.