By Jake Sherman

It’s no secret that D.C. these days is bereft of centrists.

The House Republican Conference has shifted sharply rightward. House Democrats have lost most of their moderates.

And the Blue Dog Coalition — once the bastion of centrist Democrats — is ever-thinning inside the Capitol.

Now the downtown contingency of Blue Dogs is getting a new look, as well.

The Blue Dog Research Forum — the K Street outpost run by former Congressman-turned-lobbyist Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) — is renaming itself Center Forward, and spending nearly $1 million from corporations and individuals on a TV advertisement urging Congress to balance the budget.

The Blue Dog Research Forum isn’t changing much in its mission — they’ll continue to gather centrist lawmakers and aides from both parties on Capitol Hill to work through issues at dinners and meetings. Center Forward says they are giving an “umbrella” to support discussions between Republicans and Democrats.

“We are very mindful that centrists need to be encouraged, need to be supported, we want to encourage more to be involved with us,” Cramer said in an interview with POLITICO. “So, what we’re doing right now is more of an effort to say we’ve got the umbrella, we’re going to support you, we’ve done a good job over the past few years, but we’re going to do an even better job from here forward.”

But running advertisements — this one on national cable — is a new feature. No decision has been made whether they would support individual candidates.

“This is an exciting time for us, a time for us to consolidate,” Cramer said in an interview with POLITICO. “We feel like we’re the only group that’s really concentrating on centrists and Congress itself, and we’ve kind of staked that out as our turf. There’s a void there, and we’re filling that void. We’re going to grow and I’m excited about this.”

Cramer has briefed House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — who is often aligned with centrist Democrats — on his plans. Former Republican Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware is also involved. Erskine Bowles is also supportive of the group’s mission.

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