Shepherdstown, West Virginia (CNN)Senate Democrats have been tight-lipped about their retreat in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Senate Democrats search for their path forward in West Virginia
Aides declined to even give the location, let alone the agenda of the two-day event. Many staffers, left back in Washington, weren't aware of the agenda for the event at all.
Reporters and curious town residents weren't allowed on the grounds of the Bavarian Inn where it was being held.
But the focus inside the gathering on the first day targeted two things, according to two sources familiar with the event: how President Donald Trump beat them in 2016, and how to secure at least some of his voters for the midterms.
There were scheduled panels on that dealt with re-connecting with rural voters, reaching back out to the very voters that once reliably cast ballots in their favor but left them in droves for Trump in November.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, moderated a panel of his home state residents who voted for Trump -- an effort to dig into their motivations, and, one source said, try and figure out the best path forward to get them back.
In a somewhat ironic twist, the events were being held in one of the few liberal bastions of a state Trump won by a whopping 42 points. While Trump won Jefferson County, where Shepherdstown is located, many storefronts in the college adorned with rainbow flags and multiple busloads from the area made the 70-mile trek to the Women's March on Washington the day after Trump's inauguration.
A group college students gathered down the road from the retreat trading rumors that progressive hero Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont may eventually emerge to say, "hello."
A rally, organized by the Women's March on Washington -- West Virginia, is scheduled throughout the day Thursday at a bridge near the inn where the retreat is being held, according to a Facebook post.
But the retreat's opening day wasn't entirely about learning what went wrong. There was also a panel led by Democratic operatives Neera Tanden and Guy Cecil about how to coalesce behind ways to block Trump policies deemed egregious by the party.
Senate Democrats sit at an exceedingly important moment. Coming off of the stinging electoral loss in the presidential race and failure to reclaim the majority in year when Republicans were largely on the defensive, they have now moved into an election cycle where Republicans consider themselves on offense. Ten Senate Democrats are facing re-election in states Trump won in 2016.
The second day of the event is scheduled to be more focused on the congressional battles ahead, from the looming legislative agenda to how to deal with Trump's Supreme Court nomination, which the President said would be announced next Thursday.