Donald Trump’s call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” has intensified Democratic attempts to tie vulnerable members of the House and Senate — even those who have already criticized Trump’s comments — to the GOP presidential front-runner.
“You can denounce his comments but that only means so much if you would still vote for him,” a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aide said Wednesday.
Democrats’ attack on House Republicans is twofold: that most Republicans haven’t said they would not support Trump if he were the GOP nominee, even if they are backing other candidates now; and that vulnerable members agree with Trump (and the other GOP presidential candidates, for that matter) on issues such as health care and immigration.
But Trump, particularly after his Muslim comments, is the most extreme, Democrats say.
In Colorado’s 6th District, where Rep. Mike Coffman is facing a competitive re-election, his likely Democratic opponent, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, accused him Wednesday evening of sharing Trump’s “anti-Muslim affiliation” for having spoken at an Act for America conference, which Carroll called an “anti-Muslim advocacy organization.”
And Democrats seized on Coffman’s Tuesday statement reacting to Trump, saying it didn’t go far enough.
“I put out a statement yesterday that I represent all the constituents in my district, including Muslims, and I think my record speaks for itself,” Coffman told Roll Call outside House chambers on Wednesday afternoon.
His original statement did not mention Trump.
Pressed about whether he’d support Trump if he were the Republican nominee, Coffman said, “I’m not going to go there. Thanks.” Several seconds later, about to board an elevator, Coffman added, “He’s not going to be the nominee.”
EMILY’s List attacked each of the Republican House members it previously put “On Notice” Wednesday, including Coffman, for sharing the “Trump Agenda.”
Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg was also a target.
“Congressman Walberg has a long record of supporting dangerous and discriminatory policies that are in lockstep with Donald Trump’s offensive and incendiary rhetoric,” EMILY’s List Press Secretary Rachel Thomas said in a release.
Republicans say they expect such attacks.
“Well, what’s new? Why don’t they tie me to Bernie Sanders or somebody like that?” Walberg joked to Roll Call Wednesday afternoon, when told EMILY’s List was tying him to Trump. “The most recent statements by Donald Trump — I don’t agree with them.”
But it’s less Trump’s most recent comments and much more his support for other Republican policy positions that Democrats have used to tie members to him. In particular, EMILY’s List is drawing attention to the members’ opposition to the Affordable Care Act, abortion, and equal pay to paint that picture.
“They may not be saying it in the same way, but in terms of policy, they very closely align,” Thomas said of Republicans such as Walberg and Trump.
Walberg hasn’t made an endorsement, and he didn’t sound like he was worried about Trump winning the nomination — “That’s what the process of a primary is all about,” he said.
But pressed on whether he would support Trump if he were the GOP nominee, Walberg responded, “If he were the nominee, I’m certainly going to support any Republican candidate over Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. No question about that.”
Even before Trump made his comments Monday, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock faced a similar line of attack tying her to Trump’s positions on reproductive rights. As Politico reported, a organizer from NARAL Pro-Choice appeared at Trump’s Manassas, Va., rally this past weekend with a placard that read, “Trump & Comstock: Respect Women.”
In tying Comstock to Trump Wednesday, EMILY’s List said, “Virginians don’t want an extreme Trump-Comstock agenda that demonizes entire segments of our population and puts American women and families in danger.”
Despite winning her race by 16 points last year, Comstock is a top Democratic target in 2016 and she took issue with the EMILY’s List characterization.
She strongly denounced Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims on Tuesday and reiterated her displeasure with the candidate on Wednesday.
“My constituents know who I am and who I’ve supported,” Comstock said.
When asked if she’d support Trump if he were the nominee, she demurred, saying, “I think we have other candidates.”
“I hope to be endorsing soon. I have other friends who are in the race, people that I’m close to and friendly with,” said Comstock, who served in former President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice.
Another target of EMILY’s List’s is Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, whose re-election is rated a Leans Republican contest. She, too, has condemned Trump’s most recent comments and acknowledged she’s concerned Trump is becoming the brush that Democrats are using to tar the GOP.
“But we’ve got a long way to go until we get to next summer and next November,” McSally told Roll Call.
“And so, I would trust that the voters, anyway in my district, would be able to — as they’re deciding what their top issue is — get through all the political nonsense and get down to whether they want to keep someone like me around.”