Members of Congress Take Vegas, and the Spin Room

Sessions and many Democrats circulate around Sin City

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was a lonely Republican lawmaker defending Donald Trump in Wednesday's post-debate spin room in Las Vegas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was a lonely Republican lawmaker defending Donald Trump in Wednesday's post-debate spin room in Las Vegas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 20, 2016 at 12:44am

LAS VEGAS — It was hard to traverse Sin City this week, or the presidential debate spin room Wednesday night, without running into a member of Congress.

But unlike a customary day in the Speaker’s lobby at the Capitol, most of the lawmakers have been Democrats.

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions made the rounds in his capacity as a top surrogate for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“He’s determined that he’s going to be treated fairly, and if he’s not treated fairly he’ll use legal rights like Al Gore did in the 2000 election,” Sessions said when asked by Roll Call about Trump telling debate moderator Chris Wallace that he would not yet commit to abiding by the results of November’s election.

“But he was really good tonight. And he won this debate on the substantive issues that the people care about, such as immigration. There’s no doubt he was clear and firm and has a policy that the American people have been asking for, for 30 years,” Sessions said,  also praising Trump’s pledge to nominate conservative jurists to fill Supreme Court vacancies.

But Sessions was in the minority, ideologically speaking, among the lawmakers at the debate site at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“It shows you the Democratic members of Congress who are here are actually proud to be associated with our nominee, and excited about her candidacy, whereas a lot of the Republican colleagues that I know are embarrassed to have Donald Trump as the Republican nominee,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle of the larger number of Democratic members present. “It’s a great observation and it really speaks volumes.”

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The Pennsylvania Democrat wandered through the spin room after the debate looking for local television affiliates without one of the iconic signposts used to identify surrogates for Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Nevada Democrats were around town, of course, but so were other Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee of Texas.

Jackson Lee showed up at a Democratic National Committee bus tour stop Wednesday in the parking lot of a supermarket that caters largely to a Latino customer base, along with House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra and Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairman Ben Ray Luján. All were touting state Sen. Ruben Kihuen’s candidacy for the House.

“We’re excited about this election. We feel good about voting,” Becerra said of his party. “My sense is we have that tingle. We feel that tingle and we’ve got that excitement going because we feel like Nov. 8 is going to be a very good day for Democrats.”

Rep. Judy Chu was in the spin room as an official Clinton surrogate with a sign.

“There is a blistering amount of media here, but that’s really good because the world is very interested in what these two candidates are saying. They are interested in the differences in response,” the California Democrat said. “And today I think the most stunning statement that was made is that Donald Trump wouldn’t abide by the results of the election.”

Chu had just finished an interview with a South Korean TV crew that was asking about Trump’s statements about possibly giving their country nuclear weapons.

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Boyle seemed to be relishing the experience, while still hoping that in a post-Trump universe, campaigns and traditions like spin rooms might feel a little less like reality television.

“This is my first presidential debate, although I am enough of a political junkie slash nerd that I have watched most of the debates historically, including ones that happened before I was born,” Boyle said.