With Republicans locked in a fierce battle over the presidential race, and what to do if Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer State Dept. adviser announces run for MD governor Rob Thomas: Anti-Trump celebs have become 'white noise' Carl Bernstein: Flynn is ‘central to what FBI believes is cover-up’ MORE is the nominee, at least one group in Washington is enjoying the spectacle: Senate Democratic aides.
Hill staffers are increasingly eager to offer a mix of commentary and sarcastic comments on the presidential race and the awkward dynamic between the GOP candidates and congressional Republicans.
At the forefront are staffers for Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWeek ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.), who have been quick to blast out emails and tweets on everything from the GOP’s Supreme Court strategy to mixed messaging from vulnerable Republicans on the presidential race.
When Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellUN contacted Trump administration on ObamaCare repeal: report Congress nears deal on help for miners Shutdown fears spur horse-trading MORE (R-Ky.) sidestepped a question Tuesday on whether he said Republicans could distance themselves from Trump, Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, quickly fired back that the Republican leader’s remarks are “hot air” until he specifically says he won’t support the GOP presidential front-runner.
“Trump's winning because he says things other Republicans think but don't say for fear of the damage it'll do to them in the general election,” he said separately.
The tweet — one of dozens along a similar vein posted Tuesday — was the latest in a near-constant barrage from staffers to top Senate Democrats cataloging comments from GOP senators on Trump, the election and any perceived divisions on the strategy to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
The missives aren’t unique to Twitter. Reid’s office has blasted out comments to reporters about the court confirmation battle and the Nevada Democrat has repeatedly taken to the Senate floor to denounce McConnell.
In one from this week titled, “something’s gotta give,” they noted: “It will be impossible for Senator McConnell to encourage his senators to run against Trump and blockade President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee at the same time.”
Democrats argue that with Trump poised to do well on Super Tuesday, Republicans can no longer plausibly keep distance between themselves and the presidential election.
“I think that Republicans have created these two separate PR nightmares that are on a collision course,” a Senate Democratic aide told The Hill, referring to the presidential race and the Supreme Court battle.
The aide — who said it’s currently better to be a Democrat — suggested Republicans “will be maneuvering on behalf of Donald Trump” and won’t be able to “drop him like a hot rock.”
While most staffers note that any comments represent their views and not their bosses’s, Reid’s office is hardly alone in enjoying playing up the GOP’s “Trump problem.”
When House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan rejects ObamaCare subsidies in funding bill UN contacted Trump administration on ObamaCare repeal: report Shutdown fears spur horse-trading MORE (R-Wis.) was peppered with Trump questions Tuesday, Josh Zembik, the communication’s director for Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general Hoyer not insisting on ObamaCare subsidies in spending bill Airlines promise friendlier skies MORE (D-Conn.), quickly offered a joking take: “This seems to be going well for the GOP.”
After Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioWhat’s with Trump’s spelling mistakes? Boeing must be stopped from doing business with Iran Top Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms MORE (R-Fla.), who is running for president, suggested during a campaign rally this week he didn’t want to talk about Trump, Zembik added, “Pretty tough to put the nonsense back in the bag once you pull it out.”
Staffers for Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinRob Thomas: Anti-Trump celebs have become 'white noise' Overnight Energy: Lawmakers work toward deal on miners’ benefits Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general MORE (D-Ill.) and Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerCruz: 'Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown' UN contacted Trump administration on ObamaCare repeal: report GOP fundraiser enters crowded primary for Pa. Senate seat MORE (D-N.Y.), the Nos. 2 and 3 Democrats in the Senate, also frequently highlight GOP statements on the Supreme Court vacancy or press coverage linking Republicans who have been wary of Trump to the brash front-runner.
After Rubio edged out Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzCruz: 'Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown' Kansas Republican sworn in after special election Overnight Finance: Dems want ObamaCare subsidies for extra military spending | Trade battle: Woe, Canada? | Congress nears deal to help miners | WH preps to release tax plan MORE (R-Texas) in Nevada, Ben Marter, a spokesman for Durbin, said, “If the establishment favorite can only barely beat a Canadian, it's a problem. Bigger problem is they're both getting smoked by Trump.”
In many ways the rhetoric from Democratic staffers is a reflection of comments from top senators who haven’t been shy to blast Republicans over Trump and the Supreme Court battle.
“The Republicans say they'll support a man who refuses to denounce the Ku Klux Klan, so until they withdraw their support, talk is really cheap,” Reid told reporters Tuesday.
The Nevada Democrat has taken to the Senate floor every day for approximately a week to denounce McConnell and Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyTrump, lower court nominees need American Bar Association review Trump eyeing second Supreme Court seat Grassley: Another Supreme Court vacancy likely this summer MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, over the Supreme Court battle.
Despite Washington’s decades-old rule that congressional staffers should never overshadow their bosses, Democratic strategist Jim Manley suggests it’s "more and more its the responsibility of leadership staff to play aggressively in the new media space.”
"You usually want to stay disciplined when the opposing party is engaging in a circular firing squad but in this case it makes sense ... [to] add fuel to the insanity,” added Manley, who spent decades working for Senate Democrats including Reid.
A Democratic staffer said they don't believe their comments have impacted their boss's work. "This is equivalent to going down to the bar and just talking to people."