With Republicans locked in a fierce battle over the presidential race, and what to do if Donald TrumpDonald TrumpAgencies rush to publish rules before Trump takes office Overnight Healthcare: GOP governors defend Medicaid expansion Trump poised to reinstate 'global gag rule' on Roe v. Wade anniversary: report 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 ReidThe DC bubble is strangling the DNC Dems want Sessions to recuse himself from Trump-Russia probe Ryan says Trump, GOP 'in complete sync' 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 McConnellOvernight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing Mnuchin: Tax reform shouldn't add to the deficit Trump taps NY Jets owner to be UK Ambassador 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 RyanOvernight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing Dems blast Trump plans for deep spending cuts Obama tells Congress: Only 41 detainees remain at Guantanamo MORE (R-Wis.) was peppered with Trump questions Tuesday, Josh Zembik, the communication’s director for Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem senator: Trump nominees 'sad' Warren burns Mnuchin over failure to disclose assets Senate panel approves Mattis for Defense secretary MORE (D-Conn.), quickly offered a joking take: “This seems to be going well for the GOP.”
After Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioTillerson met with top State official: report McCain ‘very concerned’ about Tillerson Top Dem: Don’t bring Tillerson floor vote if he doesn’t pass committee 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 DurbinWarren burns Mnuchin over failure to disclose assets Trump Treasury pick to defend foreclosure record Senate Democrats brace for Trump era MORE (D-Ill.) and Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerGOP senator: Trump budget chief could face confirmation 'problems' The Hill's 12:30 Report Why Democrats fear a successful inaugural address from Trump 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 CruzCaitlyn Jenner to attend Trump inauguration: report Trump’s UN pick threads needle on Russia, NATO Haley slams United Nations, echoing Trump 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 GrassleyGOP senator: Trump budget chief could face confirmation 'problems' Jeff Sessions will protect life Justice, FBI to be investigated over Clinton probes 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."