By Jonathan Easley - 03/16/16 03:12 PM EDT
Top Democrats are declaring Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWATCH LIVE: Trump campaigns in battleground Florida Clinton, Kaine concerned over AT&T, Time Warner merger WATCH LIVE: Clinton holds second rally of day in battleground NC MORE the winner of the Republican presidential primary and gleefully predicting his candidacy will be an electoral disaster for the GOP in the fall.
Current and former Democratic campaign officials gathered at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Wednesday to anoint Trump as the standard-bearer for the Republican Party.
“Trump is the Republican nominee for all intents and purposes,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “The math is impossible for any other candidate to take the nomination.”
“From the DNC’s perspective, let me be clear — we’re not going to make the same mistakes that the other Republican candidates made,” she said. “We’re ready for Mr. Trump. We’re ready to hold him accountable for the damage he’s doing as a candidate, and for what he’d do as president. We’re more than ready.”
While the Republican National Committee has been running against Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWhat would a Hillary Clinton presidency look like? WATCH LIVE: Trump campaigns in battleground Florida Clinton, Kaine concerned over AT&T, Time Warner merger MORE for months, Wednesday’s gathering of top Democratic campaign officials to launch an offensive against Trump marks a shift for the party.
The GOP field, which began at 17 candidates, has been whittled down to Trump, Sen. Ted CruzTed Cruz56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? Five takeaways from money race MORE (Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Trump has since amassed a comfortable lead in delegates over Cruz, and is now the clear-cut favorite to win the nomination.
Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerImmigration was barely covered in the debates GOP leaders advise members to proceed with caution on Trump Senate Dems demand answers from Wells Fargo over treatment of military MORE (D-N.Y.), who was once head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and is the favorite to replace Sen. Harry ReidHarry ReidDems double down on Nevada Latino vote Heck's rejection of Trump imperils Nevada Senate race Pelosi blasts GOP leaders for silence on Trump MORE (D-Nev.) as Democratic leader in the upper chamber, said Trump’s nomination would ensure that the Senate’s majority is delivered back to Democrats in the fall.
“Donald Trump is officially the straightjacket that Senate Republicans won’t be able to get out of,” Schumer said.
“After last night’s victories, Donald Trump’s nomination as the Republican presidential nomination seems all but assured, and with it, the end of the Republican Senate majority. Donald Trump won’t make America great again, but he’ll make Republicans the minority again.”
Irrespective of Trump’s nomination, Democrats already had good prospects for winning back the Senate majority they lost last cycle.
Republicans are defending 24 seats, compared to only 10 for Democrats. Many Republicans up for reelection are running in states that President Obama won in 2008 or 2012.
Senate Republicans have struggled with how to respond to the rise of Trump. Only one senator has endorsed the GOP front-runner, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRubio: GOP Congress could go in different direction than Trump Pelosi blasts GOP leaders for silence on Trump Reid: Groping accusations show Trump’s ‘sickness’ MORE has privately advised those up for reelection to distance themselves from Trump as they see fit.
“The Republican Party may as well be called the Trump Party,” Schumer said. “Republicans in Washington gave rise to Donald Trump and now they have no idea how to handle his campaign.”
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Ben Ray Luján declined to predict that Democrats will take over the House, where Republicans hold what appears to be an ironclad majority, for now.
But Luján said Trump’s candidacy would help Democrats “expand the battlefield and win big in November.”
He took aim at several popular centrist Republicans running in competitive districts — Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) among them — that he said would be targets as Democrats seek to cut into the GOP’s historic majority in the House.
Curbelo, Wasserman Schultz said, would “wear Donald Trump’s candidacy around his neck like an albatross.”
“It will hurt,” the fellow Floridian predicted.
“Now that the Republican primary has taken shape, Trump will inflict more harm on down-ballot Republicans,” Luján added. “This is bad news for the GOP. As Trump continues to drive the narrative in offensive and unpredictable ways, Congressional Republicans will be unable to escape its impact.”
The DCCC chairman said rhetoric from House Republicans fueled the “conspiracy theories, Islamaphobia, anti-immigrant rhetoric, racism, violent rhetoric and misogyny” that he says has embodied the Trump campaign.
Luján predicted Trump would chase away traditional Republican voters, as well as the millennial and minority voters with whom the GOP has sought inroads.
“House Republicans are already inseparably tied to Trump in the eyes of voters,” he said. “His ugly rhetoric is putting districts in play.”
Wednesday’s press conference was designed to show unity among the disparate branches of the Democratic campaign apparatus — something Wasserman Schultz said was lacking on the GOP side amid the chaos Trump has sewn.
And it was meant to coincide with the three-year anniversary of the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” report, the document that was intended to prevent the GOP from losing the White House for the third consecutive time.
That report was meant to encourage Republicans to make inroads among minorities, women and young voters that helped propel Obama to victories in 2008 and 2012.
Now, some Republicans are panicked over the rhetoric coming from Trump, whose statements about illegal immigrants and Muslims, as well his past remarks about women, have been condemned by his critics as racist, xenophobic or sexist.
“Republicans have laid out in black and white all the things they needed to do to try and win an election,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“They’ve done the opposite,” she concluded.
The DNC chairwoman pointed to Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border; his comments about some illegal immigrants being drug smugglers and rapists; his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country; the violence that has broken out at Trump’s rallies, and the allegations that the businessman's campaign manager manhandled a woman reporter.
The candidates willing to embrace immigration reform, Wasserman Schultz said, “were drummed out of the race in favor of a demagogue.”
“We’re not going to do what the Republicans did,” she said. “We’re not laughing him off or assume that he’s completely beatable. We are not running this race as if it’s over. On the contrary, we’re already prepared. We will be more prepared. Donald Trump creates a host of opportunities for us.”