House GOP whip: Clinton, Sanders fighting over who’s bigger ‘socialist’

House GOP whip: Clinton, Sanders fighting over who’s bigger ‘socialist’

BALTIMORE — Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller Press: You can’t believe a word he says Feehery: March Madness MORE and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Sanders supporters cancel Clinton protest Congress moving to end US involvement in Yemen MORE are fighting over who’s a bigger “socialist,” House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse passes school safety bill amid gun protests House poised to pass school safety measure Five things lawmakers want attached to the trillion funding bill MORE (R-La.) said Thursday during a gathering of House and Senate Republicans.

At the annual GOP retreat, Scalise downplayed divisions within his own party, suggesting instead that fractures were more pronounced in the neck-and-neck Democratic primary race between Clinton, the former secretary of State, and Sanders, Vermont's Independent senator and a self-described socialist.

“Hillary Clinton still has a trust factor within her own party. She has not been able to close the deal on the Democratic side. In fact, Bernie Sanders seems to be gaining momentum,” Scalise told reporters during a news briefing at the retreat.  “And nobody wants to talk about that — they want to talk about the Republican nominees.”

Whomever emerges from the crowded GOP presidential field to win the nomination will be able to “unite” Republicans and take back the White House, Scalise said.

That’s because Democrats “will be fighting over who is more socialist, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton,” Scalise added. “And our country is not a socialist nation, and yet you see the [Democrats] — they’re going to produce somebody who is probably more aligned with socialist policy, and that’s not the direction of America.”

Ahead of the prime-time GOP debate Thursday night in South Carolina, Senate GOP Policy Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) accused Democrats of trying to hide their presidential debates to favor Clinton, the establishment favorite. One, he said, was scheduled on a Saturday night when few voters tuned in.

The next Democratic debate is Sunday, in the middle of a three-day weekend for many families.

“People don’t even know they are occurring, and that’s what the Democrats are trying to do,” Barrasso said. “They are trying to hide the divisions in the party, and the divisions are running very deep.”