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 Rodham ClintonFeinstein after dinner with Clinton: She has 'accepted' her loss Sanders: Trump is 'a pathological liar' Clintons remember John Glenn as a 'uniquely American hero' MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Trump is 'a pathological liar' Pressure grows on Perez to enter DNC race Senate sends annual defense bill to Obama's desk MORE are fighting over who’s a bigger “socialist,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (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.”