GOP seeks boost from FBI down ballot

GOP seeks boost from FBI down ballot
© Getty Images

Republicans are using the FBI's surprise decision to review emails that "appear to be pertinent" to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE’s use of a private email server as a last-second boost in the race for the House and Senate.

Senate and House Republicans in competitive races are jumping at the chance to change the subject from their own nominee, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE, to Clinton.

ADVERTISEMENT
With one week to go before Election Day, they are working overtime to tie their opponents to the embattled Democratic nominee, who polls show is viewed as untrustworthy by many voters.

“Democrat Senate candidates across the country must now explain to voters why they are so eager to vouch for her honesty and trustworthiness 8 days out from the election,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Monday.

GOP candidates hope the 11th-hour announcement from FBI Director James Comey will gin up enthusiasm among Republicans while winning over independents and some Democrats.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.) invoked the congressional investigations during President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMueller’s probe doesn't end with a bang, but with a whimper Mark Mellman: History’s judgment Congress should massively ramp up funding for the NIH MORE’s administration in the 1990s during a campaign stop with freshman Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) over the weekend.

“It's always a scandal, one scandal after another after another,” Ryan said in a reference to the Clintons, according to the Billings Gazette. “You never know what's going to happen next. It takes this country through an ugliness, playing by a different set of rules, using the system to help themselves, not to help you.”

The FBI uncovered emails on a device connected to top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin while investigating her estranged husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), for allegedly exchanging sexually explicit messages with a minor.

The shocking news came with Clinton ahead in the polls and Democrats hoping to extend her coattails by winning the Senate and cutting into the GOP majority in the House.

It is unclear whether the FBI’s decision will turn the tide in the presidential race, especially with millions of votes already cast. 

In a Politico/Morning Consult survey released Monday, Clinton led Trump by 3 points in a four-way race — the same margin as a poll taken right before the FBI news broke.

An NBC News/SurveyMonkey tracking poll similarly showed Clinton with a 6-point lead over Trump before and after the FBI announcement, even as a majority of likely voters said it was an important issue to discuss.

Still, the news has moved the political chatter from Trump to Clinton. That’s good news for Republicans, who are happy to see the story shift to Clinton from talk about Trump’s misconduct toward women and his charges that the election is being rigged.

Zinke, during his campaign stop with Ryan, argued Comey’s announcement substantiated doubts that many Americans already had about Clinton’s trustworthiness.

“I think it probably reinforced what a lot of America was already thinking. Certainly the decision to review and open up the case again, I would think there is compelling reason to do so,” Zinke said.

Vulnerable Senate incumbents also seized on the issue Monday.

In New Hampshire, GOP Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteExplaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid Trump voter fraud panel member fights back against critics Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada MORE’s campaign released a new ad arguing her Democratic opponent, Gov. Maggie Hassan, is trying to “dodge” Clinton and that she is “not honest about Hillary Clinton’s dishonesty.”

“It is deeply troubling that Hassan is either blind to basic facts or so beholden to the Clinton machine that she can't level with voters,” added Liz Johnson, Ayotte’s spokeswoman.

Both the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Hassan are calling on Comey to release more information about the FBI’s review, arguing voters deserve transparency in the final days of the election.

Republicans believe the FBI's move drives home a message that they've been trying to push for months: The Clintons and their allies are tainted by decades of scandal and believe they are above the law.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) separately used the Clinton fallout to question Democrat Katie McGinty’s ethics during a local radio interview.

Republicans want the state government to release emails from her stint as Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) chief of staff before the election. McGinty has backed the emails being released but stressed she isn’t involved with the timing.  

“Given the just complete, like, walking daily scandal that is Hillary Clinton, do we really want another person who has that kind of ethical problem in Washington? I think we have enough of that already,” Toomey said.

Some GOP candidates are also presenting themselves as legislative checks to Clinton if she becomes president. They appear to hope that if Trump loses, the FBI news can at least bolster their own case for reelection.

For example, Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican running for an open House seat in Pennsylvania, invoked his past tenure as a former FBI special agent while arguing his Democratic opponent, Steve Santarsiero, wouldn’t try to hold Clinton accountable.

“As an agent with the Bureau, I put the pursuit of truth and defense of our country before all else, including partisan politics. That’s the standard I’ll take with me to Congress, and I’ll never be afraid of taking an independent stand,” Fitzpatrick said.

Democrats dismiss the “checks and balances” argument as mere obstructionism.

“House Republican candidates and incumbents are promising more of what the American people already hate about the Republican-led Congress: baseless investigations and an inability to compromise, which ultimately ends in more gridlock,” said DSCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly.

And whenever possible, Democrats are pivoting back to their favorite punching bag: Trump.

“Republicans will do whatever they can to distract from their failed records and indefensible support of Donald Trump, and they will be rejected come Election Day,” said Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for the DSCC.