Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs

Getty Images

Democrats say their party should seize on President Trump’s alleged affairs with adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to highlight flaws in the president’s character and credibility.  

While charges of sexual harassment against Trump didn’t cost him the 2016 presidential election against Hillary Clinton, Democrats say the “Me Too” movement has changed the political zeitgeist. 

One top Democratic strategist acknowledged the issue was “complicated” because “no one voted for Donald Trump on the basis of his personal morals.” 

{mosads}But the strategist said the story “will help rev up our base” while potentially diminishing GOP turnout at the polls.

“Even a small drop in evangelical support for Republicans would be devastating,” the strategist said. “You want to dampen Republican enthusiasm. We should take a lesson from the Republican playbook and let an ‘all of the above’ strategy take hold from different messengers across different targeted platforms.”

Publicly, Democratic leaders in Congress have signaled disinterest or distaste in the stories surrounding Trump, Daniels and McDougal.

“I don’t know that we necessarily have to get involved in any of that,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters last week at her weekly news conference.

Pelosi seemed to have little interest in engaging in the topic, dismissing what she described as “rumors about the president’s personal life.” 

“I’m more concerned about the president’s policies, which undermine the financial security of America’s working families,” she said. 

Other Democrats say it would be silly to ignore the stories.

One senior aide on Capitol Hill called it “an antiquated approach.” 

“This is consuming the cable networks right now. It’s all people are talking about. Why shouldn’t we add this to the arsenal and make voters realize you can’t trust someone who is involved in any of these matters?” the aide said. 

Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a Capitol Hill veteran, said Democrats “shouldn’t shy away from raising this issue to the extent they’re comfortable because it comes down to a question of credibility.” 

“To put your head in the sand and pretend this isn’t going on is ridiculous,” said Manley, who served as a top communications aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “A lot of folks are just appalled by what they’re hearing.” 

It’s unclear how damaging the stories will be for Republicans in the midterm elections this fall.

A CNN poll out this week showed that 63 percent of those surveyed believed the women who claimed they had extramarital affairs with Trump. Twenty-one percent said they believed the president, while 16 percent had no opinion about the affairs. 

It’s not clear how many people truly care about the affairs, but Democrats hope it will pay dividends with a gender gap they think will help their party retake the House and the Senate in November.

Trump actually won a majority of votes from white women in 2016, but Democrats are hopeful they can reverse that advantage in the midterms — and again when Trump is up for reelection in 2020.

Yet many thought the “Access Hollywood” tape destroyed Trump’s chances of winning the White House when it was released the month before Election Day. Instead, Trump showed up at a presidential debate with women who had accused former President Clinton of sexual misconduct. He lost the popular vote weeks later, but won the Electoral College handily with victories in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Patti Solis Doyle, a Democratic strategist who served as Clinton’s campaign manager during her 2008 presidential campaign, acknowledged that it’s a “touchy situation” in that Trump’s behavior toward women is “widely known.”

“We heard him bragging about it on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape and he got elected anyway,” Solis Doyle said.

She said allegations that Trump sought to cover up an affair with a payment to Daniels through his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, could be damaging.

“What’s different now is a story about a cover up, and that could pose some legal problems for the president with campaign finance laws.  I think the legal matter is a more potent argument than focusing on infidelity.” 

But even then, Democrats need to walk a fine line, Solis Doyle said, highlighting how Republicans overreached with Clinton on the heels of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. 

“I think the legal angle could pose bigger problems than the notion that he’s a philanderer,” she added. “I don’t think it’s smart for Democrats to overplay their hand. They could fall into a position of overreaching here.”

A few strategists think Democrats shouldn’t go anywhere near the story. 

“I don’t think the Democrats need to do anything to highlight Donald Trump’s sex scandals,” said Democratic strategist Keith Boykin. “Fortunately, Stormy Daniels and her attorney Michael Avenatti are doing a wonderful job of highlighting this story all by themselves.”

Boykin added that Daniels and Avenatti “are beating Trump at his own game and they’re even more adroit than Trump and his attorney … in getting media coverage. I think that’s why Donald Trump has never personally denied it or tweeted about it. 

“Unfortunately,” Boykin added, “none of this matters for Trump’s base of hypocrites who still cling to him with tribal loyalty.” 

Tags campaign strategy Democrats Donald Trump Harry Reid Hillary Clinton Nancy Pelosi Stormy Daniels

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video