Democratic candidates in the upcoming midterm elections are not discussing President Trump because “there's no one that's going to talk more about Donald Trump than Donald Trump,” the head of the party’s congressional campaign committee said on Sunday.
That “gives our Democratic candidates the opportunity to connect with their personal stories and talk about an agenda” built on lowering healthcare costs and addressing corruption, Rep. Ben Lujan of New Mexico, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told “Fox News Sunday.”
The comments were met with a swift rebuke from Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who claimed that Democratic control of the House would lead to “dysfunction.”
“They have an agenda that's outside the mainstream,” Stivers said.
[Carl Bernstein: Trump preparing to call midterm elections 'illegitimate' if Democrats take power]
Healthcare has emerged as a key policy issue for the November elections. The stabilization of the insurance markets is allowing Democrats, who for years struggled to message around Obamacare, to tout the protections the law provided to individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Republican lawmakers have also begun to publicly embrace that measure, despite attempting to repeal it numerous times as part of larger efforts to overturn Obamacare. After failing to gut the law last year, the GOP is shifting its message away from opposition to Obamacare and is instead highlighting the damage of a single-payer plan supported by an increasing number of Democratic candidates and members.
“Their healthcare agenda would kick 179 million people off their insurance and bankrupt Medicare on day one,” Stivers said.
Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., want to reform entitlement programs such as Medicare, though Trump has vowed not to touch it.
Political rhetoric is intensifying in advance of the Nov. 6 elections, and several recent acts of violence are spurring questions of whether the increasingly bitter discourse is to blame. A gunman on Saturday shot and killed 11 individuals in a Pittsburgh synagogue and a Florida man was arrested on Friday in connection with the mailing of pipe bombs to several prominent Democrats.
Both Lujan and Stivers said the events should not be politicized and urged for Democrats and Republicans to resolve their differences. But when asked about recent ads from both parties that included false information or hurled sharp attacks, the two lawmakers struggled to defend them.
In the GOP’s case, Stivers was pressed on ads targeting Michigan Democratic candidate Elissa Slotkin — a former CIA official that served under both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush — that labeled her a “liberal extremist.”
“People’s views on issues are legitimate and there are contrasts that we need to understand,” he argued. “She is not in the mainstream of Michigan politics.”
Lujan was asked about DCCC-backed ads targeting Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly’s vote for the GOP-led tax law that incorrectly stated his net worth increased while he served in Congress.
“I think all committees and all spenders out there that are investing in campaign ads across the country, they need to be respectful of that tone,” he said. “When we're looking at voting records, I think that is fair game as well.”