Democrats are defending 10 Senate seats in states where President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. Republicans have been eager to tether Democratic senators to the Clintons and Obama in ruby-red states hosting marquee races this year.
“For those curious — the NRSC also welcomes Hillary Clinton to the campaign trail in 2018,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Katie Martin in a statement.
Clinton’s loss to Trump and the comments she has made since the election have irked some Democrats, particularly those in Republican-leaning areas that are hosting battleground races. Her remarks this year about winning the coasts and in places that represent “two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product” were panned and seen as divisive by some in her party.
So far, neither Clinton has played a major role in the midterm elections. Hillary Clinton this week endorsed New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) for reelection. He faces a primary challenger.
In years past, their deep connections to powerful donors and power brokers and an iconic status in the party made their support valuable commodities for many Democrats. But it’s unclear what role they will play in the future of the party.
Obama remains popular in the Democratic Party. It remains to be seen how involved he will be in the battle for control of the Senate, but he has already waded into the campaign.
Van Hollen, who spoke at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, said Senate Democrats are “very bullish” on the midterms, but are facing numerous difficult races and “taking nothing for granted.”
He sought to cast the election as a referendum on Trump and his party’s agenda on issues that affect people’s lives, such as health care, prescription drug costs and infrastructure.
“It’s very clear they have not delivered — especially on the pocketbook issues,” he said.
But Van Hollen said he thinks that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is not a top concern for voters. While the probe is “important,” Van Hollen said, “I don’t think it’s a big issue for voters.”
Democratic leaders are facing growing pressure to defend the legitimacy of Mueller’s probe as Trump intensifies his effort to discredit it. Some Democrats are alarmed that their party is not doing more to counter Trump, and worry about paying a price at the ballot box if the public isn’t fully clear on the facts of the inquiry.
But top Democrats like Van Hollen have largely tried to steer the campaign conversation toward policy issues such as health care. Some Republicans, meanwhile, think Trump could rally his loyal voters to turn out this fall if he convinces them that he is the target of an unjust investigation.