Democrats in midwestern battleground states want the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to back off the Trump-Russia rhetoric, as state-level leaders worry it's turning off voters.
“The DNC is doing a good job of winning New York and California,” said Mahoning, OH Democratic county party chair David Betras.
“I’m not saying it’s not important — of course it’s important — but do they honestly think that people that were just laid off another shift at the car plant in my home county give a shit about Russia when they don’t have a frickin’ job?”
Betras says that Trump and Russia is the "only piece they've been doing since 2016. [Trump] keeps talking about jobs and the economy, and we talk about Russia."
“Somehow we’ve made him into a blue-collar underdog billionaire,” said Betras, of Youngstown. “And people are rooting for him because he’s the underdog.”
The Democratic infighting comes on the heels of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by the DNC against the Trump campaign, Wikileaks and several other parties including the Russian government, alleging an illegal conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 election in a "brazen attack on American Democracy."
Many midwestern Democrats, however, are rolling their eyes.
“I’m going to be honest; I don’t understand why they’re doing it,” one Midwestern campaign strategist told BuzzFeed. “My sense was it was a move meant to gin up the donor base, not our voters. But it was the biggest news they’ve made in a while.”
The strategist added "I wouldn't want to see something like this coming out of the DNC in October."
Another Midwest strategist said that the suit was "politically unhelpful" and that they havent seen "a single piece of data that says voters want Democrats to relitigate 2016. ... The only ones who want to do this are Democratic activists who are already voting Democratic."
Perhaps Midwestern Democrats aren't idiots, and realize that a two-year counterintelligence operation against Donald Trump which appears to have been a coordinated "insurance policy" against a Trump win, might not be so great for optics, considering that criminal referrals have been submitted to the DOJ for individuals involved in the alleged scheme to rig the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Senator Claire McCaskill, fighting a tough reelection battle in Missouri, which Trump won by almost 20 points, called the DNC’s Russia suit a “silly distraction” through a spokesperson.
In places like Minnesota, for instance, where Trump lost only narrowly and his approval numbers have stayed flat, the state party says it plans to steer clear of him altogether with two Senate seats and an open governor’s race on the ballot. Messaging on Trump doesn’t do anything to move the needle, strategists there say.
And the Democratic Party’s attacks on Trump, especially when it comes to Russia, could even backfire in states Trump won handily — like Ohio, where the focus on taking the president down has kept some voters on the president’s side. -BuzzFeed
Several of the parties being sued by the DNC have expressed their excitement over the discovery process, by which they may get their hands on even more evidence which might incriminate or exonerate various actors. President Trump, Roger Stone, and Wikileaks (which is countersuing the DNC) have all noted that they're looking forward to checking out the controversial "DNC Servers" which were allegedly hacked by Russia.
In response to the DNC lawsuit, Trump tweeted that it could be good news that "we will now counter for the DNC Server that they refused to give to the FBI," along with the "Debbie Wasserman Schultz Servers and Documents."
Just heard the Campaign was sued by the Obstructionist Democrats. This can be good news in that we will now counter for the DNC Server that they refused to give to the FBI, the Debbie Wasserman Schultz Servers and Documents held by the Pakistani mystery man and Clinton Emails.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
The Trump campaign also says the lawsuit will provide an opportunity to "explore the DNC's now-secret records."
And as we reported on Monday, WikiLeaks is counter-suing the DNC - setting up a donation fund and noting "We've never lost a publishing case and discovery is going to be amazing fun."
The Democrats are suing @WikiLeaks and @JulianAssange for revealing how the DNC rigged the Democratic primaries. Help us counter-sue. We've never lost a publishing case and discovery is going to be amazing fun:https://t.co/E1QbYJL4bB— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 20, 2018
More options:https://t.co/MsNZhrTzTL pic.twitter.com/VbPp7FTNq3
DNC chair Tom Perez defended the lawsuit as "necessary," telling Meet the Press that they had to file before the statue of limitations ran out, and that "it's hard to put a price tag on preserving democracy."
David Pepper, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party is totally cool with the DNC lawsuit. “I don’t think it hurts,” said Pepper. “If you have credible claims, you have a responsibility to pursue legal action. I think you have a day or two where [the suit] is the story, but that’s different from your overall message.”
“I wouldn’t have our candidates spending the fall talking about Russia or the suit or anything like that,” Pepper said.
“They should be focused on health care, education, student debt. We shouldn’t divert the message from those topics to talk about Russia.”
And yet, that's exactly what's going to happen as the DNC lawsuit plays out in the six months and change before midterms.