Democrats see big election weapon in Trump’s ‘No More DACA Deal’ tweets

By Kate Irby
McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON _ California Democrats have a valuable new weapon to employ as they campaign to topple vulnerable Republicans: President Donald Trump’s “NO MORE DACA DEAL” tweet.

Any deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was regarded as all but dead this year in Washington anyway, leaving lawmakers fighting over who to blame.

But with his tweet Sunday, Trump has personalized the issue like never before.

“It’s no longer he said, she said _ it’s he did, he tweeted,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist and former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee deputy director.

Getting a new way to target Trump as the villain for DACA sympathizers means particular trouble for incumbent Republican members of Congress in California districts with large Latino populations and districts that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

The Democratic National Committee pounced quickly, sending a press release Monday morning capitalizing on the tweets, saying Trump “made clear that he was never interested in protecting Dreamers.”

Ferguson said the four words on Trump’s Twitter account will force congressional Republicans such as Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., to take a position in the coming months on whether they stand with Trump or for Dreamers, the term for those affected by the DACA program.

Valadao is among seven California Republicans in the House whose districts Clinton won. Democrats see each as a prime target to topple Republicans in 2018 congressional races. Democrats need a net gain of 23 House seats in November to win control of the chamber next year.

Many of those districts also have significant Latino populations, meaning candidates have a balancing act: Not upsetting Trump voters but also not appearing so conservative that they alienate more moderate voters.

Two of those California House Republicans are retiring. Those seeking re-election are Reps. Jeff Denham, Steve Knight, Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher. None issued statements in response to Trump’s tweets about DACA over the weekend.Sal Russo, a California-based Republican strategist, said the tweet was no different from the president’s usual negotiating tactics, and didn’t mean he was actually against helping dreamers.

“The president has made it clear that he wants a DACA deal,” Russo said. “He tends to use a lot of bravado and exaggeration as bargaining chips _ it’s his style. He takes a hard stance, then he compromises.”

After the Sunday tweet saying he wouldn’t support a DACA deal, Trump Monday went back to blaming Democrats for tanking the deal.

He, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have consistently traded barbs on who is actually responsible for preventing a deal on granting Dreamers permanent legal status.

Pelosi and Schumer said after the passage of a massive budget bill last month that no one on Republican leadership gave them a deal, while Trump has said Democrats have fought a deal from coming to the table.

It was Trump who said last year he would end the Obama-era program, calling on Congress to pass legislation on the issue.

Bob Mulholland, a Democratic National Committee member from California, called Trump’s tweet a “potential disaster” for Republicans in contested districts. Inaction over DACA will drive anger especially among the Latino community, he said, and anger drives turnout.

“Democrats will use these tweets in the fall, and there will be no confusion over who’s at fault. That’s over,” Mulholland said. “He’s increased the Latino vote by huge margins.”

Russo said Republicans needed to make sure they didn’t seem “unreasonable” on DACA, given it’s an issue with widespread support among voters.

“This is part of a continuing saga on the DACA story, not the end,” Russo said. “But it is a problem that we need to deal with.”

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