Dems torn over anti-Trump message in midterms, as red-state candidates cozy up to president

Democrats trying to wrestle control of Congress away from Republicans are deploying an anti-Trump strategy called, “A Better Deal,” which is essentially an anti-Trump, anti-tax reform agenda.

“Instead of delivering on its promise to drain the swamp, President Trump has become the swamp,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday.

“Rising gas prices will, as one economist put it, roughly cancel out the 2018 consumption boost from tax cuts,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-Calif., said Wednesday.

“The best thing we can do to stop the worst part about the Trump agenda is to win the 2018 elections,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said Thursday.

But there are Democrats running for re-election in states President Trump won easily, so talk like that isn’t tenable for everyone in the party.

“In West Virginia, people like Donald Trump, and they like Joe Manchin,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told Fox News.  “And you know what, we can work very well together.”

Manchin’s campaign has internal polling showing he has an early lead over Republican challenger, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who recently emerged from a bruising primary plagued by personal attacks.

So don’t expect to see Manchin, who is seeking a second full term, adopting the midterm strategy touted by Pelosi or Schumer.

“It’s not me,” Manchin said. “If they’re going to adopt a policy up here they think is their winning ticket, I don’t think it’s a winning ticket for me at all.”

Republicans candidates hoping to help the party retain or expand its congressional majorities are field-testing messages focused on the benefits of tax reform, a reduction in regulations, and the appointments of conservatives to courtrooms across the country.

“If you look at the Supreme Court nominations, our judges right now are filling the federal courts, making good decisions based on the Constitution, not trying to be activist judges,” Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., told Fox News.

Senate hopefuls are also offering themselves as helpful to a president who has struggled at times to convince lawmakers in his own party to align with his policy proposals.

“The president's agenda is to save the middle class and that's what we’re working toward,” Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley told Fox News, about his campaign to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Hawley, considered a top GOP recruit this cycle, is also borrowing anti-establishment rhetoric reminiscent of President Trump’s, calling McCaskill a member of the “D.C. Cartel,” which has “feathered its own nest.”

Borrowing from President Trump’s 2016 phrase-book has already proven successful for Senate primary winners in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

“The wall is being built,” Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., said to cheers at his primary night victory speech. “What the hell is there to be upset about?”