McClatchy: GOP researchers plot ethics attacks on Democrats

Democrats shouting about ethical lapses by Republicans in the Donald Trump era should be prepared for a taste of their own medicine in 2018.

A major Republican organization dedicated to digging up dirt on Democrats has restructured its leadership team and is now laying down congressional- and presidential-year campaign plans, which include a bigger push in digital advertising, highlighting Democratic “hypocrisy” on ethical issues and exploiting the divide on the left between centrists and progressives.

In an exclusive interview with McClatchy, America Rising PAC announced a new executive director: Alexandra Smith, the former chairwoman of the College Republican National Committee and the first woman to lead the group. Colin Reed, who previously held that role, is moving into a senior adviser position, where he will focus on tracking Democrats’ possible 2020 contenders – “developing a negative narrative on them early and often,” he said.

Democrats have been dramatically at odds since at least last year’s election, split between an energized liberal base and the more moderate establishment—mirroring, in some ways, the longtime divides in the GOP. It’s a fight that spilled into the open during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, when Bernie Sanders delivered a surprisingly strong showing against Hillary Clinton.

“The narrative has flipped from where it was with Republicans—in terms of having so many litmus tests in previous cycles, that narrative has now flipped to Democrats,” Smith said. “Where, for example, a litmus test is single payer on health care…senators in some of these more vulnerable states are going to have to answer to the left wing of the party while at the same time trying to appeal to these voters who voted overwhelmingly for Trump and congressional Republicans previously.”

Certainly, Republicans have no shortage of internal dissent over everything from the foundering health care bill to how to deal with President Donald Trump. But America Rising’s mandate is to focus solely on highlighting challenges for Democrats.

Their trackers across the country are keeping close tabs on politicians who may sound one note on progressive priorities in Washington and another back home, especially among the Democratic senators facing re-election in states Trump won.

And the America Rising officials also said that they see new openings to press Democrats on their own ethical vulnerabilities in the Trump era.

“Hypocrisy always sells. No one likes hypocrites,” Reed said.

This post is excerpted from McClatchy DC Bureau. Click here to read the full article online.