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Sun May 21, 2017, 11:42 AM

Outside Washingtons Blazing Inferno, Democrats Seek an Agenda.

Last edited Sun May 21, 2017, 12:36 PM - Edit history (1)

'As the nation’s capital was rocked by revelation after revelation from the investigation into any connection between the Trump campaign and Russia, Democrats in Washington were focused on what they saw as nothing less than saving the republic.

More than 1,800 miles away, Rob Quist, a Democratic candidate in one of the House special elections that will gauge the mood of the country this spring, was concentrating on high insurance premiums, not high crimes.

Mr. Quist, who is running to fill the seat vacated by the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, was in Wolf Point, Mont., assailing his Republican rival, Greg Gianforte, over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The appearance was part of a weeklong “Hands Off Our Health Care” tour that Democrats hope will hand them an upset on May 25.

“Russia is important to the American public, but health care hits home directly in people’s lives,” said Nancy Keenan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party. “Regular Montanans are talking about the heck of a spring snowstorm we just had, this health care bill, the stuff that’s hitting them every single day. They know something is amiss in Washington, but in their everyday lives it doesn’t affect them right now.” . .

And at least for now, the voters whom Democrats need to win back are more focused on their own troubles than those of the president.

After a campaign in which they learned the hard way that an anti-Trump message was insufficient, Democrats are again grappling with how to balance responding to Mr. Trump’s apparent transgressions and devising an affirmative policy agenda of their own.

“The country wants answers on this, but they don’t want to see us be so consumed we can’t do anything else,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio facing re-election in 2018, citing a need to address infrastructure, trade agreements and health care.

Finding that equilibrium now is even more difficult because the party’s lawmakers believe they have a solemn constitutional duty to pursue what they see as the president’s misdeeds.

“I think this is one of those moments when, as Americans, part of our job is to safeguard the republic,” said Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado.

Democrats outside Washington say congressional leaders will have to cede some of their leadership on other issues to state and local officials.'>>>


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