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Latest Clinton email story probably won’t divide Democrats, but that won’t stop Republicans from trying

The divisions inside the Republican Party over Trump’s candidacy have overshadowed the fact that are plenty of Democrats who have reservations about their own candidate.

Hillary Clinton speaking about the FBI inquiry into her emails during a campaign rally in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Saturday.
REUTERS/Brian Snyder

It’s no secret that Hillary Clinton is not popular with many Republicans. And Donald Trump certainly isn’t popular with many Democrats.

Even before Trump became the Republican nominee for president, Democrats attempted to connect Trump to nearly every Republican candidate running for elected office in 2016. And after the New York developer became the Republican nominee, Democrats seized upon every cringe-worthy comment, every allegation of inappropriate behavior to connect them with local Republican candidates. 

In many cases, it’s worked. In the last month, there has been a steady stream of defections by Republicans away from Trump as he faces accusations of sexual assault from numerous women and after comments made by Trump bragging about groping woman were unearthed. 

For Republicans focused on keeping control of the U.S. Senate and House, far too many news cycles have been dominated by news of Republicans fighting with Republicans over Trump.

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Yet the divisions inside the Republican Party over Trump’s candidacy have overshadowed the fact that there are more than a few Democrats who have reservations about their own candidate. During a debate last week with his Republican opponent, for example, Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson said that he is “conflicted” about the race for president. Peterson isn’t voting for Trump, but he is unwilling to commit to voting for Clinton — a piece of news that would have been a much bigger deal this election cycle if more Republicans were sticking with their own party’s nominee.

Then, late Friday afternoon, Republicans were presented with another opportunity to sow division among Democrats, as news broke that the FBI notified Congress that it would investigate new emails connected to the probe of Clinton’s use of a private server. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee was the first to respond in Minnesota, quickly issuing two press releases asking if Angie Craig, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the Second Congressional District, and Congressman Rick Nolan, who is locked in a close election contest with Republican Stewart Mills, were still supporting Clinton.

It was a stretch to think Craig or Nolan would dump their support of Clinton based on the limited information released on Friday. But after seeing Trump become an albatross around the necks of so many Republicans candidates this year, it wasn’t surprising to see national Republicans jump at the opportunity to try and tie down a few Democrats with the possibility of a new Clinton scandal. Turnabout is fair play, especially in politics. 

Still, unless more details are released by the FBI about the new emails and any possible connection to Clinton, it is unlikely Republicans will get as much political traction against Democratic candidates as Democrats have had with Republicans candidates and Trump.

But it’s a good reminder that the fog of political war creates a situation in which opposing candidates eventually become nothing more than punching bags to one another. Any perceived shortcoming of either candidate, fair or unfair, gets used to weaken a candidate to the benefit of the other. And as we enter the final week of the election, after months of repeated attempts to connect Trump to Republican candidates, Republicans are going use whatever chance they get to finally return punches at Democrats.