If you were looking for proof of the GOP’s desperation to tie Democrats to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi ― as well as the potential fatigue among voters from Republicans pressing the issue ― there was perhaps no better illustration Monday night than a debate for a House seat between Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and his Democratic challenger, Abigail Spanberger.
Brat, the conservative who took down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in a 2014 primary, mentioned Pelosi (D-Calif.) 21 times during an hour-and-a-half debate.
With each mention of Pelosi, the audience seemed to groan and laugh harder as Brat tried again ― and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again ― to tie Spanberger to Pelosi.
On one instance, the groans from the audience were so loud that Brat asked for additional time to speak, and on another interjection, he had to restart his point, beginning once again with Pelosi’s name.
But the tightrope walk for Democrats with Pelosi and President Donald Trump was also on display Monday night. Spanberger never addressed Brat’s forced mentions of Pelosi, nor did she ever utter the president’s name.
Spanberger attacked Brat for his claims that he’s a fiscal conservative when he voted for the GOP tax cut, which will add more than a trillion dollars to the national debt over the next decade. Brat, for his part, attacked Spanberger as a liberal with no immigration plan.
Spanberger countered that she would have supported the bipartisan Hurd-Aguilar bill ― a bipartisan immigration proposal to deal with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program ― while Brat claimed the so-called Goodlatte bill was actually bipartisan. (That immigration bill was drafted only by Republicans and only received Republican votes in the House.)
Brat also attacked Spanberger for claims about health care that, he said, The Washington Post gave four Pinocchios. But Spanberger pointed out that the claims Brat took issue with were actually made by another Democrat running for the House, not her. The Washington Post fact-checker has actually asked Brat’s campaign to take down the misleading press release.
Presented with Brat’s attacks on the Medicare for all issue ― again, a policy that Spanberger says she does not support ― as well as Brat’s efforts to tie Spanberger to Pelosi and former President Barack Obama, Spanberger said in her closing that she wasn’t sure Brat knew “which Democrat he’s running against.”