By Jordain Carney
August 1, 2016
Democrats are demanding that vulnerable Republican incumbents drop their support for Donald Trump over his criticism of the parents of an American Muslim soldier killed in Iraq.
Democrats argue Trump's remarks about Khizr Khan — whose son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed by a suicide bomber in 2004 — are the latest example of why the brash GOP presidential nominee isn't qualified for the White House.
Sadie Weiner, the communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), said that while Trump "has once again shown that his indecency knows no bounds," GOP senators are refusing to cut ties.
"Even their statements of criticism can be seen as nothing more than a slap on the wrist in light of their continued endorsement of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Republican Senators should be ashamed that they are supporting Donald Trump for President," she added in a statement.
Trump drew widespread criticism after he said he had made "a lot of sacrifices" and suggested that the mother of the slain soldier, Ghazala Khan, wasn't allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week.
GOP senators have come out in force to criticize Trump and defend the Khan family.
For example, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) both issued statements in support of the Khan family, putting distance between themselves and Trump without mentioning their party's standard-bearer.
Toomey, in a veiled reference to the GOP nominee, added: “The Khan family, like all Americans who lose loved ones in the defense of our country, deserve our gratitude and honor. Anything else is inappropriate."
It's the latest example of how Republican lawmakers have tried to walk a fine line on Trump in their effort to defend 24 Senate seats this election cycle. While they've criticized some of his rhetoric and proposals, only Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has formally withdrawn his support.
That's left the door open for their Democratic opponents, who have seized on GOP unwillingness to drop Trump in an effort to nationalize the Senate races.
Michael Tyler, a spokesman for former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who is again running for Senate, knocked Johnson, saying he "refuses to denounce Trump by name."
Sean Coit, the communications director for Pennsylvania Senate candidate Katie McGinty, said, "Until Pat Toomey pledges to oppose Donald Trump in November, his carefully crafted statements about our nation's veterans and armed forces are completely hollow."
Toomey — who hasn't endorsed Trump — has talked openly about his skepticism of the GOP nominee and made it a point to say he voted for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during Pennsylvania's GOP primary.
David Bernstein, the spokesman for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's Senate campaign, said his opponent, Sen. Rob Portman (R), should "retract" his endorsement of Trump after Portman's campaign said he didn't agree with Trump's comments.
Portman also isn't expected to campaign with Trump while he is in Ohio Monday.
And in Florida, Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is competing for the Democratic nomination, said Sen. Marco Rubio should un-endorse Trump "or he does not have the courage to be Florida's Senator.”
According to a transcript from Rubio's office to the Tampa Bay Times, the Florida Republican called Khan a "hero" while speaking to reporters Monday but didn't specifically disavow Trump.
The Florida race is widely considered a toss up after Rubio reversed course last month and announced he would run for reelection.
The GOP senators are part of a handful of tight purple-state Senate races that will determine which party controls the Senate next year. Democrats need to pick up five seats — or four, if they also retain the White House — to win back the majority.
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