Updated 2:05 p.m. | It's too early to tell whether Donald Trump's presidential candidacy will hurt the Republican brand and alienate Hispanic voters the GOP needs to win the White House in 2016. But Trump's vitriolic comments on Mexican immigrants is having one immediate effect on the elections.
A handful of Democratic candidates and committees have sent out fundraising and list-building emails denouncing Trump's comments on Mexican immigrants. Both are crucial components for successful campaigns.
"Showing that you’re fighting the bad guys, so to speak, can help you attract new donors," said Mike Fraioli, a longtime Democratic fundraiser.
Rep. Don Beyer, a freshman Democrat from a safe seat in the Northern Virginia suburbs, sent out a fundraising email Wednesday with the subject line, "Donald Trump Baffles Me."
Beyer, who owns a number of car dealerships in Northern Virginia, went on to tell the story of Cesar Arias, a longtime employee of the dealership who initially came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant but was able to stay in the country legally after President Ronald Reagan's amnesty legislation in 1986. Arias eventually became one of Beyer's most-valued staffers.
"When I hear Donald Trump and the other immigrant-bashers of the world spout their vicious nonsense, I remember Cesar Arias, and the enormous contribution he made to our family, our clients, and our local economy. He was heroic, and I am very proud he was my American friend," Beyer wrote, followed by a link to a fundraising page asking supporters if they'd help Beyer "in standing up to" Trump.
A Beyer campaign aide said it's too soon to know how much money the email brought in for Beyers' re-election, but said the office has heard from constituents who are happy Beyer is condemning Trump's rhetoric.
"We’ve had a few people out in the district email and say, 'Way to go!'" said Ann O'Hanlon, Beyer's chief of staff. "It resonated as a message point, but I don’t know if it’s resonated from a fundraising point."
Two Democratic Senate candidates and at least one House candidate also have used Trump's language to build an email list — a valuable asset in the digital age that campaigns use to solicit contributions throughout the election.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat running for Senate against GOP Sen. John McCain in Arizona, sent out an email with a petition tied to Trump's visit to Phoenix last weekend.
"Donald Trump’s comments have absolutely no place in our national discourse on immigration. While he's in Phoenix today, let's make that clear," Kirkpatrick said in an email. "Click here to denounce Mr. Trump's remarks against immigrants," Kirkpatrick's email continued, linking to a petition to condemn Trump's remarks, signed by a number of Democratic incumbents and candidates.
Former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who's looking to win the seat of retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, sent out an email linking to the same Trump petition.
"As someone who would be the first Latina to ever serve in the U.S. Senate, I’m especially disgusted," Cortez Masto said in the email from July 10. "That’s why I’m denouncing Donald Trump, and I’m calling on Republicans to do the same. Will you join me?" she wrote, with a link to the petition.
And in Iowa, Democrat Monica Vernon sent out a list-building email on July 15, after her opponent, Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, said Trump is, "tapping into a pride in the country ."
"Please add your name now to voice your outrage to Rod Blum," Vernon said in an email with a link to enter an email and ZIP code.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also joined the growing chorus of Democrats using Trump as list-building bait. In an email with the subject line "one-question survey (Trump)," the DSCC asked "Do you think Donald Trump accurately represents the Republican Party?" with a yes/no button below. It linked to a form that solicited a respondent's ZIP code and email address.
Trump's vitriol has garnered so much negative media attention that some on the GOP side have gone as far as wondering whether the billionaire businessman is a Democratic plant in the crowded GOP presidential primary field.
"I think there's a small possibility that this gentleman is a phantom candidate," Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a freshman Republican from Miami said on a local radio program this week. "Mr. Trump has a close friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were at his last wedding. He has contributed to the Clintons' foundation. He has contributed to Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaigns. All of this is very suspicious."
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