Stop Virus Snark, Republicans Told as Pandemic Enters Campaign

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The campaign arm for House Republicans has seen enough attempts at snide and sarcastic humor about the coronavirus that it’s told members and candidates to stop it.

“At times like this you need to ask yourself if your press release or snarky comment are in poor taste,” the National Republican Congressional Committee told members in a weekend memo.

The memo covered a range of topics, including limiting in-person interactions between campaign staff and voters and being sensitive to donors who suffered financial loses due to the pandemic.

No specific incident led to the language on snark, said an NRCC spokesman, but the memo was sent out the day Republican National Committee said its chair, Ronna McDaniel, tested for the virus after coming down with flu-like symptoms. Also that day, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) tweeted that the only thing missing from the House-passed coronavirus aid package (H.R.6201) was “free toilet paper for all.” The tweet has since been deleted.

(Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg)

The memo also reminded Republicans to pass along information approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Health and Human Services Department. On Sunday, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) encouraged people to go out and eat at bars and restaurants – advice in contrast with the CDC’s latest guidelines.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also sent out guidance to members and candidates on how to deal with Covid-19, as the disease caused by the virus is known.

Both parties’ campaign arms are adamant their candidates will still run strong campaigns, just over phone calls and video chat services. A DCCC memo obtained by Bloomberg Government told members and staffers to increase the amount of time on the phone in anticipation of lost revenue from in-person events.

“Republicans are not slowing down, and it will be more important than ever to make sure that we stay on pace,” the DCCC said.

Perpetual Politicization

Both Democrats and Republicans are using the coronavirus to attack their opponents, directly and indirectly.

For Democrats, the virus aligns with their larger message on healthcare. The DCCC memo advises members and candidates to “talk about the importance of health care access and affordability.”

The DCCC has also pointed to the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus to target seven House Republicans. The 25-second ads, in English and Spanish, tell viewers that Trump would rather “pad the pockets of drug manufacturers than provide access to an affordable coronavirus vaccine.”

The NRCC’s memo blasted Democrats for “shamelessly politicizing this pandemic” and reminded Republicans to not fund-raise off it directly. On Monday, the NRCC called the Democratic candidate in California’s 25th District special election, Christy Smith, “inappropriate and irresponsible” for soliciting donations in an email announcing the cancellation of in-person campaign events.

Kunal Atit, Smith’s deputy campaign manger, defended using the coronavirus epidemic as part of campaigns to explain to voters the difference in candidate’s policies toward insurance coverage.

“The two different paths would have profoundly different impacts on this crisis as well as public health issues over the long term,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com; Heather Rothman at hrothman@bgov.com

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