WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats' weekly policy lunch Tuesday served up a helping of 2016 politics.
Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, addressed the closed-door gathering. So did former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, the Democrats' preferred candidate against incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman as Democrats fight uphill to retake Senate control.
Waiting outside the ornate LBJ Room with Amanda Renteria, the campaign's political director and a former aide to Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Podesta said he was aiming to reintroduce himself and "tell them that we want to stay in touch and be available as we begin to develop organization in every state in the country."
"For those people that are already supporting Secretary Clinton they've already been helpful by putting their networks in touch with our campaign, we've had tremendous outpourings," Podesta added. He and Renteria were to continue their Capitol Hill charm offensive Tuesday evening, meeting with House Democrats at the home of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
Strickland is running in a swing state where he has a shot to beat Portman, but Portman is seen as a strong and well-positioned incumbent. Strickland said before going into the meeting that he planned to thank senators for their financial support and share recent public polling showing him with a lead.
"I'm going to encourage them to spread the word that I need help and support and I'm going to ask for their advice," Strickland said. He downplayed Portman's strength, citing a recent Quinnipiac poll that showed Strickland ahead, and previewing a campaign theme. "I think what that says, and it's what I believe, is he has a higher stature in Washington than he does in Ohio."
In response, Portman's spokesman, Cory Bliss, attacked Strickland for presiding over job losses in Ohio as governor. "So I can't blame him for preferring to spend his time outside of Ohio," Bliss said.
A freshman Republican congressman from California said Tuesday he regretted losing his cool when he told an anti-immigration protester, "If you touch me again, I'll drop your ass" after the protester appeared to grip his hand roughly and slap his shoulder.
A video of Rep. Steve Knight was posted on YouTube by a group calling itself We the People Rising, which says it promotes hiring of Americans and wants U.S. officials to follow immigration laws.
In a statement, Knight said the group has repeatedly tried to goad him in their encounters "to a level that is not constructive. Over this past weekend, I lost my cool and I regret responding the way I did."
The video was recorded in Knight's district as he met with a group of protesters angry that he had voted for legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security without undoing President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.
It shows Knight getting into a confrontation with the group, including people waving American flags and holding signs reading "Stop Illegal Immigration."
Someone identifying himself as "Mike" approaches the congressman and, while gripping his hand, says: "You told me you didn't vote for amnesty and you did. You lied to me. I looked it up on the Internet." That prompts Knight's angry outburst.
The congressman then launches into an occasionally garbled explanation of his votes, as the small but agitated crowd repeatedly interrupts. "I never voted for amnesty," Knight insists, saying he had also voted for an earlier House bill that would have undone Obama's immigration moves, but it couldn't get through the Senate.
A link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYo7goLAG_4