Defending the family

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Vulnerable senators up for reelection have adopted a strategy of silence in response to the president's avalanche of putdowns.

Jon Tester was on his farm in rural Montana when his phone rang with the news: It was his chief of staff, informing him that the president of the United States had just called for his resignation on Twitter.

The Montana Democrat briefly considered President Donald Trump's latest attack on him, then fired up his tractor and went on his way. Tester wasn't going to get into it with Trump over the senator's role in bringing down the president's Veterans Affairs nominee, Ronny Jackson.


. "It's spring planting on the farm. Would I have liked to have been out pushing back on some of this? Sure. But I couldn't, I was farming," Tester said in an interview. "Truthfully."

After laying into Tester in late April, Trump is reveling in a new round of attacks on the 10 senators up for reelection in states that the president won in 2016. Always more of an attack dog toward his enemies than a defender of his allies, Trump is laying into "Sleepin'" Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, calling Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania a "disaster" and blaming Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio for "catch and release" immigration policies.

And Democrats are responding with a shrug, total silence or, in West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin's case, effusive praise for the commander in chief. Vulnerable Senate Democrats have made a conscious decision not to engage Trump on his terms, after watching the president tear apart the GOP primary field in 2016 with personal insults, derisive nicknames and political broadsides.