House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that businessman Donald Trump or whoever wins the GOP presidential nomination will run into a much tougher opponent in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.
Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrats, is a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, who is hoping to put ample distance between her campaign and her upstart rival, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, with a bevy of wins in “Super Tuesday” primary voting across the country.
Mr. Trump is poised to put himself on a glide path to the GOP nod, while Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida hope to stall his momentum.
But the Democratic whip said the GOP nominee is in for a rude awakening this fall.
“He will find Hillary Clinton not nearly as vulnerable as he has found his six or seven or eight opponents in the Republican party,” he said. “He will find her tougher, smarter and very difficult to attack in the coarse and unacceptable way that the Republican candidates have attacked one another.”
Mr. Hoyer weighed in just days after Mr. Trump seemed to stumble when asked if he would disavow support from the Ku Klux Klan and former KKK leader David Duke, a white supremacist.
He has renounced Mr. Duke’s endorsement, yet caught fierce criticism for failing to specifically denounce the KKK in a recent CNN interview. He blamed a faulty earpiece.
In response, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan called on candidates — apparently Mr. Trump — to denounce racism.
“If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry,” he said Tuesday.
Mr. Hoyer applauded the speaker for weighing in, though he accused the GOP of undercutting its speaker’s message.
“This party, [Mr. Ryan] says, does not play on people’s prejudices — would that were the case,” Mr. Hoyer said. “Throughout the country, we have seen in state after state after state Republicans making it more difficult to vote, more difficult to register, more difficult to be assured that their votes would count.”
He said courts have determined that those laws adversely affect certain groups, including seniors and minorities.