Although they may have been drinking, the eager young staffers of two pro-Hillary Clinton super PACs were not seeing double when they gathered at a Capitol Hill bar Thursday for happy hour. It was just the Wessel twins.
Of the many groups building support for a potential 2016 Clinton presidential bid, Ready for Hillary and Correct the Record are the most active and integrated, and each has its own Wessel. Dan started in December as a press assistant for Correct the Record, which defends Clinton from Republican attacks, while his identical twin brother, Evan, started working on Ready for Hillary's digital footprint in March.
Ready for Hillary and Correct the Record work closely together, with a clear division of labor. They share surrogates, defer to each other depending on the issue when reporters call, and meet regularly for strategic and social reasons. But perhaps nothing underscores the kinship between the groups better than the Wessels.
"Ready for Hillary and Correct the Record are a family — figuratively — and in the case of Evan and Daniel, quite literally," says Seth Bringman, Ready for Hillary's communications director.
But the 24-year-old twins never set out to do this. It just sort of happened.
Even though they grew up around official Washington, the sons of a longtime aide to Dick Gephardt didn't think much about politics until college. And their parents worked hard to protect their individual identities, keeping the twins away from the same classes and sports teams. But the sons had a way of gravitating back to each other.
"They tried their hardest, but look where we are," Dan says from Correct the Record's office near Union Station. "We try to be as different as we can, and we just so happen to be involved in the same stuff. There was never any discussion at any point. We just find that we end up coming to the same conclusions, making the same decisions."
Dan and Evan both ended up attending the University of Delaware, both studied economics, and both volunteered for the state's Democratic Party in 2010, where they both got hooked on politics.
When they first tried to find jobs in Washington, the twins discovered they had applied for work in the same offices, potentially putting employers in the awkward situation of hiring one brother and not the other. Lines needed to be drawn. Dan got the House, Evan got the Senate, and they sent their résumés only to their assigned side of the Capitol.
"When we were both on the Hill at the same time, I found I would have to be friendly with everybody because we were both meeting with people and I had no idea who he had spoken with," Dan recalls. That included Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who thought Dan was Evan, an intern in his office at the time. "That actually happened twice. And I just had this whole conversation with him, him thinking I was his brother. Which was cool for me," Dan says.
In December, Dan started at Correct the Record, and then Evan joined Ready for Hillary in March.
Sitting in the other pro-Hillary super PAC's offices, which overlook the Potomac in Rosslyn, Va., Evan says the moves were "not coordinated at all." (Dan admits he had "some hesitation" at first.)
"It actually took a while for anyone to realize it," Evan says. "People came up to me from Correct the Record and thought I was him." Now, they serve as bridge between the organizations for their more junior colleagues, who aren't in regular strategic meetings. Coworkers have joked about starting a new group: Wessels for Hillary.
And no, each doesn't try to do the other's job. "I would have no idea what to do," Evan insists.
In spite of all the confusion, the unintentional comedy, and potential existential land mines, both Wessels see each other as much more of an asset than a liability.
"When you have twins who are so similar, you have similar experience, similar interests, similar capabilities, relatively similar skills — so if we end up competing against each other, it just hurts both of us," Evan says.
"I think we both look at the Castros and the Schatzes and other twins out there and sort of strive to do that and use that kind of as a guide. It's not one of us or the other. It's both of us together. We can kind of use each other to advance and achieve our goals," Evan says, referring to Rep. Joaquin Castro and his brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, as well as Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, who has a twin who works in Hawaii's state government.
Still, there are limits, and the good-fences rule seems to apply to twins as much as it does to neighbors. While they're working for the same cause, the Ready for Hillary and Correct the Record offices are separated by a river and about two and half miles of crawling downtown Washington traffic.
As Evan put it, "I would probably never work in the same office as him."