By Dominique Paul Noth
Trump turns down a virtual debate because he can’t throw his arms around a computer screen and slobber his voters to death. Biden says he’ll debate anywhere anytime as long as he is not locked in a room with a slob shedding virus. And so the debate to debate goes, canceling the second and leaving the third in limbo. But it won’t matter because we will count the votes Nov. 3 (and maybe a few days longer) and realize the real results are not just a Biden victory, which seems assured.
But who will he carry with him across the finish line, particularly in the Senate?
Suddenly national media is starting to explore those other names, even offering profiles here and there. These largely are names unknown to most national voters – and more names than ever because of a staggeringly expanded map unlike anything the pollsters guessed a few weeks ago.
If Biden does hold town halls with voters, despite the push of his advisers to make all such appearances about national issues, he would be well advised to indicate his hopes state by state. With seven million already having voted, it is high time to start introducing to the public the Senate hopefuls he is counting on, and thus encourage voters back in their home states to fill in more than his name on the ballot:
Sara Gideon, a Maine legislative leader who is several poll points ahead of Susan (“maybe I will be independent , or maybe not”) Collins. I have described Collins as so wishy-washy she is likely to test both positive and negative in the covid sweepstakes. She surely is in peril of surviving.
Mark Kelly, former astronaut and well known spouse of Gabrielle Giffords, a national spokesman on sensible gun control who in Arizona polls is destroying an existing GOP senator appointed by her own party. This is another win the Democrats long to lock up.
Cal Cunningham, a retired military officer and state politician who is beating Trump enabler Thom Tillis in North Carolina. He ran into some headwinds with some sex banter he had long distance but even with that cross – exploitable in the South – he is out-raising and out-arguing Tillis.
John Hickenlooper, a former Democratic presidential candidate and popular Colorado governor noted for posing with a beer and a banjo. He is slightly ahead in a tight race against incumbent Cory Gardner.
Steve Bullock, again a former presidential candidate and popular governor who may turn the usually red Montana blue in his seesaw race against incumbent GOP unknown backbencher Steve Daines.
Amy McGrath, running tight against Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. No one fully believes a former military pilot with scant political experience can beat the canny Mitch, but she has raised considerable money on the Internet and has shown experience in campaigning while he struggles to hold his troops together. Will his push for a new conservative justice please voters or stir the opposition? How long can his turtle-like conservativism keep him in the game? Or is his likely loss of the majority a growing factor driving voters to McGrath?
Jon Ossoff, a former investigative journalist and security analyst is leading GOP’s David Perdue, a sitting senator fighting corruption accusations in Georgia polls. Georgia! A once Trump state where there is also another senate race the Democrats eye:
The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s famed Ebenezer Church, is ahead in a special Nov. 3 election against both appointed senator Kelly Loeffler (another corruption accused) and her internal GOP challenger, fast-talking Rep. Doug Collins (they are both trying to cling to Trump’s backside). The top two finishers face off in January if neither gets 50% on Nov. 3, and did I mention Warnock has the edge? In Georgia?
These are the most likely victories or close contests in an expanded election map, but Trump’s continuing failure and weakening threats have actually raised hopes even in the states the Democrats didn’t consider. The list keeps growing. Among the Democratic Senate candidates behind but charging hard are:
Alaska! Yes, commercial fisherman and physician Al Gross (not the best name for a candidate but easy to remember) is creeping within percentage points of his Republican opposition for Senate.
Idaho! Guaranteed Trump territory where noted tribal activist Paulette Jordan is fighting for attention from way behind and has been helped mightily by the health care issue and Emily’s List, an influential organization devoted to encouraging progressive Democratic women.
Even West Virginia! It’s the longest of long shots. But Paula Jean Swearengin, the coal miner’s daughter and environmental activist who did poorly in the 2018 primary against very moderate Democrat Joe Manchin, now is trying to make inroads against very right wing GOP incumbent Shelley Moore Caputo. She acts undaunted by Caputo’s 17% advantage as of Oct. 8.
One reason for optimism among the unlikely as well as the quite possible is the clear Biden surge. Campaign money flows toward the winning side. Even a hundred to one shot like Swearingen is like a Las Vegas betting pool – someone will buy a ticket! And Alaska, Louisiana and Mississippi are locations of fast moving change that confound traditional expectations.
Even most Democrats trying to preserve their seats – Dick Durbin of Illinois, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Coons of Delaware – seem in solid shape. Mitch McConnell and Betsy DeVos are raising big money against Gary Peters of Michigan. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire are also facing deep pockets but I think voters in those states won’t be fooled by the ad blitz. Far more threatened is Doug Jones of Alabama given the enthusiasm but political ignorance surrounding the former football coach he faces.
The size of the Democratic senate takeover chances is impressive and explains why third party GOP money, voting lawsuits and dirty tricks are on the climb. So are Republicans trying to embarrass Biden by ignoring their own insistence on packing the court system to demand Biden tell them now what he will do if Amy Coney Barrett makes it to high court (which would make her the third justice packed in under the worst president in US history).
Trump and the GOP won’t climb down from the suicide ledge before the election, but progressives shouldn’t join them out there. They should welcome Biden holding his tongue, even making noises that he is not interested in expanding the supreme court.
There are practical and logical reasons to hold his fire. He not only has to win the Senate but he has to look at – and talk to—those he wins the Senate with. Democrats are not the stoic monolith party the Republicans have proven to be.
Look at the field! All in a general sense are progressive and support Democratic initiatives. But they range from moderate to left, from former military officers to physicians, from commercial fisherman and other businesses to community activists. Biden will need some time to hear what they want and will vote for. There are already some 400 bills Mitch has bottled up and a lot of clamoring voices to outline the important solutions.
Mitch and his fading sources may enjoy a few months of self-congratulations but it will be followed by a slate of new laws that could protect and expand the Affordable Care Act and other issues not directly on the SCOTUS calendar, like Roe v Wade.
And that ACA lawsuit only gets oral arguments November 10 and the right wing could itself be surprised since the Supreme Court may simply section off one part of the law and keep the rest even before Biden steps in with new expansion.
So let Trump enjoy his act of sounding deliberately crazy – claiming he won’t leave office whatever the voters say. He will fume and fuss (and the dutiful press will cover every tantrum) because he wants America to forget how correctable are the levers of government he presumes to control and how entrenched are the forces that will make even Donald behave.
To give Biden the forces he needs to bring changes and corrections, voters around the nation, particularly those who don’t live in the states in question, had better charge up their phones and open their wallets. Even during a pandemic, the influence can reach across long distances to impact the results in other states.
And the future of the US Supreme Court? The election may remind SCOTUS of the danger of being far out of step with the public. For Biden to commit to what he will do before he knows what he can do would be foolish.