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If the election were held today, Republicans would likely pick up five or six seats in the U.S. Senate, according to a recent analysis by Alan I. Abramowitz.

While the difference between five and six seats is tiny, it’s massive in consequence. The larger number would give Republicans control of the Senate and trigger a nightmare of investigations, standoffs and obstruction that would make the tumultuous last six years seem like a paragon of comity, as both houses of Congress could be used to oppose President Obama in every conceivable way.

So Democrats must plan for every contingency to limit their losses, as they defend the abundance of seats they won in 2008, to no more than five. One strategy that will inevitably make it into the playbook is meddling in GOP primaries.

While it appeared that it was just dumb luck that Todd Akin self-destructed just weeks before the 2012 election, the congressman’s primary win was abetted by his future opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill, who ran an ad touting Akin’s conservative credentials.

Could history repeat itself in 2014? Here are five Republican candidates that Democrats hope win their nominations and then say just the right thing to cost their party a seat, or possibly the Senate.

Greg Brannon — North Carolina

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Dr. Greg Bannon is a rising Tea Party star with “future Todd Akin” written all over him.

Our Henry Decker recently laid out the doctor’s kooky credentials:

  • Been caught plagiarizing from Senator Paul’s campaign site (he later apologized and added proper attribution)
  • Called for abolishing SNAP, arguing that food aid “enslaves people“
  • Warned that interstate toll roads are close to “fascism“
  • Falsely claimed that abortion is linked to breast cancer
  • Been ordered by a jury to pay $250,000 in restitution after misleading investors in a tech startup
  • Addressed a rally co-sponsored by the League of the South, a well-known secessionist group
  • Served as president of an organization called “Founder’s Truth,” which routinely posted blog posts featuring conspiracy theories claiming that the Aurora massacre was a false flag operation, the TSA will soon force Americans to wear shock bracelets, and Intel hopes to implant microchips into your brain, among many others

Just a day after PPP found that Brannon is tied for the lead in the GOP primary, Mother Jones published a video of the doctor saying that Planned Parenthood wants to kill newborns. Coincidentally, that same PPP poll found that sitting Senator Kay Hagan (R-NC) has regained her lead.

Paul Broun — Georgia

Just behind Brannon in the race to be Akin 2.0 is Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), the congressman who said in the video above that evolution, like most accepted scientific consensus, is a “lie from the pit of hell.”

His belief that the Earth is only 6,000 years old isn’t controversial for many right-wingers. But his extreme rhetoric makes him the perfect foil for the likely Democratic nominee, moderate Michelle Nunn — the former CEO of George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light foundation who is also the daughter of former senator Sam Nunn.

Chris McDaniel — Mississippi

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Mississippi? Is there any chance in (the pit of) hell that Democrats could compete in Mississippi in 2014?

Perhaps, if Tea Partier Chris McDaniel bests incumbent senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) in the upcoming primary. McDaniel has a history of palling around with neo-Confederates. He’s blamed hip-hop for gun violence and recently retweeted a white supremacist. But retweets aren’t necessarily endorsements, and McDaniel has lots of those from far-right groups like Club For Growth, Tea Party Express, Senate Conservatives Fund, FreedomWorks, and Madison Project.

If Cochran falls to his Tea Party competitor, Democrats have a relatively strong candidate lined up — former Democratic congressman Travis Childers, who represented the state’s very conservative 1st district for two terms.

Scott Brown — New Hampshire

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The man who claimed the first Tea Party scalp has spent his post-Senate career getting paid off by Wall Street and embarrassing himself on Twitter and Fox News. In his spare time, he pretends to be running for president and threatens to run for the Senate in New Hampshire.

His dabbling has resulted him getting crushed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in a recent poll. Brown trails by 13 percent with Shaheen pulling in 52 percent of those polled, suggesting that Democrats would not have to spend exorbitantly to defend the seat.

Photo: Beckwith-Zink (Diane) via Flickr

Mitch McConnell — Kentucky

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to “crush” Tea Party groups everywhere — and that could end up costing Republicans the Senate.

While McConnell is leading his Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin by well over 20 percent, he continually trails his likely Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, by between 2 and 4 percent. Meanwhile, a recent poll showed Bevin leading Grimes. Once the primary begins, McConnell — a notoriously vicious campaigner — will spend his massive war chest to try to drive his opponent’s unfavorable rating closer to his, which is 50 percent.

The leader will also deploy his extremely popular ally Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who has gotten behind his colleague in an effort to shore up establishment support for a likely 2016 presidential run. But Paul has been unable to summon much goodwill for McConnell. When Glenn Beck asked the Tea Party hero to explain his McConnell endorsement, the senator couldn’t manage much more than, “He asked me when there was no one else in the race.”

It would be poetic justice of a cosmic sort if the Republicans lost the Senate because of a “reverse-Akin,” with the establishment’s favorite candidate costing the party a safe seat.

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Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

Three states that narrowly swung from Barack Obama in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016 seem likely to swing back in 2020. Polling currently gives a consistent and solid lead to Democrat Joe Biden in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Should Biden carry all three of these swing states and keep all of the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016, he will win an Electoral College majority and the presidency.

According to RealClear Politics' polling average, Biden currently enjoys a 4-point lead in Pennsylvania, a 6.4-point lead in Michigan, and a 6.7-point lead in Wisconsin.

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