Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Kyle Trygstad and Alexis Levinson, CQ Roll Call

WASHINGTON — Montana’s appointed Sen. John Walsh was by far the most endangered incumbent in the chamber in early August, but his decision to not seek a full term has opened the top slot to a couple other worthy contenders.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is still in a perilous political position, but Louisiana Sen. Mary L. Landrieu has leapfrogged him on the list to become the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbent.

The Democrat is pushing hard to eclipse 50 percent on Nov. 4, the day of Louisiana’s jungle primary and possibly Landrieu’s best opportunity for re-election. She will undoubtedly get close. But if Landrieu doesn’t win a majority of the vote against a few GOP challengers, she will likely face Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), in the Dec. 6 runoff.

If that happens, all bets are off, and Landrieu’s viability may depend on which party prevailed on Election Day.

With the elections just two months away, Democratic incumbents overall have run strong-enough campaigns to ensure the fight for the Senate majority remains a tossup — despite a playing field tilted heavily in the GOP’s direction.

Republicans, who need a net gain of six seats to take control of the chamber, are expected to get halfway there by picking up the open seats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. The open-seat opportunities don’t stop there, but the GOP will likely need to defeat at least two sitting senators to win the majority.

They have several to choose from.
___
The 10 most vulnerable senators:

1. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA)

No incumbent faces a more complicated path to re-election than Landrieu, thanks to the state’s unique voting process and calendar. With a challenging national climate and a strong GOP challenger in Cassidy, Republicans may finally defeat the senator who has won some tough races before.

2. Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Pryor is surprising people in both parties and is in far better shape at this point than some expected a year ago. But he remains a top target of national Republicans, who believe Rep. Tom Cotton will ultimately win over the GOP voters who have supported Pryor in the past.

3. Mark Begich (D-AK)

The Democrat running arguably the best campaign also happens to be in possibly the most challenging state for the party. Begich and his Democratic backers have been hammering Republican Dan Sullivan for months, long before he finally emerged with the nomination Aug. 19.

4. Kay Hagan (D-NC)

Hagan is a top target for Republicans, but circumstances have been good to her. Republican Thom Tillis, the state House speaker, had to put his candidacy on the back burner for the past several months when the legislature’s “short session” ended up not so short. He only became a full-time candidate last week, when the House finally wrapped up.

5. Mark Udall (D-CO)

Udall has a strong opponent in Rep. Cory Gardner, and Colorado is a solidly purple state that could go either way. Democrats are hoping their 2010 playbook, which got Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet elected in a Republican wave year, will be as successful the second time around.

6. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

If rankings went by polling alone, McConnell might be higher on this list. He faces a legitimate challenge in Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, a rock star fundraiser who makes the party optimistic. Grimes needs to top the 47 percent McConnell’s previous opponent received in 2008, but that’s not easy in a midterm cycle with an unpopular Democratic president.

7. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Shaheen is well-liked and remains the clear favorite, but a single poll in mid-August showing a 2-point race caused an uproar of speculation. It’s likely not that close, but Republicans hope former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown will begin to close the gap after the Sept. 9 primary.

8. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

With a solid lead in the polls and large financial advantage, Merkley doesn’t appear to be in much danger. But Republican Monica Wehby is getting some much-needed help from the Koch brothers on the airwaves and Merkley’s poll numbers, while strong, don’t match Al Franken’s, pushing the Oregon senator up one spot on this list.

9. Al Frankenn (D-MN)

Franken is a strong fundraiser in a solidly blue state. There’s a path for Republicans to potentially make this race competitive, but so far, GOP nominee Mike McFadden hasn’t made it happen.

10. Mark Warner (D-VA)

It would take a Republican wave election to oust Warner, a popular former governor with a massive cash advantage over his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie. He joins this list largely for lack of another option.

Photo via WikiCommons

Interested in U.S. politics? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.