In “Desperately Avoiding Donald” Ms. Collins says Trumpian drama dominates some of the more competitive Senate races. Here she is:
Look, there’s a limit to how long we can talk about Donald Trump. Let’s talk about the big Senate races.
Which are all about Donald Trump! There’s Ohio, where Republican Senator Rob (Endorsed Donald Trump) Portman is in a fight for his political life. And New Hampshire, where Republican Senator Kelly (Didn’t Say “Endorse”) Ayotte is in trouble.
In Pennsylvania, embattled Republican Senator Pat Toomey published an opinion piece last spring taking his own Trumpian temperature: “There could come a point at which the differences are so great as to be irreconcilable.” Still not quite at the tipping point. Nearly there last week, with that thing about the grieving parents of the Muslim war hero, but still teetering.
The Democrats just need to win a few seats to get control of the Senate. Most of the contests will depend on what happens at the top of the ticket. But there are a few they could probably win even if Trump astonishes America with his policy riffs during the debates and Hillary Clinton is discovered cooking meth in the back of her campaign bus. For instance, there’s Wisconsin, where former Senator Russ Feingold is trying to reclaim his seat from businessman Ron Johnson, who grabbed it during the tidal wave of Republican victories in 2010.
Of all the people who slid in that year, Johnson is perhaps the most pathetic. This is the guy whose campaign sent out a tweet mourning the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, featuring a picture of an actor who had played Scalia onstage. He once called Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who is of Indian heritage, an “immigrant.” Decried “The Lego Movie” as an “insidious” piece of anticapitalist propaganda. Referred to public school students as “idiot inner-city kids.” And once, in an attempt to prove the globe wasn’t really warming, said Greenland got its name because “it was actually green at one point.”
Those of you who complain every four years that the entire presidential election seems to be all about a handful of states will be thrilled to know those swing states tend to be exactly the same places that have the biggest Senate races.
In Florida, Marco Rubio — the man who helped give us Donald Trump, Republican presidential nominee — is back. During the primary campaign, you will remember, Rubio described the Senate as the most useless place in the world. True, during his first term he’d been absent for about a trillion votes — but who cared? Nothing that happened there mattered anyhow. When asked about the possibility of running again, the state’s extremely junior senator irritably tweeted that he had already “said like 10,000 times” he was not going back, never, ever.
He then announced he was seeking re-election. Due to a discovery of important improvements in the menu at the Senate dining room.
No, not really. This is serious stuff, people. Rubio had a good explanation. Which was: “I changed my mind.”
To take Rubio on, the Florida Democrats will have to choose between Rep. Alan Grayson, a liberal who’s sometimes described as, um, outspoken, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, a boring moderate. Grayson has had a few problems lately — like a House Ethics Committee inquiry into a $16 million hedge fund he was running. And the allegations that he had physically abused his former wife. And that his new wife will be running for his House seat. It is impossible to express how much everybody in the Democratic establishment wants Murphy to win this primary.
Floridians, do you get tired of all this political drama? Do you know what it’s like to be a voter in New York, where the Senate race is Chuck Schumer versus The Woman Who Got 25 Percent Last Time Around? Plus you have endless beaches and sunny weather. The rest of us can only find comfort in recalling that there are also sharks, house-eating sinkholes and traffic jams when all those presidential candidates come crawling around, begging for affection.
And New Hampshire — we have to spend half the winter talking about New Hampshire because it gets to have the first presidential primary until the end of time. Now it’s also got a big Senate race, which features incumbent Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Ayotte is dancing around the Donald Trump issue, claiming she plans to vote for him but does not endorse him. Which is sort of like saying you’re going to marry the guy but do not intend to take him to the prom.
Trump responded by calling her “weak.” Is that fair? Well, he did that during the same week that he told a crowd he’d seen a “top secret” video of American money “pouring off a plane” in Iran. When in reality he had just watched some film on TV of another thing entirely.
This election is so ungodly, the senators are lucky we even notice they’re around.