Is there a race, Senate or House, that is of particular interest to each of you?
Patti: I’m watching North Carolina. Not only the Senate race, but how that affects the presidential vote and the electoral college. That race is Tillis, the incumbent, versus Cunningham. Democrats spent a lot of effort in recruiting Cunningham and right now, it is neck and neck. If Cunningham can pull it out and we end up winning that state, we win the presidency. I think that’s the state that Democrats are going to pour resources into.
Jonathan: I’d also pick a Senate race: the Georgia special election for Senate. Georgia’s the only state in the country that’s going to have two Senate elections this November. In the one, it’s expected that Senator Perdue will be reelected easily.
But the other is competitive, where Republican Senator Loeffler is facing a scandal [over stock trades during the coronavirus outbreak]. She’s facing a strong challenge from fellow Republican Doug Collins, a current member of the House. [Governor Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to the seat after Senator Isakson retired last year for health reasons. The special election will be for the balance of his term, which ends in 2022.] If someone gets above 50 percent, they win. If not, the top two vote getters head into a runoff, I think in December. Right now Collins is in the lead. But Loeffler is more an establishment favorite. If the president decides to get engaged in the state primary, that could prove decisive.
So I think it’s going be a really fascinating race for political junkies, even though in either event you end up with a Republican holding the seat.
Is there anything we haven’t talked about that grabs your attention?
Patti: Joe Biden being in his basement. (LAUGHTER) This is someone I’ve worked for and I know well. What Joe Biden has that has worked for him in his political career for 35 years now is his ability to connect with people. It’s his ability to put his hand on the shoulder of a voter or someone in pain, that’s who he is. That’s what makes people love Joe—both Democrats and Republican.
He can’t do that right now. It doesn’t look like he’ll be able to do that at all, or much of that through November. I’m wondering how that will affect his ability to really connect with voters. That keeps me up at night.
Jonathan: I’m not convinced that, if I were advising the Biden campaign, I’d want Biden out on the stump. Reelection is almost always a referendum on the incumbent. You might just be better off being a blank slate that people can cast their hopes and dreams on, and hope that they’re dissatisfied with the incumbent.
Patti: That’s a very good point. Certainly, in my view, Donald Trump has not handled the pandemic well, has not handled this civil unrest well at all. This election in my view will be a referendum on those two things.
But the other side can’t just be in the basement, they have to offer a vision. They have to offer a hope. They have to offer something that voters can connect with. Joe Biden is good at that, he just hasn’t had the ability to do it as of yet. He’s telling people, “I’m following the science.” So if the science is telling us, “You can’t be in a crowd of 5,000 people,” then he can’t.
But Donald Trump can, because he doesn’t necessarily follow the science. And that’s troublesome.
Kevin Helliker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal writer, is Editor of the Brunswick Review.
Photographs: Eric Thayer/The New York Times; Charles Rex Arbogast; Diana Walker/Contour by Getty Images