When it comes to electoral politics, August is usually the Month of Meh. Only silly obsessives like me are supposed to be peeling through the inside baseball of the ongoing campaigns; most everyone else usually won’t plug in until October if they bother to plug in at all. The presidential race this year is different, a crossbreeding of roller derby, the WWF and a debilitating head injury, and a lot of people are paying attention early. There are other races worthy of attention, as well.
Let’s see where we’re at.
Don’t miss a beat
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On the presidential end of things, the situation by the numbers couldn’t be more stark. Corporate Candidate Clinton is beating the stuffing out of Berserker Candidate Trump by ever-increasing margins. As it stands, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight puts her chances of winning in November at 86 percent. She is leading in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin and can-you-believe-it Georgia. If the election were held tomorrow, Trump wouldn’t win enough Electoral College votes to field a football team.
Under normal circumstances, you could write the presidential race off as a done deal today, but there hasn’t been anything normal about this election from the jump. While Trump may be a bull in a seemingly infinite china shop, Clinton is the Master of Unforced Errors. All she has to do at this point is play rope-a-dope with Trump, let him punch himself out, and then lay him out cold on the canvas come November, but I can practically guarantee that she won’t take that path.
This is what the corporate “news” media wanted when they put Bernie Sanders on mute while talking about what a card Trump was as he tore a wide swath through the concept of decency. They wanted bedlam, and now they have it. Republicans are making for the exits of Trump Tower by the score. They’re talking about his extreme recklessness, about the risk of giving him control of the nukes, and most prominently, about replacing him at the top of the ticket. Sorry, folks: Unless God Herself boils out of Heaven and makes it so, you’re stuck with the yam ham sweet potato man until they sweep the rubble off the floor in November. Turn off the lights when you leave.
One area where Trump is having a definite effect is in the down-ticket races, especially in the Senate. Rep. Tammy Duckworth appears well positioned to defeat incumbent Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in Illinois. Evan Bayh stands a good chance of beating GOP Rep. Todd Young in Indiana. Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto is in a dead heat with GOP Rep. Joe Heck in Nevada. Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte recently had a lead over opponent Maggie Hassan, but that has transformed into a 10-point deficit. Ted Strickland has a puncher’s chance of beating GOP Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio, and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey is in the race of his life against Democratic challenger Katie McGinty.
In every single one of these races, Donald Trump looms and squawks and poops on the doorsill like Poe’s raven. The same is true to a degree in several House races, but the House is safe for the GOP thanks to the 2010 gerrymandering festival they held. The Senate is another matter. The GOP is defending 24 seats to the Democrats’ 10, most of the dozen-or-so competitive seats are held by Republicans in states won by Obama, and if Clinton manages to find the finish line first in November, the Democrats will have to flip only four of those seats to retake the chamber. Under normal circumstances, the GOP’s control of the Senate would be safe as kittens. This year is different, thanks to an Oompa Loompa from Queens who can’t seem to get out of his own way.
Of course, predictions are easy; life is hard. If these contests were up on the big board at the MGM Grand in Vegas, I’d scoop up my chips and go play craps on the far side of the room. These elections are like betting on a tornado. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make this whole season a walking earthquake for the down-ticket races, and it’s only August. When Labor Day comes and all these candidates stomp the gas, look out below. Right now it’s only hot out. When the rubber rips the road for real, there will be molten lava falling from the sky. Take appropriate precautions.