Susan Collins isn't done yet; Biden capitalizes on Trump's COVID diagnosis

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Senate: Susan Collins has work to do, but could still win reelection

For so many years, Sen. Susan Collins has been Maine’s immovable object.

The Republican survived the Democratic wave that swept Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 — and that swept nine GOP senators out of office in the same election. And Collins did not just survive; she won with relative ease. Six years later, she won again, this time with the wind at her back, as Republicans won eight seats and the Senate majority.

But this year, Collins is in the fight of her political life, trying to withstand a swelling Democratic tide fueled by growing dissatisfaction with President Trump.

For so long, Collins flourished in Maine on the strength of support from moderate and Democratic voters in Maine’s liberal 1st Congressional District, as well as from the Republicans and cultural conservatives in the state’s rural 2nd Congressional District to the west and north. Mainers appreciated her pragmatism and the power she often wielded as a decisive vote on major legislation. But the tribal politics that has infected most of the rest of the country might have finally caught up with Collins, who is facing a spirited challenge from Democrat Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.

Moderate and Democratic women who have sustained Collins for years are showing signs of defecting, concluding any politician with an “R” next to his or her name is too aligned with Trump, even if by default. The senator also is struggling in the Republican-friendly 2nd District, where she has to worry about moving too strongly against Trump. To wit, the debate over whether Senate Republicans should fill a Supreme Court vacancy this close to Election Day is not doing her any favors. Collins opposing doing so given the proximity to the vote is a position sure to anger some Republican voters even though it might not be enough to save her from the wrath of Democratic voters.

Collins might yet survive — if anyone can, she can. But this time around, don’t be surprised if she doesn’t. — by David M. Drucker

Biden campaign: Trump’s diagnosis centered the campaign on the coronavirus once again

Joe Biden would not put it this way, but President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis was an obvious gift for the Democratic presidential nominee.

It catapulted the coronavirus pandemic, a topic that Trump avoids and that Biden made central to his electoral pitch, back to the top of campaign issues, leaving little room for discussion of other pressing matters such as the Supreme Court vacancy or economic recovery.

Biden tread carefully. He offered prayers for the president, pulled negative ads off the air, and didn’t directly attack Trump while he was in the hospital.

But it wasn’t long before the former vice president resumed barbs at the president.

“Now that he’s busy tweeting campaign messages, I would ask him to do this: Listen to the scientists,” Biden said in a speech. “Support masks.”

Biden didn’t have to do much heavy lifting to keep the focus on COVID-19. Hours after he started ramping up criticisms, all the major news networks broadcast Trump’s made-for-TV exit from Walter Reed Medical Center to the White House, and much of the discussion revolved around Trump removing his face covering on the White House balcony.

That Wednesday, Biden’s campaign said it would resume negative advertisements.

Though the president showed signs of a speedy recovery, Biden was able to keep the issue alive because of the possibility that Trump exposed the 78-year-old Democratic presidential nominee to the virus during their first debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates’s Thursday decision to make the next debate virtual, followed by Trump saying he would not participate in a virtual format, again kept the virus at center stage and potentially helps Biden. By skipping out on a debate, Trump misses an opportunity to shake up a static race that has him consistently behind in the polls. — by Emily Larsen

House: Will Karen Handel win back the seat she won in 2017 and lost in 2018?

Georgia’s 6th District has seen one of the hardest turns left of any House seat during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Longtime GOP Rep. Tom Price easily won reelection in 2016, before being plucked as Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary in what turned out to be a short-term gig. A June 2017 special election to replace Price ended in victory for Republican Karen Handel, a businesswoman who was once a deputy chief of staff to second lady Marilyn Quayle.

But Handel’s House tenure was short. She lost 18 months later to Democratic challenger and gun control activist Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, who at 17 was shot and killed following an argument at a gas station in Florida about loud music.

Now, Handel is seeking a rematch in a district that includes many of Atlanta’s affluent northern suburbs, once a GOP stronghold. The area was once represented by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Johnny Isakson, who later became a senator. But like the state of Georgia, the district is now much more mixed politically, with an influx of professional-class workers, immigrants, and retirees from the Northeast and elsewhere who once flocked to Florida.

The campaign of Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, is heavily targeting the district, as are two Democratic Senate candidates in search of swing voters. That’s all likely to help McBath as she tries to prove she’s not a one-term wonder in Congress.

Officials with the House Republicans’ campaign arm aren’t particularly enthusiastic about Handel’s comeback bid, but they’re backing her as the GOP nominee. Handel’s views on social issues are deemed too conservative for the district. Though she does have name recognition, having been Georgia’s secretary of state from 2007-10, before a gubernatorial bid, which she lost. — by David Mark

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