Who can make Trump miserable this fall?
By Gail Collins
I hope by now you’ve managed to come to grips with the fact that we’re no longer going to have Jeff Sessions in our lives.
“It’s been a real adventure for me,” Sessions said in his concession speech this week, after he lost the Republican Senate nomination to a former football coach whose biggest campaign moment probably came when his bus caught on fire.
Not clear which adventure Sessions was referring to — scampering out of the Senate to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general and wage his long-dreamed-of war against immigrants? Accepting the advice of Justice Department lawyers and recusing himself from the Russia investigation? Being attacked by a furious Trump who had purposely put Sessions in the job to get protection from the forces of ... justice? Truly, he’s been badly treated by the man whom he helped propel into the presidency. Hehehehe.
It’s a little weird contemplating Sessions now. Trump’s treatment of him was outrageous, but if anybody’s going to suffer a political stab in the back, you have to be glad it’s the guy whose policies as attorney general ranged from keeping more people in prison longer to “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Tommy Tuberville, the football coach who beat Sessions, doesn’t seem to have any ideas beyond flexing his muscles and promising to do whatever Trump likes. Alabamians have no idea what he would do if Joe Biden was president, since Tuberville will never acknowledge such a possibility.
The nominee will go on to fight Sen. Doug Jones, the Democrat who you’ll recall won his seat in a race against a judge with a history of making improper advances to teenage girls. Tuberville will presumably be more of a challenge.
I guess we’ll have to chalk the Alabama primary up as a win for Trump, who assured voters that Sessions was “not mentally qualified.” (This was before the president gave that wild, rambling news conference in which he claimed Biden was opposed to windows.)
We’re deep into the Senate election season now, with primaries right and left, setting the stage for the Democrats’ attempt to take control of the majority in 2021. Everything is on the line — taxes, economic recovery, Supreme Court justices.
Let’s look at a few of the battles brewing. You’ll be able to discuss them with your friends over virtual cocktails. And if you want to send a donation or two to candidates who strike your fancy, go for it.
In Maine, Republican Sen. Susan Collins is fighting for survival. You may remember Collins as the self-styled brave independent moderate who spends most of her working days caving in.
Her opponent will be Sara Gideon, the speaker of the state House. Gideon won the Democratic primary Tuesday over two lesser-known women who seemed to spend much of their time attacking her for not agreeing to enough debates.
That’s an important rule for political campaigns: When all else fails, demand more debates. John McCain insisted that he and Barack Obama have 10. Trump is already complaining about Biden’s refusal to go beyond the three scheduled.
Gideon showed up for two, which seemed OK given the fact that she was about a mile ahead in the polls. But it’s perfectly fair to have your doubts about a candidate who won’t debate at all. Tuberville, for instance, said he backed out of any new encounters with Sessions because of:
A) The coronavirus.
B) Donald Trump already having praised his mental capacity.
C) Lack of attractive cheerleaders.
Yeah, he blamed the coronavirus. Hardly exists at all for the Trump camp, unless somebody is asking you to do something you don’t want to do.
Moving west there’s Arizona, which looks like it’s going to be huge. This is the one that could tip the balance for the Senate Democrats. The Republican incumbent is Martha McSally, who lost a Senate race in 2018 but then was appointed to the state’s second seat after John McCain died and his successor quit. You could argue that she’s been through a lot. Everything, really, except being elected to her job.
We’re pretty sure McSally’s Democratic opponent is going to be former astronaut Mark Kelly, even though Kelly first has to weather a primary against someone named Bo Garcia. All we know about Bo is that his nickname is “Heir Archy” and he’s running as a write-in candidate. Really, that’s all. No campaign website, no nothing. But if you write in his name on your ballot, they’ll count the vote.
Do not be dispirited because some of the people running for high office in America appear to be phantom candidates from nowhere. Think of it this way: It’s sort of inspiring how wide open the system sometimes is, as long as you don’t expect to actually get elected to anything.
One of my favorite meaningless races was for an Idaho Senate seat in 2010. Nobody had any doubt that Mike Crapo, the Republican incumbent, was going to win. Eventually Democrat William Bryk volunteered to oppose him, just so Crapo would have some competition. This came after he noticed that you did not actually have to live in Idaho in order to run there. Bryk was, in fact, a bankruptcy lawyer in Brooklyn. His campaign slogan was, “If Elected, I Will Move.”
Right now, that sort of sounds better than Make America Great Again.