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The GOP’s fringe candidates stoke Democrats’ midterm hopes | Dick Polman

Do I detect a faint glimmer of good news?

July 25, 2022 6:30 am

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman (L) and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz (R) Campaign file photos

Do I detect a faint glimmer of good news?

Trump’s cult party still seems on track to capture the House, thanks to inflation (which is worldwide) and high gas prices (which are steadily declining). But Democrats’ best hope is to retain control of the Senate – and perhaps pick up a seat, or even two.

That’s important, because the Senate is the chamber that confirms judicial and presidential nominees. And if the Dems can somehow pick up two seats (giving the party 52), they’d be positioned to blow past their twin obstructionists – Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – and abolish the ridiculous filibuster that’s making it impossible to pass good stuff. Like, for instance, a bill codifying abortion rights.

Fifty-two blue seats may well be a foolish dream. But retention of the Senate is not. And that’s because the Republicans, infected by their MAGA pandemic, have come up with some Senate candidates who can most charitably be described as incoherent, ill-credentialed, extremist, or all three.

Consider, for instance, the farcical doings in Georgia. The GOP have prioritized picking up the Georgia seat now held by the Rev. Raphael Warnock, but Trump successfully gave his seal of approval to Herschel Walker, the ex-pigskin jock who’s vividly demonstrating that just because someone toted a ball and ran over people decades ago, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this person would have the remotest clue about life in the public realm.

Aside from all his non-stop lying about his non-existent credentials and the revelations about kids he sired but never disclosed, what’s perhaps most noteworthy – and perhaps the reason why he’s trailing Warnock in the polls – is that he sounds dumber than a box of rocks.

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As Erick Erickson, a conservative Georgia-based radio host, remarked earlier this month, Walker “doesn’t have a deep grasp of the issues nor really the desire to learn those issues.”

Republicans also want to pick up the Arizona Senate seat currently held by ex-astronaut (and Gabby Giffords spouse) Mark Kelly. Problem is, the featured GOP front-runner is a Trump-endorsed loon named Blake Masters, a first-time candidate who still insists that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election.

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He’s also on record saying that America was wrong to enter World World II and said recently that gun violence in America should be blamed on “black people, frankly.” No wonder Kelly, the incumbent Democrat, is raising huge sums of money, far more than Masters, in a state that went blue in 2020.

So the Dems have a decent chance of holding the Georgia and Arizona seats – and potentially snatching at least one seat now held by the GOP.

Like, for instance, Pennsylvania.

With conservative U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey retiring, the GOP is stuck with Trump fave Mehmet Oz, the carpetbagging quack doc from New Jersey. He’s far behind Democrat John Fetterman in the polls, mainly because his celebrity cachet is trumped by the fact that his ties to Pennsylvania are thinner than dental floss.

Oz put out an anodyne statement the other day declaring that “Pennsylvanians demand leaders who will solve their problems in a meaningful and effective way.”

But it’s hard to take seriously a guy who was federally investigated for a fake weight-loss cure, and who was outed as a fraud by the British Medical Journal and assailed by 1,300 physicians who signed a letter calling him “a quack and a fake and a charlatan.”

Fetterman, who unlike Oz has actual governing experienced, also benefits from having deep working-class roots in the state’s normally Republican southwest region.

Another potential Democratic pickup – though it seems far chancier – is in Wisconsin, home of notorious nutcase Sen. Ron Johnson, who has dispensed a lot of Oz-like quackery about COVID vaccines (he says they’re killing people: “All these athletes are dropping dead on the field”) and COVID cures (actual quote: “Standard gargle mouthwash has been proven to kill the coronavirus”).

Democrats haven’t even picked a challenger yet. But with Johnson’s statewide favorability rating in the danger zone – 37 percent – perhaps sanity can prevail.

Simon Rosenberg is a longtime Democratic strategist and numbers-cruncher who’s virtually alone these days contending that the much-predicted red wave is more more mirage than real – that Senate races are indeed leaning blue in 2022 and that Democrats even have a shot at making the House midterms competitive.

Rosenberg thinks the declining price of gas will allow Democrats to talk about their success on the economy and “create more room for Democratic candidates to make the indictment of their opponents as too extreme.”

“As we’ve been saying, opposition to MAGA has been the driving force of the last two elections, and with mass shootings, the end of Roe and fanatical abortion restrictions, a radicalized Supreme Court, extremist/terrible candidates, an unfolding criminal conspiracy involving dozens of top Republican officials to overturn an election, it is now likely to be the most powerful force in this election as well,” Rosenberg sald. “It is a new, bluer election.”

His remarks may prove prescient. Or maybe in four months, I’ll look back at this column and wince.

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Dick Polman
Dick Polman

Opinion contributor Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. His work appears on Mondays on the Capital-Star's Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected]

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