The race for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina became more interesting on Friday, both as a crucial contest in the fight for a Senate majority, but as a classic test case by which we can study whether or not the political media ever will get its snickering ass out of middle school.
On Friday, Thom Tillis, the Republican incumbent, announced that he had joined the ranks of GOP celebrities who have tested positive for COVID-19. Tillis sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee that is supposed to consider the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court in a little over a week. (Barrett's elevation, as we now know, has turned out to be the first Supreme Court nomination with a body count.) On the same day, Cal Cunningham, the Democratic challenger who has maintained a razor-thin lead in most polls, acknowledged that he had engaged in some more-than-flirtatious text messaging with a woman who is not his wife, but who is someone else's wife, in California. From The Daily Beast:
Several people present—multiple senators and the president of Notre Dame university—have tested positive for the virus since attending. The gathering celebrated the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and she was there as well. Tillis said in a statement, “I will be following the recommendations of my doctor and will be self-isolating at home for 10 days and notifying those I’ve been in close contact with. Thankfully, I have no symptoms and I feel well.”
And from the Raleigh News & Observer:
Cunningham, who has been leading in polling in his pivotal U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent Thom Tillis, said Friday night that he is not dropping out of the race. “I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry. The first step in repairing those relationships is taking complete responsibility, which I do. I ask that my family’s privacy be respected in this personal matter,” Cunningham said in a statement sent to The News & Observer. “I remain grateful and humbled by the ongoing support that North Carolinians have extended in this campaign, and in the remaining weeks before this election I will continue to work to earn the opportunity to fight for the people of our state.”
Even by 2020 standards, this is one helluva news cycle.
(And this just in: Senator Ron [Shreds of Freedom] Johnson of Wisconsin announced on Saturday that his tests rang the bell as well. Johnson missed the Barrett festivities because he already was quarantining due to a previous exposure. But he's also on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so if they're still planning to ram this nomination through, they're going to have to wing it as regards the Senate rules.)
There is no reason on earth why Cunningham should drop out of the race. The story is embarrassing—although its provenance is a bit dubious. It first came from something called NationalFile.com, which is the wingnut-welfare outpost at which has landed one Patrick Howley, a dog's breakfast who has slid down the food chain from The Daily Caller. It would be interesting to know how NationalFile.com obtained text messages from someone's phone, a question that its story does not address. But it presents a fascinating problem in perspective against Tillis's revelation of his serological status.
Whatever you may think of Cunningham's phone habits, Tillis's story is by any standard both more interesting and more relevant to the campaign at hand. Tillis became one of the seven million Americans carrying this virus, a number inflated considerably by the arrogance and incompetence of the administration* for whom he has been a loyal foot-soldier. Like the president* he has served, Tillis currently rests comfortably on a sickbed that looks suspiciously like his own petard. Moreover, he may have contracted the virus at an event at which the CDC-recommended protocols were thrown down and danced upon. Few masks. No social distancing. And, it turns out, a lot of indoor hugging and hand-shaking. And these festivities were to celebrate the nomination of a judge who is better than even money to vote to destroy the healthcare of millions of Americans in the middle of a pandemic—Americans who do not have the backstop of the government-funded socialized medicine currently enjoyed by Tillis and his president*.
That's the story. We'll see if anyone's grown up since the day Hillary Rodham Clinton had trouble getting into a car and thereby disqualified herself from being president. I am not optimistic.
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