At WP, Paul Kane reports that incumbent GOP senators are reversing the usual pattern by challenging their challengers to debate. The elections may simply be an extension of a referendum on Trump instead of a choice between two candidates -- which is just fine with many of the challengers.
And the pandemic has limited campaign activities that are normal for a big Senate race, activities such as state fairs, beach walks and large church services — and without those staples, there are fewer chances for candidates to make mistakes.
Instead, Republicans are growing fearful that Democratic candidates are receiving such little scrutiny that they could steamroll to victory, and to the Senate majority, mostly by raising huge amounts of money that fund smart media campaigns on TV and social media.
“The more voters see their candidates, the worse off they are. This is a very weak crop of recruits,” said Jesse Hunt, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Democrats contend that their candidates are doing as much as anyone could expect with the novel coronavirus still raging in many states, suggesting that the Republican senatorial nominee in Alabama, Tommy Tuberville, is the most shut-in candidate in the nation. Tuberville refused to debate former attorney general Jeff Sessions in the primary and has yet to agree to debate Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election campaign in a state that Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points.
...Also note that newspapers have slashed their reporting staffs.
That phenomenon gets combined with a national news corps that is heavily focused on covering coronavirus stories, limiting the number of stories from key Senate battlegrounds. GOP strategists feel that their incumbents still have to face the Capitol press corps every day that the Senate is in session, while the Democratic challengers carefully choose their public appearances.
This election season has not yet had a single big “tracker” controversy — involving those usually young staffers who follow opposing candidates from event to event, hoping to capture them on camera doing or saying something controversial.
With their ammunition limited, Republicans keep fighting over debates, nowhere as fiercely as in Maine.