5. The ACB confirmation fight begins (for real):

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will open its confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.

While Barrett is expected to make it through Judiciary — Republicans have a 12-9 edge on the committee — the stakes remain high for her and several of the senators asking questions.

For South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the committee, the stakes are massively high. He is in a tight race against former state party chairman Jaime Harrison (much more on that below) and is struggling to unite Republicans behind his bid. He couldn’t ask for a more high-profile opportunity to bring them into the fold than this.

California Sen. Kamala Harris, aka the Democratic vice presidential nominee, will also be under a major spotlight this week as she comes off the campaign trail to reprise a role that drew her considerable national attention during the confirmation hearings for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who clearly fancies another presidential bid at some point in the future, will be looking to prove his conservative bona fides — yet again — to the party’s base. Ditto Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who is already being discussed as a potential 2024 candidate.

Both Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina have more immediate concerns. Each is in a competitive race for reelection this fall, and have to hope spending several days off the campaign trail doesn’t impede their efforts to win second terms.

4. $enate GOP panic button:

The biggest political news on Sunday wasn’t in the presidential race. It was in the Senate.

Former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison reported raising $57 million between July 1 and September 30 for his race against Sen. Lindsey Graham.

That total smashes the single-quarter fundraising record of $38 million that then Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke raised in the summer of 2018 for his challenge to GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

It’s yet more evidence of the seriousness of Harrison’s challenge to Graham — and how much disdain Democrats nationally feel toward the South Carolina Republican.

While Harrison’s fundraising total is, literally, stunning, it’s in keeping with the vast sums his fellow Democratic Senate challengers have announced they collected in the third quarter.

* Theresa Greenfield raised almost $29 million for her race this fall against Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.

* In North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham, a former state senator, brought in $28 million in the third quarter of 2020 for his challenge to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. 

* In Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) raised $22.6 million between July 1 and September 30 to support his race against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. 

Now, money isn’t determinative. O’Rourke, after all, lost to Cruz. But the massive fundraising hauls by Senate Democratic challengers over the past three months do suggest a level of energy and passion that should scare Republicans desperately clinging to their majority.

3. Will people go to Trump rallies?:

President Donald Trump is set to hold rallies in Florida, Pennsylvania and Iowa this coming week — despite the fact that a) the White House still won’t say whether he has tested negative for Covid-19 and b) large events where social distancing guidelines are not observed are known as likely places for the virus to spread.

Given those twin realities — coupled with the fact that the numbers of cases of the virus are increasing in many states across the country — will people still show up in droves to support the President?

The betting odds are, of course, yes. And there’s no doubt that some decent-sized chunk of Trump loyalists show up no matter what. 

But are the crowds smaller, a la the now-infamous Tulsa rally on June 20? Or do Trump’s supporters feel even more inclined to come out and show their support after the President has had the coronavirus and the election is three weeks away?

2. The election is already happening!:

Yes, there are still 23 days until November 3. But because of a surge of mail-in ballots — due in large part to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — millions of Americans have already voted (and millions more will vote) before the calendar turns to November.

According to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who runs the US Election project, more than 9 million people have already voted across 38 states and the District of Columbia.

And not surprisingly, many more registered Democrats than registered Republicans have voted. Of the nine states (of the 38 early voting states) where voters register by party, Democrats have cast 2,089,872 votes compared to 896,602 by Republicans. In those same states, Democrats have requested a total of 22,274,798 ballots while Republicans have asked for 13,010,266 ballots.

(Those numbers are consistent with new data from a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this weekend. Of the 58% who said they planned to vote early or by mail, former Vice President Joe Biden was winning by 44 points. Of the 40% who said they planned to vote on Election Day, Donald Trump was winning by 32 points.)

These millions of voters are choosing their candidates based not on what the political environment will be in November but on what the political environment is right now. And that’s major trouble for Trump — as his ratings (both overall and on coronavirus) continue to erode badly.

1. Trump’s coronavirus dead end:

Trump is losing this election. And he’s losing primarily because the American public disapproves of the way in which he has responded (and not responded) to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, just 41% of registered voters approved of how he has handled the virus, which has killed more than 214,000 Americans, while 58% disapprove. Unsurprisingly, Trump trails Biden in that same poll 54% to 42% among likely voters.

Despite the clear correlation between Trump’s poor ratings on the coronavirus and his overall standing with voters, the President continues to say and do things certain to reinforce those negative impressions with voters.

“A lot of flareups, but it’s going to disappear, it is disappearing and vaccines are going to help,” Trump said of the virus Saturday, speaking from the White House balcony to hundreds of invited onlookers just 10 days after testing positive for Covid-19 himself. (The number of new cases nationwide is now at its highest level in several months.)

Trump also insisted he would be “starting very, very big with our rallies and with our everything” despite the fact that large gatherings where social distancing is difficult are strongly discouraged by medical experts.

Think of Trump on Covid-19 this way: He’s your dad driving on a family vacation. He’s taken a wrong turn — and everyone, including him, knows it. But he refuses to course correct — just driving further and further away from your ultimate destination.

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