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Will Senate Republicans Back Trump’s Push To Fill Ginsburg’s Seat — Even If He Loses Reelection?

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Two of the biggest questions in the aftermath of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death are, “Will whomever President Trump chooses to replace Ginsburg be confirmed?” and “How will the nomination and confirmation process affect the 2020 elections?” Those two questions are, of course, connected. And the place where they really intersect is the U.S. Senate.

The Senate will play a pivotal role in deciding the answer to the first question, but its members will also be on the receiving end of whatever political fallout the fight to fill Ginsburg’s seat kicks up. So let’s look at both the confirmation process and the electoral process from the perspective of senators.

Electoral concerns will play a big role in the confirmation process

Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are the three GOP incumbents most in danger of losing reelection, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast. In fact, they’re all underdogs at the moment. Two other GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Joni Ernst of Iowa, are in toss-up races. On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is also facing an uphill battle for reelection.

The outlook for incumbent senators up for reelection

Chances of winning reelection according to FiveThirtyEight’s “deluxe” forecast, as of Sept. 20, 2020, at 9 p.m. ET

State Incumbent Party DEM CHANCES GOP CHANCES
Rhode Island Reed D 100% <1%
Massachussetts Markey D 100 <1
Delaware Coons D 100 <1
Oregon Merkley D 100 <1
New Jersey Booker D 99 1
Illinois Durbin D 99 1
Virginia Warner D 99 1
New Hampshire Shaheen D 99 1
Minnesota Smith D 93 7
Michigan Peters D 81 19
Arizona McSally R 78 22
Colorado Gardner R 69 31
North Carolina Tillis R 62 38
Maine Collins R 53 47
Iowa Ernst R 44 56
Montana Daines R 35 65
Alabama Jones D 28 72
Georgia Perdue R 27 73
South Carolina Graham R 16 84
Alaska Sullivan R 14 86
Texas Cornyn R 12 88
Louisiana* Cassidy R 3 92
Mississippi Hyde-Smith R 5 95
Kentucky McConnell R 4 96
South Dakota Rounds R 1 99
Idaho Risch R <1 100
Nebraska Sasse R <1 100
West Virginia Capito R <1 100
Oklahoma Inhofe R <1 100
Arkansas Cotton R <1 100

*In Louisiana’s Senate election, multiple candidates from each party will be on the ballot on Election Day. If one candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote, that person wins the seat, but if no candidate clears that bar, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff election. This table shows the chance that Bill Cassidy will win reelection rather than the chance that any Republican will win the seat.

Given that it’s the final stretch of the campaign and all these senators are at risk of losing their seats, you can bet that electoral factors will be weighing heavily in however they decide to vote on Trump’s nominee and the process to confirm her.nominate a woman.

“>1

Even senators with safer seats, including Republicans Steve Daines of Montana, David Perdue of Georgia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, will be trying to figure out how the Supreme Court vacancy factors into their races. And as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham would be leading the confirmation hearings for a Trump Supreme Court nominee. (Ernst and Tillis are also on the committee.)

Before we can make any firm conclusions about how the politics of this will play out, we’ll need to wait for Trump to make his pick and for more polling to come out, but out of the gate it seems as though Collins, Gardner and Jones have the most to lose in this process.

The confirmation fight is likely to be highly partisan and highly polarized — and it’s likely to be a major part of the discussion in the campaign’s final weeks. Democratic voters almost universally oppose anything Trump does, while Republican voters almost universally support the president. Trump and many prominent Republicans are demanding that any nominee be voted on — implying that they will support a confirmation vote before the November election or one after the election even if Trump loses to Joe Biden. Meanwhile, Democrats are largely united in their view that whichever candidate wins the presidential election should choose Ginsburg’s replacement. So all 100 senators are going to be pressed on the question, “Should whoever wins the presidential election choose Ginsburg’s replacement?” The senators themselves (and probably voters too) will know that the position of the Democratic Party is yes and the position of the Republican Party is no.

Having a highly partisan issue dominate the political debate is problematic for Jones, Collins and Gardner in particular because all three senators are running for reelection in states where the majority of voters are aligned with the other party. At the same time, breaking with their party on a high-profile issue like this could annoy their base, which would also make it harder for them to win reelection.

Take Trump’s approval rating in each of these states. The president is significantly more popular in Alabama (57 percent approval, 40 percent disapproval, per Civiqs) than he is nationally (42 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval per Civiqs; 43-53 per FiveThirtyEight’s average of a number of polls). Trump’s net ratings in Maine (-23 points) and Colorado (-19 points) are significantly worse than his national standing. And in Arizona (-11 for Trump) and North Carolina (-8), the president’s standing is fairly similar to where he is nationally.

These general electoral dynamics have perfectly predicted the reactions of these senators in the days since Ginsburg’s death. McSally and Tillis are among the Republicans who already announced that the Senate should vote on a Trump nominee, whether the president wins the election or not. That makes sense for them — on a highly partisan issue like this in a closely divided state, the safe bet is to just stick with your party. (Perdue, in Georgia, has also said he supports Trump’s nominee moving forward, regardless of the November election results.)

In contrast, Collins (in blue-leaning Maine) has adopted the Democratic position — that the winner of the presidential election should choose Ginsburg’s replacement.

Gardner and Jones have been noncommittal so far. That makes sense too — their choices are basically to either annoy their party’s base or annoy the clear majority of the electorate in their states. Neither stance is ideal, so it’s not surprising that they are hesitant to say anything.

In the end, the vast majority of senators will stick with their party

No matter what their electoral considerations are, however, expect most senators to align with their party. That’s what usually happens on high-profile issues.

For example, the confirmation vote for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination was also on the eve of an election (Oct. 6, 2018). West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, up for reelection that November in a very pro-Trump state, broke with his party to vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination. But the other nine Democrats who were up for reelection in 2018 in states that Trump won in 2016 voted against Kavanaugh.2 The one GOP senator up for reelection in 2018 in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016, Dean Heller of Nevada, also voted the party line, supporting Kavanagh.

Overall, Manchin was the only Senate Democrat to back Kavanaugh; Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican who didn’t support him.voted “present” rather than “yes” or “no” on Kavanaugh.

“>3 (More on Murkowski in a bit.)

Similarly, on the Trump impeachment votes in February, senators up for reelection this year aligned with their parties instead of their states’ politics when the two conflicted. (Collins and Gardner opposed both articles of impeachment, whereas Michigan’s Gary Peters and Jones voted in favor of both articles.) Utah’s Mitt Romney was the only Republican to vote for Trump’s removal, which all Senate Democrats supported. (More on Romney in a bit.)

What explains this? First of all, senators may put their personal ideological views ahead of their electoral considerations, particularly on judicial nominations. After all, it’s likely that a Republican senator would be fairly aligned with someone like Kavanaugh on most issues while a Democratic senator would be opposed. Second, the electoral effects of these kinds of votes are not totally clear. For example, Montana is more Republican-leaning than Florida, but Montana Democratic incumbent Jon Tester won reelection in 2018 while longtime Florida Democrat Bill Nelson lost. (Both voted against Kavanaugh.) Manchin voted for Kavanaugh and won, but it’s not clear he won because he voted for Kavanaugh.

Third, members of Congress, particularly those in states where they are not electorally safe, must consider their futures if they lose those elections. And the career incentives for politicians usually point toward sticking with your party on key votes. Jones was a prominent U.S. attorney, so it’s easy to imagine him serving in some legal post in a Biden administration if he should lose reelection in Alabama in November and Biden should win. But Democrats would probably be less eager to put Jones in a high-profile role in a Biden administration if Jones had voted for Kavanaugh, opposed impeachment and spent the weeks before the 2020 election urging the Senate to hold a vote on Trump’s nominee to replace Ginsburg.

Senators like Gardner and McSally who have been down in the polls for months are probably aware that they are unlikely to be in Congress next year. So they might be positioning themselves for lobbying jobs (which usually involves maintaining strong relationships with the people in your party who are still in Congress) or future runs for other offices. So to keep doors open to them in GOP circles, Gardner and McSally may align with their party’s general posture in this nomination process, even if that approach slightly reduces their chances of winning reelection.

Murkowski and Romney will really matter

Murkowski has broken with her party in two major ways in the Trump years: opposing the push to repeal Obamacare and opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Romney’s impeachment vote was arguably one of the biggest rebukes of a sitting president from a member of his own party in recent history. So it would not be surprising if they didn’t align with Trump on this issue.

Murkowski said over the weekend that Republicans should not fill Ginsburg’s seat before the election. That is similar to the stance being taken by Senate Democrats and Collins, but not exactly the same. Murkowski has not ruled out supporting the confirmation of a Trump nominee postelection — even if Trump loses in November. Speaking of that possibility …

Preelection commitments could change postelection

The disagreement between the parties is really over who gets to pick the nominee (Trump or whoever wins the election), not over the timing. I doubt Democrats will strongly object to Republicans confirming a new justice in late November or early December if Trump has clearly won the presidential election.

That said, the considerations for individual senators are much different. Collins, in the context of her reelection campaign, is suggesting that she would not support Trump picking a nominee if he loses the election. But if Collins herself loses reelection and a vote on the nominee comes up in December, her pledge to Maine voters isn’t binding. She might feel comfortable reneging on it. It’s not just Collins — there is no guarantee that preelection statements from senators mean much postelection.

Also, the postelection period might have another wrinkle. Since McSally was appointed to her Senate seat, Arizona law suggests that her Democratic opponent, Mark Kelly, could be seated as soon as late November if he wins that race. The math for Republicans is harder if they must confirm a judge with a 52-48 majority instead of a 53-47 one, so I would assume that they would push for a vote while McSally is still there.

Based on what we know right now, here’s the most likely way that the dominoes will fall: Trump chooses a nominee this week. The Senate holds hearings in October, but there is not a vote on the nominee before the election. Biden beats Trump. In the postelection, lame-duck Senate session, 50 Republican senators and Vice President Mike Pence combine for 51 votes to confirm Trump’s nominee, with the 47 Democrats, Collins, Murkowski and Romney in opposition.

I’m not predicting all this will happen — there’s plenty of time for things to change — but that’s the picture we have right now. We can expect a lot of drama over the next few weeks, but in reality, only one question really matters: How many sitting Republican senators will prevent a sitting Republican president from adding a sixth Republican-appointed justice to the Supreme Court, giving the party a dominant majority on the court for perhaps a generation? The answer is, of course, not very many. But there might be four.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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2:00

Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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