Amazon has developed so-called Rekognition software that purportedly can spot fear in a man. With any luck, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be able to avoid the company's lenses for a good long spell.
Fifteen months out from the 2020 elections, things feel alarmingly unsettled in our nation’s capital. One senses that the balance of power could go in either direction next year.
The good news for Republicans is Democrats. The good news for Democrats is President Donald Trump — and a possible recession that would take away his greatest strengths, low unemployment and a growing economy.
The best and worst news for McConnell and his Senate colleagues is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rise in Democratic primary polling. Warren was in a statistical dead heat this week with former Vice President Joe Biden, holding 20 percent and 23 percent of the national primary vote, respectively, in an Economist/YouGov poll. Other polling continues to have Biden with a significant but dwindling lead over Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, but one gets the unmistakable sense that it’s Warren with the momentum right now.
If Republicans had to choose a candidate to run against, it would be Warren. Her ideology is decidedly out of the mainstream — only socialist Sanders is to the political left of her, and not by much — and Warren’s I-have-a-plan-for-that campaign rhetoric is easy to lampoon. Despite being from Oklahoma City, Warren also reeks of elite Northeast academia, an aroma unlikely to win popularity contests in rust belt states that could decide the election.
But be careful what you ask for with Warren: She was loaded for bear in her first two debates, she knows how to spar on the big stage and her audiences are beginning to grow on the campaign trail — plus millions of voters hate, hate, hate Donald Trump and will vote for anyone running against him.
Warren might not normally be a threat in a presidential contest, but with a historically unpopular White House occupant capable of saying anything and a weakening economy, things could change quickly. Throw in the possibility of a Republican primary against Trump from the political right by former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford or former tea-party darling, ex-Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, who penned a stunning denunciation of President Trump in The New York Times this week, and the situation could get downright hinkey for the national GOP, as Walsh’s old constituents might put it.
The worst-case-scenario consensus among Republicans right now is a Democratic president and House in 2021 and a Republican Senate armed with the filibuster. But McConnell knows politics and he knows math. If things get bad enough where Warren to become an actual contender — if blind hatred for Trump and his party usurps all other considerations — the Senate could go into play as well, and the real nightmare scenario for conservatives could arrive: A left-wing president, both houses of Congress in Democratic hands and potential abolition of the filibuster. Nothing could stop the Warren agenda.
McConnell needs to defend 22 seats next year, while only 12 Democratic senators are up for re-election. Early polling suggests that Republicans should be able to hang onto their 53-47-seat majority, but there’s little room for error. It’s no mistake, then, that McConnell is now considering gun-control regulations; suburban women overwhelmingly want them, according to surveys, and they could swing several senate elections next year.
Warren is easy to poke fun at, but I’d argue that she’s the candidate Republicans should worry about most. Warren could actually win the White House — and more — and McConnell knows it.
One doesn’t need Amazon’s cameras to smell the concern.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.