A crazy person is running for Senate in Montana. If you didn’t know any better, you might reasonably assume that this candidate was nominated by the GOP. But you’d be wrong. Not this cycle, in which Republicans have largely avoided the missteps that cost it seats in 2010 and 2012, and have managed to assemble an impressive slate of candidates. For once, Democrats are a bigger embarrassment.
In Montana, for example, Democratic incumbent John Walsh was forced to drop out of the race after the New York Times revealed that Walsh had extensively plagiarized his 2007 thesis at the Army War College. Walsh made matters worse when his campaign shamelessly sought to blame his lack of judgment on post-traumatic stress disorder.
In Walsh’s place, Montana Democrats recently decided to nominate a crazy person: state Rep. Amanda Curtis, whose, shall we say, interesting views on guns, religion, family, Frankenstein, and anarchism, are sure to play well with swing voters in the largely rural state.
Then there is Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). What on earth is she talking about?
On women and trade:
She is currently experiencing some legal problems. Fortunately for Grimes, she can always take over the family business if she loses: Her father, former state Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan, co-owns Hugh Jass Burgers, a brotastic bar in Lexington that offers a plate of ribs known as "Charlotte’s Rack," named after Lundergan’s wife.
Democrats thought they could put Georgia in play when they nominated Michele Nunn. But Republicans didn't nominate another Todd Akin; they nominated a solid candidate in David Purdue who is going to win. Colorado, on the other hand, looks like it could become a potential Republican pickup in a wave election since the GOP convinced unsuccessful 2010 candidate Ken Buck not to run, and replaced him with another solid candidate, Rep. Cory Gardner.
Earlier this week, former Alaska attorney general Dan Sullivan won the state’s Republican primary despite efforts from Democratic Super PACs to knock him out of the race. He will pose a tough challenge for Democratic incumbent Mark Begich, who remains vulnerable despite his best efforts to run away from President Obama.
Senator Mary Landrieu (D., La.) is struggling against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, and has come under fire for illegally using taxpayer dollars on plane rides to campaign fundraisers. In North Carolina, Senator Kay Hagan (D) is in a dead heat with Republican Thom Tillis, whose lead might be even larger if not for a Libertarian Party candidate currently drawing around 10 percent of the vote, according to polls.
Arkansas's Mark Pryor (D) is even more vulnerable thanks to the strength of GOP candidate Rep. Tom Cotton, whose impressive resume includes Harvard Law School and tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as a U.S. Army officer. In Nebraska, Democrats aren't even trying to compete in the race to succeed Senator Mike Johanns (R), but Republicans managed to recruit an impressive candidate in Ben Sasse, a Tea Party favorite with degrees from Yale and Harvard.
The race to succeed retiring Democrat Tim Johnson in South Dakota won't be close, either. The GOP has a strong candidate in popular former Gov. Mike Rounds, who is leading by double digits. Deep down, even Democratic challenger Rich Weiland knows that Rounds is going to win.
Then there's Iowa, where the best candidate Democrats could come up with was Rep. Bruce Braley, a gaffe-prone trial lawyer who spends most of his time looking down on his would-be constituents. Braley has gone from criticizing GOP Senator Chuck Grassley for being "a farmer from Iowa" at a fundraiser in Texas, to falsely claiming to be a farmer, and misspelling basic farming terms. He is basically a less handsome version of John Edwards.
Braley is facing off against Republican Joni Ernst, another strong candidate who boasts endorsements from both Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. Ernst served in Iraq, is a lieutenant colonel in Iowa National Guard, and has lent her voice to a bipartisan campaign to reform how the military handles sexual assault cases. She holds a slight edge in the polls.
This is all a refreshing change from past cycles, when Republicans chose weaker candidates and underperformed. This year, the GOP has strong candidates and a favorable map. According to the data nerds at the New York Times, Republicans have a 62 percent chance of gaining a majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, Democrats are embarrassing themselves, and scrambling to avoid a massive humiliation on Election Day. That's a welcome change of pace, assuming they the GOP can't find a way to screw it up between now and November.