Republican candidates around the country have decided that social distancing and masking are the right approach after all. They are distancing themselves from President Donald Trump and masking the fact that they supported him in the first place. It's a matter of survival — political survival — after all. Sticking with Trump increasingly looks like a surefire way to get kicked out of office by voters.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, was brutal in his assessment last week that a "Republican blood bath" is coming on Nov. 3 because of Trump. Speaking by phone with constituents, a recording of which was obtained by the Washington Examiner, Sasse excoriated the president's performance on multiple fronts.
"The reality is that he careened from curb to curb. First, he ignored COVID. And then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this. And that was always wrong. ... I don't think the way he's led through COVID has been reasonable or responsible, or right," Sasse said.
"The way he kisses dictators' butts. ... The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership. The way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor ...," Sasse said. "He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He's flirted with white supremacists."
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Martha McSally of Arizona also have publicly distanced themselves from Trump's antics. Collins and Murkowski declared they would not support Trump's Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Collins and McSally criticized Trump's failure to commit to an orderly transition if he loses and to unequivocally condemn white supremacists.
Rep. Rodney Davis recognized months ago that it might be time to jump off the Trump train. "Don't be stupid," he urged his House colleagues when some opted to ignore science and follow Trump's lead in shunning masks — as Trump did before he contracted the coronavirus. Davis also criticized Trump's behavior during his first debate with former Vice President Joe Biden, saying "it makes it more difficult" as Davis fights to retain his seat.
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-MO, has tried to distance herself from Trump as her opponent, Democratic state Sen. Jill Schupp, advances in polls. Having voted in lock step with Trump these past four years, Wagner told St. Louis Public Radio last week: "We're not one in the same. ... We have extreme differences, especially in tenor and tone."
Republican strategist Rory Cooper describes such examples as a "jailbreak moment" for Republicans desperate to escape the taint of Trumpian ineptitude. Try as they might to keep their campaigns healthy, Trump's political plague has proven pernicious. Voters possess the only known vaccine, which they should deploy zealously on Nov. 3.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH