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The Senate was designed to cool our politics down. No more

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell walks at the Capitol on Sept. 21, 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell walks at the Capitol on Sept. 21, 2020.Alex Wong / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — What’s always separated the U.S. Senate from the House has been the upper chamber’s collegiality, sense of common purpose, and its comparative independence from the election calendar (given that members are up for re-election just once every six years).

After all, it was designed that way. The Senate has famously been described as a cooling saucer for the “hot tea” of the House. Or James Madison envisioned it as a “necessary fence” against the fickleness of the House.

But no more.

With Senate Republicans going for broke to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death — after Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation, after impeachment and after the health care wars — today’s Senate is no different than the House.

Brute political force has replaced collegiality. Winning at all costs is more important than common purpose. And it’s election season all the time over at the U.S. Senate.

Make no mistake: Partisanship, politics and party before country have always played out on Capitol Hill, including inside the august Senate chambers.

But in years past, the Senate could say it was different from the House.

John McCain could work with a Democratic president on immigration reform; Ted Kennedy could craft an education bill with a GOP president; and advice and consent meant for all senators – not just for the party in power.

But no more.

A year ago, Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke about the importance of collegiality at the Supreme Court (which has definitely seen its share of partisanship, disagreement and controversy).

“Collegiality is very important in the workplace,” she said at the University of Chicago. “We couldn’t do the job the Constitution assigns to us unless we worked well together.”

That’s true for any organization — whether it’s the workplace, a sports league or local government.

And especially the United States Senate.

Tied in Iowa and Georgia

Maybe the most interesting races to watch the political impact of this Supreme Court fight are in Iowa and Georgia — where the presidential race is tied, with pretty generic Republican-versus-Democrat Senate contests.

In Iowa, a new Des Moines Register poll has the presidential race tied among likely voters at 47 percent. And in the state’s Senate race, it’s Democrat Theresa Greenfield at 45 percent and GOP incumbent Joni Ernst at 42 percent. (FYI: It’s never good to be an incumbent in the low 40s).

And in Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll also has the presidential contest tied at 47 percent. And in one of the state’s two Senate contests this year, it’s GOP incumbent David Perdue at 47 percent and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff at 45 percent.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6,891,300: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 55,608 more than yesterday morning.)

201,118: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 432 more than yesterday morning.)

95.84 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

15: The number of airplane passengers infected by a single sick passenger who took a March 1 flight from London to Hanoi, per the CDC.

49 percent to 48 percent: The divide between Americans who say that college football players should and should not be allowed to play this fall because of coronavirus, according to a new NBC|SurveyMonkey poll.

$16 million: How much Mike Bloomberg has raised to pay the court fees and fines of nearly 32,000 Black and Latino voters in Florida with felony convictions who are still barred from voting because of those debts.

2020 Vision: (Dog) whistle while you work

President Trump’s dog whistle on suburbia is getting louder. At a Monday night rally in Wisconsin, the president made his pitch to suburban men and women — specifically suburban housewives. But the president’s pitch focused on not letting certain “them”s into the suburbs.

“They want security and they don't want projects right next to their house. That's okay. And I think suburbia has got to wake up because if they get in and you know who is in charge, you know who's in charge of the program. Cory Booker — Cory Booker, Cory Booker. So I think the suburban women and men and husbands and wives and everybody, you better get smart because you're not going to have your dream very much longer if they get in — if I get in, you've got it.”

Trump has made that claim about N.J. Sen. Cory Booker before. In August, Booker responded on Twitter saying, “your racism is showing.”

On the campaign trail today

President Trump stumps in Moon Township, Penn. Kamala Harris is in Detroit.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

How conservative is Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler?

Well, according to her campaign, she’s to the right of Attila the Hun — literally. A new spot from Loeffler’s campaign has a couple talking about her political leanings, calling her “more conservative than Attila the Hun.”

The ad then smash-cuts to a portrayal of Attila where he ticks off a wish list of “fight China” (as many pointed out on Twitter, Attila fought the Roman Empire while Genghis Khan occupied much of modern-Day China); “attack big government;” and “eliminate the liberal scribes.”

It’s not exactly a “win the suburbs” strategy from the candidate once seen as a more moderate alternative to Republican Rep. Doug Collins (whose campaign literally dropped opposition research on Attila the Hun and his support for abortions and killing Christians).

The Lid: Full court press

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at what the numbers tell us about the politics of the Supreme Court vacancy.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Vulnerable Republican Cory Gardner says he backs a vote on the president’s nominee.

The president is invoking a new threat to fire up his voters: Kamala Harris ascending to the presidency.

The Justice Department has named New York City, Portland and Seattle “anarchist jurisdictions.” What does that mean?

An increasing number of scientists are expressing alarm that a vaccine could be pushed through too fast.

Here’s why a Cuban-American judge in Florida could be an attractive pick for Trump.

We could be poised for consequential cases about voting rules to head to the Supreme Court.

North Carolina could be the most important state in 2020. Here’s why.

A former prosecutor on Robert Mueller’s team says he could have done more to hold President Trump accountable.

And Bruce Mehlman breaks down the 2020 election.