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Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday challenged his Democratic competitor, Amy McGrath, to a "socially distanced, Lincoln-Douglas style debate" with "no notes at the table, no props and no audience."

Why it matters: McConnell has held a steady lead over McGrath in most polling for the race, adding a layer of intrigue over his request.

  • McConnell is a fundraising giant, and most prognosticators believe he'll hold onto his seat in November.
  • Cook Political Report rates the race as "likely Republican," and the latest Quinnipiac poll showed McConnell ahead by 5 points.

What he's saying: McConnell argued, "While the coronavirus campaign has changed how we campaign in 2020, it is my view that any plans to hold in-person debates between the two of us should not be impacted."

  • "Before casting their ballots this November, Kentuckians deserve the opportunity to compare us side-by-side as we share our competing visions for Kentucky's long-term prosperity."

The big picture: Debates without an audience look set to be the norm amid the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders did a trial run of this method in March with a head-to-head debate in a television studio near the tail end of their Democratic primary battle.

Go deeper

McConnell defends Trump's refusal to concede to Biden

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) celebrated Republicans' congressional victories and defended President Trump's refusal to concede to Joe Biden, saying on the Senate floor Monday that Trump has "every right to look into allegations and request recounts."

The state of play: As of Monday afternoon, only four Republican senators — Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) — had congratulated Biden on his projected victory.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

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