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Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images   

Chuck Schumer told party donors during recent calls that the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fact that Cal Cunningham "couldn't keep his zipper up" crushed Democrats' chances of regaining the Senate, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats are hoping for a 50-50 split by winning two upcoming special elections in Georgia. But their best chance for an outright Senate majority ended when Cunningham lost in North Carolina and Sen. Susan Collins won in Maine.

  • During a recent donor call, the minority leader lamented being unable to successfully recruit Stacey Abrams to run for a Senate seat in Georgia, one of the sources said. He also said he regretted successfully recruiting Cunningham.
  • Schumer has made the zipper comment on numerous calls, the source added.
  • One source familiar with the private discussions told Axios that, when discussing the Georgia Senate races, Schumer acknowledged he tried to recruit Abrams but says she insisted Raphael Warnock was the right choice.

The backstory: Many thought North Carolina could go blue before news of Cunningham's affair surfaced. Ginsburg's death, meanwhile, let Collins reshape the debate about filling Supreme Court vacancies, Schumer said.

  • The Maine Republican was chastened for voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh after he faced charges of sexual assault.
  • When Ginsburg died, Collins appealed to Democrats, independents and undecideds by opposing filling her seat until voters picked the next president.
  • The Senate still plowed ahead with confirming conservative Amy Coney Barrett, but Collins got political cover from her no vote. She went on to defeat Democrat Sara Gideon.

Go deeper

Jan 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McConnell won't reconvene Senate early for impeachment trial

McConnell. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell will not consent to reconvening the Senate on Friday under emergency authorities, delaying the start of President Trump's likely impeachment trial until Jan. 19 at the earliest, McConnell's team confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: If the House votes to impeach Trump for incitement of the Capitol riot on Wednesday, as is expected, the trial will likely not take place until after President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

Capitol assault only one reason Trump impeached

A television in the White House briefing room shows the near-final impeachment vote against President Trump. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump didn't earn his historic second impeachment just by inciting a riot on a single day. He laid its foundation event by event during the two months preceding it.

Why it matters: Uneasiness built to rage among some Republicans as the president challenged the election results, blocked important legislative accomplishments and cost the party its hold on the Senate.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.