Alabama’s Doug Jones: Senator releases ad backing masks

The ad is the latest example of how Congress’ a reaction to the coronavirus pandemic has turned into a political issue. Jones is the most susceptible incumbent Democratic senator in 2020.

“The Covid crisis has shown how our health depends on each other, on our neighbors, our loved ones, our co-workers,” says Jones. “Wearing masks and social distancing is about protecting each other, our parents and grandparents, the friend who has diabetes or a heart condition we didn’t know about, the front-line workers who put themselves at risk, and so our small businesses open safely and get our economy moving.”

“We do this for each other,” that he adds by the end, while gaining a mask.

The Jones ad is available in the middle of a debate within the Republican Party over how to encourage Americans to be safe during the pandemic. The Jones campaign has booked the ad to air in the Montgomery media market this week, at a cost around $226,000, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

The mask has turned into a symbol of the political allegiance during the pandemic, pitting some supporters of Trump against those who just take the advice of healthcare experts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Health Committee, plus some top healthcare officials in the Trump administration have all encouraged wearing a mask in order to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Alexander urged Trump on Tuesday to “just get rid of this mask politics,” adding that “it hurts the country and it doesn’t help him.” Alexander, who is retiring after this term, said the debate “makes no sense” because Trump supporters would help the President win reelection should they wore masks to retain the disease and reopen the economy sooner.

“If you’re pro-Trump, you don’t wear a mask, and if you’re anti-Trump, you’re more likely to wear a mask,” that he said. “But that makes no sense.”

Trump has continued to defy health experts’ recommendations and shown reluctance to wear a mask in public, telling the Wall Street Journal it is “a double-edged sword” that could make people prone to get infected since wearers fidget with them and may get a false sense of security. The President also suggested that some masks are worn as an expression of opposition to him.

Vice President Mike Pence was asked on Tuesday if the Trump administration is delivering inconsistent public health messaging. “The President has worn a mask in public, as have I, and you’ve heard a strong encouragement about mask wearing,” that he responded. “But let me say we believe that Americans should wear a mask whenever state and local authorities indicate that it’s appropriate, or whenever social distancing is not possible. And we’ll continue to convey that message.”

Overall, 65% of adults say they’ve worn masks “in stores or other businesses all or most of the time in the past month,” according to a recent Pew Research Center study. But only 49% of conservative Republicans said they have worn them “all or most of the time in the past month,” in contrast to 60% of moderate Republicans and 83% of liberal Democrats.

Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan told CNN that she wears a mask “whenever possible in public,” but that “this topic will find folks on both sides of the debate.”

“My biggest observation is there seems to be a lot of mask shaming that adds more division,” she wrote within an email. “People are watching the data, updates and the Covid situation. They are making their own decisions. The time spent on the mask wars is probably interesting to many but does it change any minds? There is nothing wrong with reminders on wearing masks, but it’s eventually the individual’s choice.”

Lathan said the Jones ad is a “good mask public service announcement” but that it omits Jones’ voting record, which she said strikes from the will of the majority of Alabamians, including voting to remove the President after his impeachment and from the confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“He can’t mask these facts in the highest-approval-rated Trump state in the nation,” she added.

'It would help' if Trump wore a mask, GOP health committee leader says
Jones is running in a state that Trump won in 2016 by not quite 30 points. In 2017, Jones beat Roy Moore, a twice-defrocked state Supreme Court justice accused of sexually assaulting teenagers, with a point . 5. He’ll face a tougher opponent in 2020. On July 14, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who held the Senate seat for 20 years, faces former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who boasts Trump’s endorsement, in the Republicans’ primary runoff election. The Jones, Sessions and Tuberville campaigns didn’t respond to requests for comment about the new ad.
In the absence of a state mandate and amid an increase in cases, some cities and counties in Alabama have issued stricter guidance. In Jefferson County, the house of Birmingham and the absolute most populous county in their state, a mandatory face-covering order reportedly went into influence on Monday.

CORRECTION: The story has been updated to fix a description of Jones’ Senate voting record.

CNN’s David Wright, Ali Zaslav and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.

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