With the US midterm elections only 100 days or so away on November 8, the stakes have rarely been higher.

The machinations, skullduggery, and black arts are now in play. Here are a few vital issues to watch.

1. Are Democrats playing with fire?

The Democrats are playing with fire by funding the weakest Republican candidate in several races in the hopes of wiping them off the map in November.

The tactic has worked well so far in Illinois and Maryland where two unelectable GOPers have been chosen, but in Pennsylvania, the most important state of all, it could blow right up in their faces.

The thinking was that rock-ribbed right winger gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano was a sure loser with positions to the right of Genghis Khan. New video unearthed by Democrats apparently showed that he even took part in the January 6 insurrection by crossing police lines and breached barricades at the Capitol

To Democrats’ shock, this appeared to help not hinder him. Now Mastriano is only four points behind his Democratic rival Josh Shapiro who had been expected to skate home.

The stakes are huge. In Pennsylvania, the governor picks the secretary of state who oversees the election. The potential for mischief is very evident.

2. Is Rupert Murdoch turning against Donald Trump?

The bromance of the century may be going through a torrid divorce. In the last week alone, editorials in the New York Post and Wall Street Journal have urged Trump to get lost and allow a new slew of younger candidates to take over.

Trump never saw this runaway train coming. The two men go back decades to when the Page Six gossip page in the Post was a Trump PR machine where Trump, a rough diamond from Queens, made his reputation as a billionaire man about town with a penchant for pretty ladies and plenty to say.

Now it seems the Post wants him to shut up.

“As a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again,” an editorial writer stated last week.

The upscale Wall Street Journal was equally scathing.

Trump, the paper said, “took an oath to defend the constitution but...on January 6 he refused to. He didn’t call the military to send help. He didn’t call (Mike) Pence to check on the safety of his loyal (vice-president). Instead, he fed the mob’s anger and let the riot play out.”

Trump has “shown not an iota of regret,” the Journal said, adding, “Character is revealed in a crisis, and Mr. Pence passed his January 6 trial. Trump utterly failed him.”

Strong words, but still a wind in the willows compared to the hurricane if Fox News drops Trump. It can truly be said if the word Trump was banned, Fox hosts would be struck mute forever.

3. Roe v. Wade fallout

Finally, how the destruction of Roe v. Wade plays out is looking very significant. Several pollsters have noticed a sizable boost towards Democrats when the generic congressional question is asked – i.e., would you vote for a Democrat or a Republican?

Likewise, Dems have caught up with the GOP in the enthusiasm to vote. It would be quite ironic if Clarence Thomas et al unwittingly handed a few aces to the bare looking Democratic deck.

In conclusion, there is more hope than before for Dems, but the election is going to be extremely hard fought.

*This column first appeared in the July 27 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.