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Economy Woven Into Election Night Outcome

November 2, 2010 at 6:29 PM EDT

DAVID CHALIAN: It’s that issue. As David and Mark were saying earlier, the economy is permeating this entire election. I found, in the preliminary exit poll numbers that are out there right now, Gwen, you have more people saying they expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse than it is today than those who think it will get better — 39 percent say it will be worse for the next generation — 32 percent says it will get better.

To me, that sort of is the undergirding throughout this entire election season that nobody — or I shouldn’t say nobody, but that more people have a negative outlook of where the country is going than a positive outlook economically for the next generation.

GWEN IFILL: OK. So, Stu, so let’s explain how that is playing out in a couple of specific House races. Let’s start in Kentucky, the 6th District. Ben Chandler is running against Andy Barr. There are perils in this case of being a first-time incumbent.

STUART ROTHENBERG, editor and publisher, The Rothenberg Political Report: Well, this is a — he’s not a first-time incumbent. He was elected in a special in 2004 and has been reelected since then.


STUART ROTHENBERG: This is the Lexington-Frankfort district. And we didn’t Ben Chandler was going to be in trouble at all, I mean, six months ago, a year ago.

The Republicans spent some money on Andy Barr. He’s a former deputy chief counsel under Governor Ernie Fletcher, who was rather unpopular. He’s an attorney. This is a district that is 43 — was a 43 percent Obama district. So, it is a conservative district with conservative voters, Republican voters.

And Andy Barr is doing very well. And it is a good indicator of how big the wave is. Ben Chandler may still win. But does he squeak it out? Does he win comfortably, or does Andy Barr pull an upset? Ben Chandler voted for the stimulus and for cap-and-trade, but not for health care.

But a lot of Republicans tell me they only need one, certainly two. If they have got all three, they have got a winner argument here. So, this has turned into a tough race. A Blue Dog Democrat who wasn’t supposed to have a hard race is having one.

GWEN IFILL: David, here’s another race that was always going to be a tough race, because it tough two years ago. And that’s Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania, the 8th District, in suburban Philadelphia. I remember being there in 2008. He’s a young Iraq war veteran. He beats Mike Fitzpatrick, who held the seat before. And, this time, he’s fighting for it again.

DAVID CHALIAN: Right. He beat Fitzpatrick back in 2006. He was part of the Rahm Emanuel’s recruiting class that year, when…

GWEN IFILL: That’s right, ’06, not ’08. You’re right.

DAVID CHALIAN: Yes, in 2006. He’s a sophomore, yes.

But Bucks County, he represents. And it’s the story of the suburbs here, Gwen, because this is one of those contested battles, no doubt about it. And it is a rematch from four years ago. And you may recall that, back in 2006, when the Democrats were riding a wave and swept into Congress, they edged out over Republicans the suburban vote nationwide.

That wasn’t normally the case. And that was something that the Democrats worked very hard to do, lots of independent voters there. And this is one of those key suburban districts that I think will tell us a larger story about the fabric of the country overall, where we live and how we live, in terms of choosing our leaders this time around.

And it seems to me that this would be a place to look, that, if a wave is happening, it’s going to happen here as well, in suburban districts like this one across the country.

GWEN IFILL: OK. Here are three more races, all of them in Indiana, another state we for some reason spend every election night watching very closely, quintessentially purple.

Let’s start with the 2nd District, Joe Donnelly. Jackie Walorski, a Tea Party-backed Republican, Joe Donnelly is running against her. In the 8th District, we have Trent Van Haaften running against Larry Bucshon for an open seat, and, in the 9th, Baron Hill, who is an incumbent, running against Todd Young.

I was in Kentucky not long ago covering the Rand Paul-Jack Conway race, and all I saw was Baron Hill ads linking him to Nancy Pelosi.

STUART ROTHENBERG: Right. Well, these are three different races.

The Donnelly seat is in the northern part of the state. It is an Obama district. He won it by a few percentage points, 53, 54 percent.

Walorski is not regarded, was never regarded as one of the star recruits for the Republicans. And Donnelly went out of his way very early to run TV ads distancing himself, both from Speaker Pelosi and from the president.

It was thought that that would be enough to protect him. But, over the past few weeks, it’s started to look again as though he’s vulnerable. This was a case of a guy who seemed to be able to resist the wave. And now there’s some question about that.

GWEN IFILL: And can any of the others resist the wave, David?

DAVID CHALIAN: Well, I look at all three of these in one category, which was, they were majority-maker seats for the Democrats in 2006.

Now, I remember ads in these districts in 2006 trying to use Nancy Pelosi, “Oh, no, she would be speaker,” and trying to use her against them then. That didn’t work, when there was a wave at the Democratic back.

But you’re right. Nancy Pelosi has been on the Republican ads in these districts throughout this election campaign cycle. And it’s having a lot more traction this time around. These are precisely the kind of seats that will be minority-makers for the Democrats, potentially, that were majority-makers in 2008.

GWEN IFILL: So, you’re expecting minority-makers. And if we’re watching for this first wave of actual results, we should keep an eye on Indiana, Stu?

STUART ROTHENBERG: Yes, certainly. The Indiana 8th, the southwestern district, the open seat — this is Brad Ellsworth, who is running for the Senate — the Democrats have really decided not to contest this. So, this district will go Republican.

The Baron Hill seat is more interesting. Baron Hill is a tenacious campaigner. It is a Republican district. He has won in good times and in bad times. These times might be even too bad for Baron Hill.

GWEN IFILL: Even too bad for him. OK, Stu Rothenberg, David Chalian, see you when we get some numbers.