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GOP, Democratic Strategists on Potential Changes to the Political Map

November 2, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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Thank you both for being with us. We just saw that report on the effect of these outside groups raising a lot of money, pouring millions of dollars into this campaign. Leslie Sanchez, to you first. How much of an effect is all that money going to have on this campaign?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, Republican strategist: I think it’s going to raise a tremendous amount of buzz, certainly media interest. And with the advent of social media, as a lot of those ads have become viral, they’re seen by a lot more people.

And it creates an area, kind of a collective area of people who are attuned to those particular candidates. To that extent, I think they have an influence. But money has — outside money has always been part of campaigns. This is not new. And it’s not so over-the-top as one would think based on the media coverage.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Finney, not new and not over-the-top?

KAREN FINNEY, former communications director, Democratic National Committee: You know, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

I think one of the big stories coming out of this election actually will be, as we learn more about — and when the reports actually come out, how much money really was spent by outside groups. And also it’s important to remember part of what the Citizens United case changed was the way that money could be spent.

Previously, as you all will recall, it was issue ads. You couldn’t attack a candidate directly. So, you know, that was a big difference that we have seen in this election cycle. And, again, we won’t really know how much money and what groups really spent that money until after the election. And I think it’s definitely something we’re going to have to take a look at.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not clear to you, Karen Finney, that one side or another has benefited more than the other yet?

KAREN FINNEY: My guess is that the Republicans have benefited more, because, again, you know, when you talk — folks on the Republican side like to talk a lot about labor and some of those other groups that raise money, but they are — have a different type of reporting, frankly, than some of what — they are now called these super PACs, like American Crossroads.

So, again, with American Crossroads, we don’t really know who all of those donors are. We don’t know exactly where they have spent that money. So, again, I think that’s going to raise a lot of concerns as we realize how much anonymous money was spent. And I will bet you that the results will show from the elections that places where big GOP dollars were spent meant that a candidate was bought that supports a certain position.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: I think, overall, the bottom-line reality of this is, is there is going to be mud on boots on both sides. With respect to transparency, there’s certainly a lot of organizations on the left that have generated support and interest for liberal candidates.

I don’t think it’s a fair kind of assumption to assume it’s only on the right. What it has done is engaged a lot of people who wanted to be part of the process. And to the extent that — she’s exactly right about the unions and the service employee unions and some of these organizations that have given multimillion dollars in the defense of either protecting kind of incumbent candidates or engaging in those very tight battleground races.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you both what you’re looking for tonight in terms of the future health of your political party. Karen Finney, we asked about this earlier today. And you talked about political geography in a way. What did you mean by that?

KAREN FINNEY: Yes. Sure. A couple of different things I meant by that. Number one, you know, one of the stories we may see coming out of tonight is that there may be a resurgence of Republicans in — House candidates in the Northeast. You remember that, when Chris Shays lost, the joke was sort of was that there were no more Republicans in the Northeast. So what does that mean for the Democratic Party?

Also, the South — it’s very important for the Democratic Party to continue to grow and have strength in the South. How do we fare in the South? And, most importantly, the West — when I was at the Democratic National Committee, that was really an area where we tried to have a pretty strong foothold. It’s part of the reason why we put the caucus in Nevada and we put the convention in Denver was to try and strengthen Democratic prospects in the West.

So, I will be looking to see how we do in those three regions, and also how we do among those Obama surge voters, the young voters, African-American voters, and Hispanic voters that really made the difference in the last election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Leslie Sanchez, what about the political map for Republicans and for Democrats?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: Certainly. One area completely different, we are focused the Midwest. The Midwest is critical in determining if there is this resurgence. It’s part of our historical context of being competitive in those spaces, but particularly the gubernatorial races.

In 1978, the GOP had nine governor — gains in gubernatorial races. Those — a lot of those governors set policies in place that were enabling those voters to get excited. And it really led to a lot of the 1980 Reagan landslide, kind of revolution that moved forward.

We’re trying to see if we can regain that. It was interesting that Karen — and I agree with her on the West, particularly the mountainous West. Colorado, that was an area with a lot of environmental policies. The Democrats were trying to make it kind of a California 2.0. I think you’re seeing a very strong pushback.

And another state I would point to would be New Mexico. New Mexico has Susana Martinez looking very strong, be the first Latina governor. She has run as a very authentic voice and drew a tremendous amount of support from Democrats, and certainly independents, but those conservative Democrats who were looking for refreshing ideas on education reform, ending corruption, and economic growth.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Why does this geography matter so much, Karen Finney? I mean, in the Midwest, in these governor’s races, remind us why it matters.

KAREN FINNEY: Well, in particular the governor’s races, Leslie is exactly right. And it’s actually not something we have probably focused enough on throughout this campaign season.

We are about to face redistricting. So, those governor’s races are critically important, as well as the state legislative races, actually, in terms of who controls those statehouses; therefore, who will have the most say in redistricting. We know certain states like Texas is about to gain seats and other states are going to lose seats, so that’s going to really have an impact on the House.

And, also, obviously when you get to the presidential, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, those are very important states. They are, you know, very important in terms of the electoral votes, Florida being another one. So, again, the governor who controls those states very important to the 2012 actually presidential prospects.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But just because a party does well tonight or not in one state or another, Leslie Sanchez, does that necessarily mean they’re going to — they can count on doing well in that same place two years from now?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: Absolutely not. You’re exactly right that we have reached a series of elections where it’s almost as if it’s instant gratification is expected from our elected officials. We expect them to honor their word, to be transparent, to work together to get things done.

And, fundamentally, I think that’s what this particular election is about. It’s very rare that a midterm election will be nationalized. They’re normally a series of 500-plus races. You try to get a collective sense of what the message was. All — you know, Tip O’Neill’s line, all politics is local, that is not the case now.

There is a frustration with the growth of the economy, the frustration about certainly federal deficits and spending. But I think Republicans need to be careful not to misread this. They are very much going to be judged, just the way the Democrats are judged, on fiscal responsibility, fiscal restraint, and are they catering to growth, economic growth and jobs?

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, I’m going to be talking to both of you in the next hour.

But right now, before we get to 7:00 in the East, when the first polls close, what are you both biting your fingernails about, not — not — I’m not assuming you do actually bite your fingernails.

(LAUGHTER)

But — but, Karen Finney, what are you keeping a really close watch on right now?

KAREN FINNEY: Well, obviously, we have got some key races in the West, although I sort of feel like I have got a little bit of time before I really start to, you know, turn myself into knots about those races.

As of right now, I’m very closely looking at what’s happening in Florida, Pennsylvania, and really hoping Joe Manchin pulls it out in West Virginia. So, those are the things I’m keeping a close eye on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And Leslie?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: Certainly watching Ohio and some of these key states, but particularly I’m watching the women, with — Susana Martinez, I mentioned earlier, could be the first Latina governor in the state of New Mexico, first woman.

And there’s a woman-to-woman matchup in that state, only the third time in history. Nearby, in Oklahoma, you have got women — two women running for the top seat there. Mary Fallin looks very strong and good.

And even somebody, Jaime Herrera, who is Washington 3rd District, she is running a very competitive race. That would make her only the second Hispanic Republican woman in 22 years in Congress. So, it’s a very exciting time, with a changing demographic.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we’re going to leave it there. And thank you both, for now. Leslie Sanchez, Karen Finney, thank you.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: Thank you.

KAREN FINNEY: Thank you.