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Nearing End of Conventions, Assessing State and Strategy of Campaigns

September 6, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Hari Sreenivasan talks to Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report and the NewsHour's political editor Christina Bellantoni about where campaign strategy for both camps stand at the end of the political conventions and whether voters in swing states have actually been watching.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how will the messages from Tampa and Charlotte play out up and down the ballot after the convention?

Hari Sreenivasan takes a look.

HARI SREENIVASAN: I’m joined by Nathan Gonzales of The Rothenberg Political Report, also contributor to Roll Call, and “NewsHour” political editor Christina Bellantoni.

So, the last two weeks, we have seen these competing narratives come out. And how does this translate to those election races that are down-ticket, the ones that are not President Obama, not candidate Romney?

NATHAN GONZALES, The Rothenberg Political Report: Well, I think this is going to be a jolt back to reality tomorrow morning.

First, it’s going to be the job numbers released. And then we’re going to be talking about the same eight swing states in the presidential race, the same dozen Senate seats that will decide the majority, the same 75 House races.

And for those Democratic candidates, they really need Obama to do well, but they also don’t want to be too close to him, because he still remains a polarizing figure.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Yes, absolutely. Nathan is completely right.

And one of the things that you’re seeing here is the themes that they’re trying to hit on. The Democrats are trying to criticize the Republican ticket and every down-ticket candidate for Paul Ryan’s budget plan and what it does to Medicare.

The Republicans are trying to criticize every single Democrat, saying that they would just raise taxes on everyone. So the same arguments are playing out. What is going to be really interesting is how much Americans are really paying attention to this convention, because is that messaging that they were able to put on a national stage really translating in Minnesota, in Ohio, in Florida?

HARI SREENIVASAN: What is the impact of that communication last night, whether it’s a big speech by President Clinton, a big speech by President Obama or it’s a big speech by Mitt Romney? How much of that actually filters through and makes an impact on people who are still on that undecided bubble, or will they wait until the week before the election?

NATHAN GONZALES: I think that it’s about Democrats continuing and Republicans continuing the messages that they had over the last two weeks.

Just relying on the conventions alone is not going to cut it. They have to be talking about it on the stump, getting on the television with campaign ads, because still that group in the middle are just starting to tune into this election. And the ones that are going to decide it probably won’t make up their mind for another few weeks.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: And part of it is not just about the undecided voters. It’s about exciting the base. And that’s something you have really seen here in Charlotte.

Just getting off of the tram to come into the arena today, you heard people starting to chant the “Fired up, ready to go” chant, that that’s what Democrats really want to make sure that everybody’s really energized for the president. And then that will translate down-ticket to races across the country if they get a lot of their people to the polls.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

The people in these stadiums and arenas are the choir, if you will. And so it’s not a very tough case to get these folks fired up. But how do you translate that into those — especially those small rural counties where maybe only one or two delegates are going back to?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Well, a big part of it is talking about the middle class, because the president is going to continue to talk about that obviously tonight in his big speech and say that the Democrats are the party that are caring about the middle class.

And so they are trying to say that we are out there for the farmer. They have got everything orchestrated from the stage to be able to point to little things he done along the way, whether that’s infrastructure investments or aid to farmworkers or aid for drought packages, and to be able to take that and then say, we’re thinking of you, the Republicans aren’t.

The Republicans just say, hey, we’re going to raise your — the Democrats want to raise your taxes. They’re not thinking about you.

NATHAN GONZALES: I think Democrats still have two paths.

They either have to convince the American people that the president is leading in the right direction, which still 60 percent of voters believe that the country is headed off on the wrong track. If they can’t close that deal, they have to convince the American people that Mitt Romney is simply unacceptable, an unacceptable alternative.

If they can continue to harp on Bain, that you can’t trust him, why isn’t he releasing his tax returns, and discredit him as a job creator, then that’s how they can win the election. It has to be one of those two paths.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Nathan Gonzales from The Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call, Christina Bellantoni, our politics editor, thanks so much.

NATHAN GONZALES: Thank you.