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The states you should be watching tonight

November 7, 2016 at 6:35 PM EST
On the eve of the election, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Susan Page of USA Today and Andra Gillespie of Emory University join Judy Woodruff and Hari Sreenivasan to discuss which states to watch, how the country’s changing demographics have played into the race, the influence of early voting and how the presidential candidates are campaigning in the last 24 hours.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for our election eve edition of Politics Monday.

We’re joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of USA Today, and Andra Gillespie of Emory University.

It’s great to have all of you with us.

Amy, we just heard a little from Domenico Montanaro of NPR about what he thinks the map looks like. What do you think it looks like right now?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: I don’t really disagree with that at all.

And I think every election, I come in with the grand hopes that we look at the map, and we look at when the polls close, and we say we’re going to be able to project out how this map is going to come together over the course of the night.

But, as you all discussed, sometimes, a state is a little bit too close to call. Sometimes, a state comes in earlier than you expected.

So, really, what I’m really looking for are the anomalies. What’s a state that we didn’t expect to go one way that is going that way? What is that going to tell us? So, for example, if Georgia goes to Hillary Clinton, that tells us she is going to have a really, really, really big night.

If a state like Michigan does end up going to Donald Trump, that says maybe that Rust Belt strategy paid off. That is more likely the — that’s what I’m going to be looking for. But, really, the three states that I’m going to be paying attention to, that everybody in America will be paying attention to, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Susan, what are your early indicators if you’re looking out to…

SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: Ohio I would put on that list as well.

AMY WALTER: Yes. Yes.

SUSAN PAGE: Because, if you look at Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Donald Trump needs to win all of them. If Hillary Clinton wins one of them, that’s a pretty good sign that she is a path to victory.

And if you look at early closing states, Georgia, the polls close at 7:00. So, that’s, as you say, a state that ought to go red. So, if it goes blue, that’s a big sign. Virginia also closes as 7:00. That’s a state that ought to go blue. So, if that goes red, that is a sign that Donald Trump is going to have a better night than we think.

One of the interesting things about this year’s map is that it’s different, I think, from previous years because of Donald Trump’s appeal to white working-class voters and because of changing demographics with Latino voters.

So, we have seen Southwestern states, like, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico being more likely to go blue than in the past and these Industrial Midwestern states more likely to go red.

So, in some ways, I think we’re in a kind of transition in this country in terms of the coalition that are behind each of the parties.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Andra Gillespie, you spend a lot of time looking at demographics. What do you see when you look at both the African-American, the Latino component of this electorate?

ANDRA GILLESPIE, Emory University: Well, I am wondering whether or not 2016 is going to be for Latinos what 1964 was for African-Americans.

So, in particular, I’m interested in the break in the vote for Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump amongst Latino voters. A lot of the polling, Latino Decisions, for instance, is saying right now that she will get 75 percent of the Latino vote.

And what I want to see is whether or not that’s actually higher for the undecideds, whether or not they start to break towards Clinton, she actually gets upwards of 80 percent of the Latino vote. I think that that suggests a huge shift in our politics. And it suggests that that new Democratic majority that is being made up of a multicultural coalition is something that’s already here.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Amy, in the postmortem to the Mitt Romney loss, Republicans wanted to go out and court the Latino vote.

AMY WALTER: Yes. They did that really well.

(LAUGHTER)

AMY WALTER: So, they nominated a candidate who has done two amazing things.

One, not only did he not reach out and broaden the Romney coalition. So he’s doing much worse among all non-white voters, but he also found a way to actually split up the Romney coalition. So, among these white working-class voters, he’s doing a little bit better than Mitt Romney, but among white voters with a college education, he’s doing a lot worse.

And so, to me, what I’m most fascinated to see is, one, as Andra points to, what the new coalition is going to look like, but then to see whether or not it lasts post this election and these two unique individuals.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re really guilty at election time of breaking the electorate up into groups, into this ethnic group and that gender.

But, Susan, I do want to ask about women, because the polls do indicate that Hillary Clinton is doing much better among women voters than Donald Trump. You would expect that of a Democrat, but this year it just seems to be markedly more so.

SUSAN PAGE: And, of course, she’s our first woman nominee of a major party for president, so that may have some resonance.

Also, Donald Trump in particular I think has driven some women voters away from the GOP who might otherwise have voted for the Republican nominee, even with Democrats nominating a women. And that would be white college-educated women, independent women, women in suburban areas.

That’s one of the swing groups that we should be watching for. I think the two — you talk about we break groups down. And that’s true. The two critical groups in this election are Latinos. And early voting in Nevada and in Florida indicate a big surge in Latino turnout.

And white women, who historically have voted for the Republican Party, do they move to the Democratic Party? It looks like they will do that. And to Amy’s point, do they stick? Is it more than a one-election affair?

HARI SREENIVASAN: How much did the Comey news over the weekend play into this, and what kind of an impact did it have, considering what happened a couple of weeks ago and what happened last night?

AMY WALTER: What House Democrats will tell you is, they think that that blunted their momentum enough — they were doing very well up until this point, thinking they could flip a few more seats — it blunted their momentum enough that it might cost them five to 10 seats.

So, they, of all the folks out there, are the most upset about the change there. I think it also blunted the ability for Hillary Clinton to be able to try to change her favorable-to-unfavorable ratio. It was starting to inch up. Her favorable ratings were starting to inch up. Now they’re back a little bit better than Donald Trump’s, not much better.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Andra, would you agree with that analysis? Are we looking at mainly an impact on Senate and House races, less so on the overall?

ANDRA GILLESPIE: I would agree.

When I think about how hard, fast people’s opinions were about this race, they were actually fixed before this e-mail investigation was open. So, if you hated Hillary Clinton, this wasn’t going to change your mind because you were not voting for her anyway. And if you were already committed to Clinton, then you were already going to vote for her.

So, I guess this gives Clinton supporters greater sort of support and affirmation of their decision to choose to vote for her. But I think, at this point, most people had already made up their mind.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Susan, what about the spread? In that week, there were a lot of early voters that went to the polls.

SUSAN PAGE: There were 40 million early voters between the first Comey letter and the second Comey letter.

And they went and voted on the assumption that there was probably something serious that the FBI was going to look at. So, I think it probably had an energizing effect with some Republicans, Republicans maybe not that enthused about Donald Trump, but, man, this is a reminder of why I don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton, and probably a depressive effect among some Democratic voters.

I don’t think it swings a state, but I think hurt on the margins. And, like Amy, I have talked to some strategists for down-ballot races that think it’s probably cost them a Senate seat or two and a handful of House races.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it wouldn’t be election eve, Amy, if I didn’t ask you about, what are you looking for tomorrow night? The polls close officially at 7:00. What are you going to be watching for?

AMY WALTER: Well, those states that we just discussed are really what I’m going to be looking for.

So, let’s see if — I think Ohio is a great place to look. This is a state where Donald Trump has been leading. The expectation is that he — this is a state he can win. But from what we’re seeing on the early vote and on the ground, that Hillary Clinton’s closing that gap. If Hillary Clinton wins Ohio, I think this suggests this is going to be a very good, big night for Hillary Clinton.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Susan, from our reporters on both these trails, we kind of saw a mishmash of different travel decisions on where to go.

Donald Trump is trying to make inroads into Michigan to crack that blue wall of support. And then Hillary Clinton is still trying to shore up places like Arizona and North Carolina.

SUSAN PAGE: Well, Hillary Clinton has had a very strategic plan that has involved going now to the states that didn’t have early voting, like Pennsylvania and Michigan, really focused there, very smart use of surrogates, use of Barack Obama to try go gin up black turnout in Florida and North Carolina, where the early voting indicated black turnout was down.

And with Donald Trump, you don’t see a strategy. You see a throw the spaghetti against the wall and hope it sticks somewhere, because he’s now in a place where he needs to run the table. He needs every battleground state that could break his way to break his way. And then he still needs another state, which is why he went to places like Minnesota and Michigan, where he’s unlikely to win.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Andra, I want to ask you about Georgia. It’s a state you know very well. You’re teaching there right now at Emory.

This is not a state that Hillary Clinton spent time in, but the Democrats sure are pulling out all the stops trying to get out the vote that they think could go to her. What does that look like right now?

ANDRA GILLESPIE: Well, right now, most of the polls suggest that Donald Trump will still win the state, but the margin is probably going to be even more narrow than it was 2008.

So that’s something that’s really, really important to think about. The Democratic Party of Georgia has spent months trying to convince the DNC that this was a state that was worth investing in. And this actually shows that.

In particular in Georgia, I’m going to be paying attention to Gwinnett County. This is a Republican stronghold. But, demographically, it has shifted so a majority of the voters are now voters of color. If they vote Democratic, then that represents the change that the Democratic Party in Georgia has been predicting for the last five years in the state.

AMY WALTER: And isn’t it also challenging too because it also has a high concentration of white college-educated voters.

ANDRA GILLESPIE: White college-educated voters.

AMY WALTER: So, you get both of those.

ANDRA GILLESPIE: At the same time, in addition to sort of looking west in Fulton and Cobb County as well.

AMY WALTER: Agreed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which reminds us that education is something else we’re going to be watching out for tomorrow night, those voters with and without a college education and how they divide.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, it’s great to have all of you.

Amy Walter, Andra Gillespie, Susan Page, thank you.

SUSAN PAGE: Thank you.

ANDRA GILLESPIE: Thank you.

AMY WALTER: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And please join us tomorrow, of course, for our special live coverage.

JOHN YANG: Election Day 2016, the historic end to a long campaign. Who will voters elect as the next president of the United States? Which party will control Congress? What else will we learn from the voters?

Join “PBS NewsHour” for special election night coverage, analysis you won’t find anywhere else, Tuesday November 8, starting at 8:00, 7:00 Central, only on PBS.

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