Battleground Dispatches: Reporting from the Election’s Front Lines

BY Mike Melia  October 10, 2012 at 3:48 PM EDT

Voting booths in Waterloo, Iowa

Voting booths set up for early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. In Iowa, 36 percent of voters cast an early ballot in 2008. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The presidential race is down to the final weeks and the focus has intensified on a handful of states that remain in play. In places like Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia and Ohio, the electoral rumble also spills over into a number of tight contests that could determine control of Congress.

Take a look at the presidential candidates’ schedules and you see a steady swing around these battleground states. The NewsHour is beginning a new public media collaboration: hitting the trail to cover these key states and competitive contests, we’ll be working with local stations to report on the congressional races and national issues facing voters.

This week, the stakes are high for the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan. It may be the biggest spotlight yet for the Republican representative from Wisconsin, but his name and the budget plan he drafted in the House have been front and center of many close congressional campaigns.

On Thursday, before the vice presidential debate begins, we will bring you a story from Florida that examines two races where Medicare and the so-called Ryan Budget dominate the conversation.


From West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, Republican Adam Hasner, a former state house majority leader, is locked in a toss-up race with Democrat Lois Frankel, a former two-term mayor of West Palm Beach, to represent the 22nd district seat left open by redistricting. The area is home to a large number of seniors and also Ryan’s mother, Betty Douglas. The fate of Medicare is central to the two campaigns. Hasner has placed his focus on the debt and the growing cost of the entitlement program. Frankel has emphasized words like voucher and privatization to describe the Republican platform, while having to defend her support for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

We’ll also explore Florida’s 18th District where tea party favorite Rep. Allen West is defending his seat against first time candidate and Democratic businessman, 29-year-old Patrick Murphy.

Both contests center on Medicare and what Ryan’s approach might mean for its future, but to give some perspective on how this fight is not limited to the Sunshine State, we will take you to New York where Rep. Kathy Hochul, perhaps the clearest example of the Democrats’ national strategy, is in a dead heat with Chris Collins, a former businessman and Republican county executive.

Hochul won a closely watched special election in 2011 running against the Ryan budget plan and its prescription for Medicare. That model, and thanks to Ryan’s selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee, have dictated the debate in districts across the country.

Tune into the NewsHour Thursday for the report from Public Radio International’s Todd Zwillich.

We’ll bring you more of these “Battleground Dispatches” in the weeks to come and will return to a couple of these areas after the ballots have been cast to report the stories that tell us where the country is at today and how our choices will impact where we are headed down the road. Please join us, and a new crop of contributing correspondents, both on-air and online, as we focus on the races shaping the nation’s future.