Election night panel on main issues, key races and what’s at stake

Throughout election night, we'll be turning to our panel of guests for their expert analysis. Judy Woodruff is joined by Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, David Brooks of The New York Times, Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post, freelance columnist Gary Abernathy, Former Chief of Staff to former Vice President Pence Marc Short and Democratic strategist Faiz Shakir.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Throughout the night, we are also going to be turning to our panel of guests for expert analysis.

    And they are Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter, David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, Washington Post columnist Perry Bacon, Gary Abernathy, who is also a columnist for The Washington Post based in Ohio, Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, and Faiz Shakir, who was the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign.

    Hello to all of you. Thank you so much. We're going to be spending maybe a long night together. We will see. We will learn more in the hours to come.

    I want to just kick off this evening, Amy, and start with you with, yes, what are you watching for, but, also, what is at stake in this election?

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Yes, Judy, it's such a good question in terms of what's at stake, because I think back to, actually, my own very first midterm election in 1994.

    And that was a real realigning election. Democrats had held the House for 40 years until 1994. Since 2006, if we start at that 2006 date, the House has flipped three times and it may pathetic truly flip a fourth. And so we're getting so much change over the course of these — this — these past 16 years, and yet it doesn't feel like our politics has changed all that much, right? It hasn't impacted the way that the parties or our politics are working.

    We have had big events over the course of these last two years. We have had COVID. We have had Afghanistan. We have had inflation and the economy. Of course, we have the Roe v. Wade decision. We have a war raging in Ukraine.

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • Amy Walter:

    And yet our politics still seems very parochial and very polar — just as polarized, and so that the issue, I think, of what's driving this election, yes, I think we're going to find that inflation, the economy, opinions about the president become the most important factors.

    And yet those — all those other big issues that, maybe in another era, would have had a tremendous impact on the outcome of this election seem to be just sort of bit players.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    David Brooks, what are you thinking tonight as we…

  • David Brooks:


    And I have read 1,000 analyses of why our electorate has been tied for 30 years, none of them persuasive.


  • David Brooks:

    And so I don't think we know.

    I guess what I'm looking for is tectonic shifts. So, there's an ebb and flow of midterms and general elections. But there are some things that gradually change across elections. And so one of those has been the educational sorting, people without college degrees going to the GOP, people with college degrees going to the Democratic Party.

    The Democrats have tried with a lot of spending bills to win back some of those working-class voters. We will see if that works. I think they really need to staunch the flow there.

    And then the second and maybe most big thing I'm looking at is Hispanic voters. Over the last couple elections, especially under Donald Trump, Republicans have done better with Hispanics. There have been some polling numbers in the last couple of weeks that show Republicans accelerating those gains.

    So, Hispanics have been a pretty reliable Democratic constituency. Is that becoming more divided?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In just a few seconds, I'm going to ask the other four of you, because we're going to hit at the top of the hour.

    But, Faiz Shakir, what do you — what are you thinking tonight?

  • Faiz Shakir, Democratic Strategist:

    Well, I'm jumping right off David's point.

    You talk about working-class voters. It is the major issue that — to the extent there are persuasion voters still out there in a highly polarized climate, I do think a lot of them tend to be working-class voters, people under — making $50,000, $60,000 a year, people without a college degree.

    Those are people in South Texas, those are people in Florida, people in Ohio who could determine some of these tight elections. And Democrats, on that issue, how do you do it? You make a compelling economic contrast. Did they do enough? I don't think that we did. I don't think we offered, what is the next two or three things that, if you kept a Democratic majority, what are you going to deliver for working-class people?

    We talked backwards about accomplishments. We didn't talk forwards about the agenda that working-class people could gravitate to, the fight that was posed for them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Marc Short?

    Marc Short, Former Chief of Staff to Former Vice President Mike Pence: Well, I agree with that.

    I think that the reality is that the issues that have been dominating the last several months of the election cycle have been inflation, border issues, and crime in inner cities. And I think that Republicans are on the winning side of those issues.

    I do think that one piece that is lost when we look at this use, there was a data point in your last section that had 28 Republicans — or 28 members usually shift in a midterm. But when it's one-party control, the number is actually higher. It's significantly higher, because Americans like divided government, and — but I think that, in 2020, what's lost is it's, there's so much coverage of the presidential election.

    The Republicans actually picked up 15 House seats, even though we lost the presidency. And so a lot of the low-hanging fruit was already gathered. Still, I think you're going to see a significant night for Republicans tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Perry Bacon?

  • Perry Bacon Jr., The Washington Post:

    What Amy said is so important, I want to underscore it again, is that January 6 and the overturn of Roe v. Wade are hugely important events, but it looks like we're going to have a midterm where the president's party loses some seats, but not a whole lot, which is kind of what normally happens.

    Maybe we will see 60 tonight. But, in general, the idea that January 6, sky-high inflation and the overturning of Roe v. Wade did not really — most — about 90 of people are going to vote for the same party they always vote for tonight.

    And I think the calcifications, the stuckness, the sort of deep polarization that doesn't move, no matter what, is a really striking — what's most striking about our policy right now is how little changes even in these big events, while we all vote for the same party all the time and nothing really shifts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Gary Abernathy.

  • Gary Abernathy, Freelance Journalist:


    Well, I think Perry is right. President Biden has been trying for a long time, the January 6 Committee tried over and over again to focus people on January 6 and the danger of election deniers. The American people, by and large, just aren't buying it.

    In 2018, to go back and play devil's advocate, no one did a count that I'm aware of how many Democratic candidates did not accept Donald Trump as a legitimate president. Now, Gallup tells us that 56 percent of all Democrats across the country did not accept him. We didn't worry so much about that election denialism.

    And I think the American people are saying, you know what, we are more worried about inflation. We are more are worried about a porous Southern border than we are about the menace that these Republican candidates supposedly pose to us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, David Brooks, we could end up spending a lot of time tonight talking about what should have been talked about on the campaign trail, but wasn't.


  • David Brooks:

    And then people will talk about what we should have talked about.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Amy Walter, I mean, we're coming down to a lot of this conversation tonight is going to be about, what was — what was the messaging and what should or could have been the messaging?

  • Amy Walter:

    You know, earlier this week, I was talking to a longtime Republican strategist who said, look, the bottom line in politics is, you have to play the hand you're dealt, and you do the best that you can with that hand.

    And I think, for Democrats, if we go all the way back to the beginning of 2021, I think they thought they did have an economic message that was going to work. And that was going to be the argument in the campaign. We got past COVID. The economy's running hot, thanks to us, who poured another trillion dollars of stimulus, no thanks to Republicans.

    But that's not what we're talking about, because voters are saying, that was fine. OK, thanks for that check. But I'm paying a lot more money for my groceries now. And that's much more important.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, we're going to have a chance throughout the night to pursue every one of these points that you have made.

    Thank you all for right now.

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