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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on suburban voters, election results timing

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Amna Nawaz to discuss the latest in politics, including which voter demographics will be critical in the 2020 election, how President Trump is reaching out to his supporters during the campaign’s final days and the key Senate races to watch.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, with that, Amna Nawaz is back our Politics Monday analysts on this Election Day eve.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    And that team, of course, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    Welcome back to you both. And good to see you.

    Amy, you have just heard there from those nonvoters, people who are sharing the reasons they're choosing not to vote this year. It seems like this surge in early voting we're seeing indicates there will be fewer of those people this year.

    But, when it comes to groups you're watching, groups to track, groups that could be critical for either Vice President Biden or President Trump, who are you keeping an eye on?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, Amna, we have been talking a lot in this most recent time about the suburbs, right?

    Ever since Trump's win in 2016, there's been tremendous movement among suburban voters, who are traditionally Republican, into the Democratic camp. We saw that in 2018, and we're seeing continuing deterioration for Republicans in and around suburbs all across the country, Texas being a prime example of this.

    But I'm also looking at how some of the voters that were traditionally in Trump's coalition, older voters, men, especially white men, and white non-college voters, voters who have a lower level of education and are white, all of those voters, at least in the polling up until now, we have seen some deterioration for the president.

    Can he get those voters back? So, those are the kinds of folks that I'm going to be paying a whole lot of attention to. And, as we know, Amna, each of these groups become — look different in different states. Some states have a higher percentage of voters that are white.

    Some have — some states, you're going to have a much more robust population that is non-white, so voters of color playing a bigger role.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, Tam, what about some of those groups Amy just mentioned?

    You have been out with President Trump recently. He continues to hold big rallies in some of those key states. What is his messages to some of those groups in this final stretch? Is there a coherent messages?

  • Tamara Keith:

    He makes a very explicit appeal to suburban women, for instance, and to older voters. It's a little obvious and ham-handed. And it's just like, hey, demographic group that I'm having trouble with, listen to me.

    But, more broadly, in terms of what his pitch is, it boils down to, he is still running as an outsider, even though he's president of the United States. And he's saying that Joe Biden is an insider and an establishment figure, and that that is the choice people need to make.

    The other thing he's running on is embodied in these big rallies, like the ones that I covered over the weekend, these big, in person gatherings where a lot of people aren't wearing masks and everyone is really close together. And the president's message is, get out, live your lives, don't worry about the coronavirus. It's just — we're turning the corner.

    And he's saying that Joe Biden's going to keep you locked up and cancel Christmas. And that is the pitch that he's making.

    The question that we have continued to have throughout this election season is, as the coronavirus case numbers rise, as hospitalizations rise, as deaths rise, and there are new records for hospitalizations and cases, is that messages that, hey, hey, everything is fine and it will all go away November 4, does that resonate with people, or are they living in fear of the coronavirus that would make that not resonate?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Tam, there's another thing I want to follow up with you on, briefly, though.

    There's another part of the president's messages about there has to be some kind of result by the end of the night tomorrow. What do you make of that?

  • Tamara Keith:

    You know, he has been laying the groundwork for this for months, right?

    He was trashing the whole idea of absentee voting or vote-by-mail, and even though they're kind of basically the same thing. And guess what? His supporters listened. And so more Trump voters are expected to vote on Election Day itself. It's a really big gamble.

    They're betting that their ground game is going to be able to turn out voters and that they are just going to have this, as President Trump called it, a great red wave that comes through on Election Day.

    And it's a weird messages to have from a campaign of someone who expects to win, to be arguing that the system is rigged, especially when you are the president of the United States. It's not a common thing for a president of the United States to argue.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, as we have noted and will continue to note, there have been a number of races over the years, historically where we have not known the winner on the night of Election Day.

    But, Amy, that's been true of other races, too, not just at the presidential level, but also down-ballot races.

    When it comes to, though, Senate races in particular, what are you tracking? What are you keeping your on?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, the battle for control of the Senate is the whole ball game when it domes to down-ballot races — well, at least for me, the ones that I'm paying attention to, and I think for so many folks paying attention to, where that body goes, because the House is almost certain to stay in Democratic hands.

    And we know that some of the states that close the earliest, those on the East Coast, like North Carolina, also happen to have a really competitive Senate race. The North Carolina Senate race is between first-term incumbent Thom Tillis and the Democrat, Cal Cunningham.

    Now, Tillis, the Republican, has been running slightly behind Cunningham for the entirety of the campaign. And it's also a state, of course, that Joe Biden and Donald Trump are fighting hard to win.

    So, if we have the results of that Senate race relatively early in the evening, in other words, if that Senate race can be called, it could tell us something about control of the Senate. If Democrats win there, that's a good sign for them that they are going to be able to pick up enough seats to flip control.

    If they lose that, if the Republican holds on, it doesn't mean that control of the Senate is known or that Republicans will keep it, but it is sure a better sign for them going into the rest of the evening.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Tam, in less than a minute, is there a particular thing you are going to be watching for, a state, a group of voters? What are you tracking?

  • Tamara Keith:

    So, I'm looking at Arizona and Georgia and Florida and North Carolina, these states where we, in theory, will get results relatively early.

    And if Joe Biden is doing well in those states or has won those states, then the focus on the Upper Midwest and Pennsylvania won't be that significant anymore, because those states will show a real change in the tide.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And we're going to be tracking all of those results as they come in.

    That is our Politics Monday team joining us tonight on this election eve.

    And just a reminder to everyone out there, the "NewsHour" will not call any of those races until they are fully called by the Associated Press. We will have those in special coverage tomorrow evening.

    Thank you to you both — and, Judy, back to you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That's right. We won't call them until the AP does.

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