Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on the final week of campaigning before the midterms

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news as we enter the final week of campaigning before the midterm elections.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We are entering the final week before Election Day in the United States, and more than 22 million voters have already cast their ballots nationwide.

    Here now to discuss what is shaping these final days is our Politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    And I know neither of you is keeping track of how many days. I just thought we would remind you that it's a week from tomorrow.

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Thank you for a reminder, yes. Appreciate that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, in these final days, what are you watching for, Amy Walter?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, I'm watching for a number of things.

    The first is, where are top candidates, are surrogates going, the president, Donald Trump, and others who — going out on the campaign trail, maybe campaigning for certain candidates, but also where they're staying away from certain candidates.

    If you remember, at the end of 2018, Republicans were hoping that Donald Trump maybe would stay quiet for the end of 2018. Many of them were in districts that he lost. They were trying to distance themselves from an unpopular president. Obviously, then-President Trump wasn't interested in being quiet at all for those final days.

    This year, it's Democrats saying maybe President Biden can go some somewhere else. I'd like to — in some of these battleground states, we know that Democratic candidates are doing all they can to separate themselves from the president. So this is nothing new. This usually does happen in a midterm year.

    But just seeing where they're picking and choosing, the fact that the president is now going to spend the last looks like two days of the campaign — he will be in Pennsylvania, which is a battleground state, but also in Maryland, a state that's pretty dark blue, New Mexico, another blue state, and California.

    And it tracks with what we have been hearing — my colleague Dave Wasserman has been tracking this for a couple of weeks now — that where Democrats are the most concerned are actually — about their candidates, actually, in some of the blue states, where those House incumbents are getting squeezed from both sides, unpopular president, but also one-party government in their state that people are disappointed in.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So shoring up the Democratic votes, trying to get them out.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What are you watching for, Tam?

  • Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:

    Right.

    Well, Republican outside groups have a lot of money that they are able to pour in. And so as you're looking at where the money is going, it's not clear whether Republicans really believe that they can win all of these House races where they're suddenly sending money or whether Republicans believe they can win all these Senate races where they're sending money.

    But the map had been broad. Then it contracted. And now it has expanded again, where Republicans seem to think that they can go on the offense in a number of states. And I will also just note that you have a state like New Hampshire for the Senate race where there was a thought that it would not be competitive, because the candidate is — the Republican candidate is an election denier and other things.

    But now you have surrogates like first lady Jill Biden campaigning over the weekend in New Hampshire, indicating that they at least need to excite the Democratic base.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, we're trying to understand, Amy, what is — why have these races tightened. And we have talked about the economy and crime being a big issue for Republicans.

    Are you seeing anything else out there that is not good news for Democrats?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, I think really what's happening is these are battleground states that we're talking about. I mean, they're the ones that are going to decide where this — where Senate control is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    They're states that Joe Biden carried, but, in many cases, very narrowly, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. So these were always going to be competitive races.

    I think what happened over the summer is, because Republicans had these very competitive primaries, in some cases, very contentious primaries, Democrats did not, Democrats spent a lot of money over the summer, building a narrative, building their name I.D.

    Now, polls coming out today from The New York Times show that it actually has paid off. They have distanced themselves from the president. So his approval rating is much lower than theirs in the states. And they still, if you just look at The New York Times polls, these Democrats have higher favorable ratings than the Republican opponents.

    What Democrats are hoping is that, at the end of the day, voters are going to say, we're not happy with the president, but we don't like this Republican. We're more worried about the Republican. Republicans are hoping they're going to say, we're really upset with the status quo.

    We're just going to vote for change.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just very quickly, it's happened late, but this political violence, Tam, we're seeing, the attack on House Speaker Pelosi's husband, is it something that could affect voters, given that we are a week out?

  • Tamara Keith:

    It's not clear to me that it will affect voters necessarily.

    What stands out from this incident is just how rapidly particularly politicians on the right have sort of moved to downplay it, or, even worse, to promote conspiracy theories about this attack.

    That is not the response that happened when there was that terrible shooting by someone who was more left-leaning at a Republican baseball practice, Republican congressional baseball practice. Everyone condemned it all around.

    This time, there's just this disinformation and conspiracy theories that have bubbled up that people on the Republican side seem willing to get behind.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes, back then, I remember condemnation from both parties.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right, or when Gabby Giffords, Congresswoman Giffords, was shot, the same thing.

    Look, this is why we live in this time where things — big events, big events that five, 10, 15 years ago, would have had an incredible impact on how people are perceiving either the election or elected officials or whatever it may be about politics, they just don't make much of a difference anymore, because, as soon as the event happens, maybe people process it for a second, and then they go right back into their camps.

    And then their camp, in this case, as Tam pointed out, on the conservative side, the camp is getting fed constantly, well, maybe this isn't really what happened. Well, maybe you can't trust what the media is telling you. And it just festers.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And it festers.

    And in terms of what the — these campaigns are saying in the final days, former President Obama, Tam, out on the trail. Here's a portion of what he had to say over the weekend campaigning for some Democratic senators.

    Barack Obama, Former President of the United States: You know why they have Social Security? Because they worked for it.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Barack Obama:

    They worked hard jobs for it.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Barack Obama:

    They have chapped hands for it.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Barack Obama:

    They had long hours and sore backs and bad knees to get that Social Security. And if Ron Johnson does not understand that, if he understands giving tax breaks for private planes more than he understands making sure that seniors who've worked all their lives are able to retire with dignity and respect, he's not the person who's thinking about you and knows you and sees you, and he should not be your senator from Wisconsin!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, belting it out, Tam, out on the campaign trail, the former president.

    It gives you a sense of what Democrats are pushing in these final days.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Right. And the former president is the top, the — he is the turnout machine for Democrats.

    He is the person who's still, all these years out of office — I mean, it's not that many years — can energize Democrats. That argument about Social Security is one that Joe Biden, the president, current president, has been making on the trail as well, that Republicans would — proposed, at least some of them, revisiting Social Security from time to time as a policy.

    I don't know that it's sticking necessarily. But it is something that the president and other surrogates keep coming back to, rather than more broadly touting some of the economic…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes, it's hard to make the case that the economy is doing well to voters who think that it's not, and they're feeling the pinch of inflation. That is the reality.

    So when I hear folks say, well, Democrats have to have a better message on the economy or sell the economy, it's hard to — you can't sell something to people who are not feeling that things are going well for them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You can say, I understand you're going through this.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

    So, that what Democrats are doing right now is saying, we are doing everything we can to make things better, and these guys, the Republicans, are going to make it worse. So it's, the risk of change is more problematic or is scarier than the — than sticking with the status quo that you're not happy with.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And one of the most effective voices could — to make that argument is former President Obama.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

    And we can expect to see more of him in the days ahead as we get toward the midterms.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In these final seven days.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we will be watching very closely, as you will. We will see you next Monday.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you very much.

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