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Out of 36 states with Senate races, there are 10 where the leading candidates are separated by just a few points. Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss which races are still in play and what’s driving voters in this election.
And now to politics.
There is just a week to go until Election Day. Polls are showing tight races in the contests that will decide control of the Senate. Of the 36 states where there are Senate races, surveys show 10 of them with five or fewer points separating the leading candidates.
Republicans need to pick up a net pickup of six seats to take control. So, you can see why some of us are on the edge of our seats.
To help guide us through the choices voters face and where things are leaning, Stu Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report, and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.
And we welcome you both back.
STUART ROTHENBERG, The Rothenberg Political Report:
So, let's talk about the firewall states, that is, the states that the Democrats really don't want to lose in order to hang on control of the Senate and the ones that Republicans need if they're going to pick up the Senate.
Amy, what does it look like?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:
Well, those states would be Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina.
Those are the states that…
For the Democrats.
For the Democrats, right.
These are states, Colorado and Iowa, that Barack Obama won twice. North Carolina, he carried once. These are states that Democrats had thought at the beginning of the year were ones that they could be able to hold onto, especially Colorado and Iowa because of how strong Democrats have done there in the last eight years.
The problem now for Democrats is that the numbers for their Democratic candidates have been slowly eroding, and you're seeing Republicans in some cases ahead or within one or two points. This is a very — these two states are very different than how they looked in 2012. The president's numbers have tumbled in these states, even and especially among those groups of voters that we think of as Obama voters, young people, Latinos, women.
So that is a real problem then for Democrats is the fact that those states they thought were going to be safer now starting to show some serious cracks.
What would you add to that and what are Republicans sweating over?
Well, a couple of things.
The problem with the firewall is that it's after the destruction has already taken place. There are six states before the firewall that Democrats could lose, and that might be enough to give Republicans control. But the Democrats are counting, are hoping to win one or two Republican states. That's Kansas and Georgia.
So this now — there are a lot of moving pieces, Judy, as some Republican states have come into play here. Remember, early on, a year ago, we were all talking about Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, that gives the Democrats a chance. That seems to be off the board.
And the focus now is on Kansas, where Pat Roberts is running even against Greg Orman, an independent who everybody thinks is going to caucus with the Democrats, and where David Perdue continues to create problems for himself against Michelle Nunn.
A lot of people have already voted, Amy. But for those who haven't, what's going to make the difference in these last seven days?
This has been the challenge in the entire campaign. You look at the Republican challenge, it was to nationalize this election and make this about Barack Obama, an unpopular president in the sixth year of his election.
For Democrats, it was, let's localize this campaign, make this about the individual candidates, not the national issues. The problem for the Democrats now is that the national mood is driving the emotions of this election. We hear about Ebola. We hear about ISIS. We hear about school shootings. We hear about a lot of bad news.
And the good news that's coming out isn't strong enough to sort of outweigh that. There is a lot of good news on the economic front, yet you talk to most voters and they say, we still feel like we're kind of stuck and we are not moving ahead. So there's a national election, which is a bad thing for Democrats.
And I think you can count on the Republicans in state after state, Judy, to close with the message of, this is about Barack Obama or use the Obama comment about he's not on the ballot but his policies are on the ballot.
In every and any different way, you are going to see that kind of message delivered by the Republicans. And the Democratic candidate is going to have to say, look, it's not about Washington, D.C., it's about Thom Tillis or David Perdue or Dan Sullivan in Alaska. They're going to have to try to go down the line on that. And it's different to do in this kind of environment.
I just have to ask you both this. We hear so much about how Americans are disgusted with Washington, they don't like the people who are serving here in the Congress, they don't like what's going on at the White House, the media focusing on all these close races.
But, Amy, when it comes right down to it, we looked at it again today, 90 percent of the members of the House and the Senate are coming back and don't even have a serious contender — opponent.
Well, that's always — that's been a consistent problem, that voters even when they're the most frustrated with Washington send their incumbents back. That's of course what Democrats are hoping is the case. But, look, I think, overall, this is why the races are still this close is the fact that voters are saying we don't like the job the president is doing.
But, on the other side, they're not very excited to vote for a Republican either. And this is the bigger challenge, I think, for Republicans going forward. No matter how great of a night they have in 2014, they still have a big brand problem. It's very tainted. It's very damaged. And that, they have got to figure out how to fix.
Let me just add, people have all sorts of opinions.
The question, what interests us is what drives their vote, which opinions they use to evaluate candidates.
And they simply don't vote on Congress as an institution. They have strong feelings.
They may be sick of it, but you're saying…
But they vote either on candidates or on the president. And even though the president has much better job approval ratings than Congress does, right now, they are going to vote on him.
These are congressional elections, but people aren't voting on Congress? Let me just get this straight. OK.
Right. The president drives the vote, whether you're the Democrat or a Republican.
Two quick things.
Stu, you were talking to us about this today, a lot of focus on the governor's races, more governor's races up in the air than usual. But your view is, it doesn't really have a lot to do with 2016, which I think that is a theory going around.
Well, governor's races are important. They're important because governors create policies, and are — what are they? Laboratories for ideas is the phrase always used. And, sure, these are important.
But I have already heard people saying, well, it's really important who the governor of Florida is for the 2016 presidential race. That's not true. It's easy to fall back on that, but the reality is 2016 will involve two big, big, big candidates. They're the nominees for the Republican and Democratic Party, and voters are going to vote on them, not on who the governor of Florida is.
Very quickly to both of you, surprises you expect on election night? And you're going to be here with us, I should say, on election night.
Well, that's true.
I think the surprise would be if it's an early night. The expectation is that it is going to be a very late night, we're going to be waiting for these very, very close races, some may go to runoff, some may go to recount. If we see on election night that New Hampshire, North Carolina going for Republicans, it will be an early night.
I agree on New Hampshire and North Carolina.
I would say I would look to see whether Democrats might pick up governorships in Republican states like Kansas and Alaska, and Republicans might pick up governorships in very blue Democratic states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, and maybe even Maryland. It's bit of a long shot, but possible.
Stu Rothenberg, Amy Walter, we will see you on Tuesday the 7th.
Tuesday the 4th.
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