Election day is just over two weeks away, but millions of Americans have already cast their ballot for the next president. With early voting underway in states across the country, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are making a final push for support. Clinton leads in the latest national polls; she’s looking to capitalize on her position to strengthen Democrats’ chances in down-ballot contests. But there are still signs of strong Trump support across the map, including the candidate’s first major newspaper endorsement. In its final days, we look at the state of the race: early voting numbers, latest polls and end-of-the-line strategies for both campaigns.
- Larry Sabato Founder and director, University of Virginia Center for Politics; author, "The Kennedy Half-Century"
- Katie Zezima National political correspondent, The Washington Post; covering the 2016 presidential election
- Reid Wilson National correspondent, The Hill
- Ryan Lizza Washington correspondent, The New Yorker
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The election of the next U.S. president is well under way. Americans have already cast millions of ballots in early voting, and both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are making final appeals. Today Clinton campaigns in New Hampshire, while Trump goes to Florida. Here to look at the state of the race and to answer your questions as we close in on election day, Reid Wilson of The Hill newspaper, Katie Zezima of The Washington Post, and Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker magazine.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us by phone from Charlottesville, Va., Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. I'll look forward to hearing your questions and comments, 800-433-8850, your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And welcome to all of you.
MR. REID WILSONGood morning.
MS. KATIE ZEZIMAGood morning.
MR. RYAN LIZZAGood morning.
REHMGood to have you with us. Reid Wilson, already many voters have turned out. What do we know about that turnout for each party thus far?
WILSONWell, so more than five million voters have already cast ballots.
WILSONAbout 20 million ballots are actually out. California has sent out 10 million ballots, and Washington State just sent out ballots to all of their mail-in voters. But what we see is an effort by both parties to bank as many votes as possible. Anybody who votes early is a hard core partisan. They know that they're voting for Hillary Clinton or for Donald Trump. They're not persuadable. And basically what the parties gain from this is they don't have to contact those people anymore.
WILSONIf Joe Schmo is going to be a definite Hillary Clinton voter, the Clinton campaign has to make sure that person gets to the polls. Once Joe Schmo votes, the Clinton campaign knows it, they don't have to contact that person anymore, and they can go spend their resources on other Democrats who haven't voted, or in persuading Independent voters. And across the board, almost across the board, I should say, it looks like Democrats are doing a better job in banking these early votes than Republicans are.
WILSONTake a state like North Carolina where so far in early voting, 48 percent of the people who have returned ballots or voted early in person are Democrats, only 27 percent are Republicans, that's a bit wider of an edge that Democrats had back in 2012. In Nevada which has now had two days of early voting, they started voting on Saturday, 50 percent of the voters who have turned out already are Democrats, 31 percent are Republicans. And there's a little bit of nuisance here that we should get into. In some cases, a big advantage for one party or the other sort of masks the larger shift in year over year voting.
WILSONAnd I'll take, for example, in Iowa where 48 percent of the voters who have turned in a ballot are Democrats, 32 percent are Republicans. That's actually not too bad for Republicans. It's about a 40,000 vote advantage for Democrats, but in earlier years, years in which Democrats have won Iowa, that gap is 80 or 100,000 votes that they come out of early voting. In a state like Florida, though, 42 percent of the ballots that have come back are Republican, 40 percent are Democratic, that's really good for Democrats.
WILSONIt used to be, in Florida, absentee ballots that come back are typically heavily Republican. And then early voting -- in person voting favors Democrats. So now that the absentee has come in about even or close to even, that's pretty good for Democrats.
REHMSo, Ryan Lizza, what does this early balloting tell us about the overall turnout?
LIZZAWell, so far the numbers are pretty good for Democrats, even in states like Utah, right? So you have states like Utah, Nevada, North Carolina where the Democrats are ahead of where they were in 2012, as Reid just took us through. The two bright spots for Trump are Ohio and Iowa, and those are two states where Hillary Clinton has trailed Obama's numbers going into election day. So it's not too surprising. I'd say overall what the early vote tells us is that the polls that show Hillary Clinton in a fairly commanding position in the race are tracking with the early vote numbers. That's the first thing.
LIZZAAnd then, number two, I think it tells you that organization, people on the ground, having an early ballot program, having an absentee program actually matters, right? We all know that the Trump campaign was way behind just organizationally from the Clinton campaign, and that difference seems to be playing out in these numbers. There's a four to one advantage, the Clinton campaign over the Trump campaign on the ground in terms of staffers.
LIZZASo Hillary Clinton has four times the staffers in the swing states. And this entire last, you know, three to four weeks of the campaign is just one massive get out the vote operation, early voting, mail, and then on election day, and having those people engaged on the ground seems to matter.
REHMLarry Sabato, what from your vantage point now does the Electoral College look like?
MR. LARRY SABATOWell, that's something we track almost hourly at the Center for Politics here at the University of Virginia. And things look awfully good for Hillary Clinton, in part because of the things that Reid and Ryan have just summarized. But also because structurally the demographics of the country favor Democrats, and have for some time now, and I think increasingly so, maybe on an accelerated pace. And in addition to that, you have a campaign, and Hillary Clinton's not just the early banking of votes, but in almost every other way from fundraising, advertising, strategy, the Clinton campaign has been far superior to the Trump campaign.
MR. LARRY SABATOI don't even think it's close. I've never seen such a mismatch in party nominees for president. This is kind of an interesting experiment, in a way. What happens when one campaign has everything organized very, very well, and the other campaign is doing rallies. And that's about it, just rallies. They're great, and they energize the candidate, they probably mislead him in some ways into thinking he's representing broader, popular opinion than he actually is.
MR. LARRY SABATOBut in all the other cases of the elections I've covered, you've had both sides, either through national or state parties of their own campaigns doing about the same thing in voter contact. Not always exactly the same thing. I think McCain and Romney were behind the Obama campaigns in 2008, 2012, but you at least had a major effort on both sides. We don't this year, so this is an experiment. How much can a campaign add to the total by doing all the things that campaigns do, including vote banking?
REHMYou know, it's so interesting to hear you say that, Larry, because it makes you wonder, you said these rallies make the candidate feel great, but do the rallies really necessarily turn out the vote in the same way that we might have seen had they been as well organized on the Trump side as on the Hillary Clinton side?
SABATOThat's exactly right. And often the Trump people have not utilized even the rallies well. They don't organize the people there. They don't send them out to do door-to-door. In many cases they depend on individual initiative, which is great, but it's not well-organized. Just quickly, you asked me about the Electoral College. Right now we have Clinton at 352 electoral votes. That's higher than most people do. CNN, for example, has Clinton at 307. But we think she's likely to carry 352 in the end. We have Trump at 173. And we only have two tossups on our map, Iowa and Utah. And, of course, Utah might be carried by an Independent Conservative, Evan McMullin.
REHMAll right. And turning to you, Katie. I'm wondering about the women's vote and how much of a role it's playing in this early voting, in this enthusiasm that's out there for Hillary Clinton.
ZEZIMAWell, you know, the women's vote is crucial. It's crucial every election, especially this election, you know, particularly with women in places like suburban Philadelphia, suburban Columbus, Ohio. And for quite some time there's been a real enthusiasm gap for Trump in women. And there's an ABC News poll out this weekend which shows Clinton up by quite a large margin, but one thing that's very notable is that it shows Trump losing ground among non-college educated women, which is very bad for him. You know, these are the women he really needs.
ZEZIMAAnd, you know, we've seen a lot of Republican women in the last few weeks, ever since this Access Hollywood tape was released, where, you know, Donald Trump said that he could force himself on women because he was a star. You know, a number of Republican women saying, I'm done, I can't deal with this, I can't take this. And it seems as though we're kind of seeing that trickle down, you know, to the electorate.
REHMDo you see that as well, Reid?
WILSONYeah, absolutely. Katie pointed out something really interesting here. There's a difference in the electorate between education levels that we've almost never seen before. Among women voters specifically, white women without a college education favored, past tense, Donald Trump by a small margin. White women with a college education were hard on Hillary Clinton's side. That is a reversal from 2012 when those voters favored Mitt Romney by something like 14 points.
WILSONSo the fact that those voters tipped first is a bad sign. Larry mentioned the demographic challenges that Republicans already face. Well, what happens when you lose another core element of the coalition that you've already built? And then add in the voters who should be with you by 30 or 40 points, those non-college educated white women, they are either even or favoring Hillary Clinton now a little bit.
REHMReid Wilson, national correspondent for The Hill. Short break here. Your calls, your comments when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back as we talk about early voting, what the polls are indicating, how the Electoral College is looking right now with Red Wilson of The Hill newspaper, Katie Zezima of the Washington Post, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker and Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.
REHMHere's a tweet from Cathy, (PH) which probably speaks to the fatigue we're hearing from a lot of voters. She says, "do you promise that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will stop contacting me if I vote early?" What do you think of that? (laugh)
WILSONIn a lot of states the campaigns are -- will actually stop contacting you. There are lists of voters that -- the regular voter rolls, and when you turn in your absentee ballot, or when you vote early, your county or state will update the voter rolls, and they will note that you have already voted, and then the campaigns will take your name off a list because there's no value in contacting you anymore.
WILSONAnd in fact in some states, the campaigns are telling voters, if you vote, we'll stop calling you, which one wonders, if they've gotten to that point, maybe they've gone a little overboard in contacting them in the first place.
REHMAnd here's a Facebook comment from Samuel. He says "with the long lines I've seen in North Carolina for early voting, I think we can no longer dispute the importance and necessity of early voting. We need it, we need more locations and more days of it." Ryan Lizza.
LIZZAYeah, you know, North Carolina is one of these states where in some areas they've reduced the number of polling places, and if you've looked online or on the evening news, especially in North Carolina it's created much, much longer -- surprisingly created much, much longer lines in some areas of the states.
LIZZAYou know, one interesting thing that is just another data point in how the chasm between the two campaigns and their early voting programs, what has Donald Trump's messaging been since the third debate, the critical period when you're trying to get your voters to the polls. His most prominent election has been that the election is rigged.
LIZZANow if you are a Republican voter, sitting there and deciding whether to vote or not, get out and go to early voting or fill out your absentee ballot, how does a message that the whole thing is rigged motivate you? So it's the opposite of what you would want to get your people to the polls.
REHMLarry Sabato, what do you think is happening?
SABATOWell, I think Ryan is absolutely right, and I'd go one step further because I think the policy issue here is critical. What Donald Trump has done and what some of his key people have done in selling the idea that the election is rigged is completely irresponsible. They have absolutely no evidence, no proof whatsoever.
SABATOIf you look at the comments on Twitter and social media, most of his supporters are pointing to age-old historical examples. Of course there are a few cases of fraud when 135 million people are voting. But even in a case like 2000, when 537 votes in Florida decided the presidency, it is exceedingly unlikely that fraud would produce the difference in a White House election.
SABATOSo it's excuse-grabbing on Trump's part more than anything else, and it's misleading his supporters, many of whom buy whole, swallow whole anything he says.
ZEZIMAWell, one thing that people tend to forget is that elections are administered by states. So we have 50 different administrations of elections, so it's incredibly hard to rig an election when you have to go to 50 different places. There's no national way to do it, and that's something that tends to get lost in this discussion.
REHMHere's an interesting question from Bob in Cincinnati, Ohio. Go right ahead, Bob.
BOBI am curious if a -- if in the case of an early ballot or absentee ballot that the person dies before election day, what happens to the ballot. Is the ballot thrown out in some states? Or is this a case of an actual legal person, a dead person voting?
REHMThat's really an interesting question, Larry. Have you ever come across it?
SABATOYes, and the states differ as to how they deal with it, but let me cite my state of Virginia, for example. When absentee ballots are sent in, the ballot itself is in a separate envelope that is not identified by individual, and there's no marking on it, no number on it so that you can link the ballot with the individual voter.
SABATOIn some places these ballots are opened -- the actual ballot isn't opened, but the envelopes are opened, and they're tossed into a large pile. There would be no way to identify the individual. So, you know, the vote counts. Now if there is a way to connect the ballot to an individual who's deceased, yes, the ballot can be withdrawn.
REHMInteresting, interesting, never thought about that. And here's a question from Paul in Miami, Florida. Go right ahead.
PAULHi, good morning, good morning, Ryan, good morning, Larry, and good morning, Diane.
PAULMy question is -- it's really a comment and a question. With all the constant complaining from the Trump camp that the election is rigged, election is rigged, election is rigged, when I kind of add that to commentary from certain guests and commentary that I've heard across news stations that the Clinton campaign has X amount of electoral votes, or the Clinton campaign is expected to get X amount of electoral votes, that the election is almost decided already, well then, how can you tell me with a straight face that my vote counts if historically a candidate has won the popular vote and lost the electoral vote? It seems like the electoral vote is already decided.
LIZZAWell look, this is something I think the Clinton campaign worries about a little bit because, you know, we have enough modern elections to sort of make projections with a fair amount of confidence these days. The polls have been extremely consistent. There's never been a candidate who's come back from the deficit that Trump is experiencing. And yet obviously everyone still has to vote for these projections and predictions to, you know...
REHMBut that's what they are, they're projections.
LIZZAThey're projections, of course, and there's -- look, if you look at sort of -- at Larry's site or Nate Silver's site or the New York Times, most of the percentages are about 80 to 90 percent likely that Hillary Clinton is going to win. But that's a one in seven chance for Donald Trump, right. So a one in seven chance is -- there's still a possibility that he overcomes this deficit and that he wins the race. So it's not over.
LIZZAAnd I think the Clinton campaign worries about this talk of a landslide because it can depress enthusiasm.
LIZZAAnd then the landslide doesn't appear if everyone assumes it's going to happen without them actually getting out and voting.
ZEZIMAYeah, absolutely, and polls are not always correct. I mean, look at the Brexit vote in Britain. You know, everyone thought that it was a sure thing, and then everyone found out it wasn't. So, you know, polls are not always completely accurate, but yes, there is, like Ryan said, there is some worry that this landslide could -- talk of a landslide based on these projections, which is what they are, they're projections.
LIZZAIt would be the -- if Trump wins, it would be the most massive polling miss in the history of polling.
REHMWell now remember that the last election, when you had Obama and Romney, tied at the end, neck and neck.
REHMAnd then it did turn into a landslide.
LIZZAYeah, and that doesn't mean that Hillary Clinton's margin will be larger because the Democrat in the last race exceeded the final projection. Polling can, if you look historically in presidential races, polling can be off either way, towards the Democrats or towards the Republicans. And the Brexit vote I think is a little exaggerated. The poll -- if you look at, the prediction markets were way out of whack, and that's what a lot of people talk about when they say expectations were wrong.
LIZZAIf you look at the actual final polling in the U.K., it was almost a tie.
WILSONAnd when we talk about a close -- the close polling in 2012 when President Obama was up fractionally over Mitt Romney come election day, that's when the -- what Ryan referred to earlier, the field operations, start to really matter. When you take a look at these swing states, the difference in the infrastructure that one side has built and the other side has essentially failed to build is shocking.
WILSONLook, in the 15 sort of battleground states around the country, the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties have about 5,100 people on staff. I went through all the FEC reports last week, and I looked at who was actually a paid staffer, 5,100 for the Democrats. By contrast in those states -- and add another one where they've got a bunch of them, Donald Trump, the Republican National Committee and 16 swing state parties have 1,409 people. The disparities in some of these individual states is shocking.
WILSONOhio, 502 Democratic staffers, 104 Republicans. Pennsylvania, 508 Democratic staffers, 62 Republicans, and that, by the way, is a state that Donald Trump must win if he's going to get to 270.
REHMOkay, so how do you account for that? Is it or was it simply an assumption on the Trump campaign's part that they did not need anything except Donald Trump?
LIZZAI think it starts with Donald Trump. As one of his top advisors told me recently for a piece I wrote, he simply does not believe in all of the modern tools and accoutrements that go along with a political campaign. He frankly believes they are a waste of money. You know, he didn't believe in polls for a long time because he thought there were so many public polls -- not that he didn't believe in polls, he didn't believe in buying his own pollsters, paying his own pollsters to poll the race because he believed there are so any public polls, why waste the money.
LIZZAAnd so I think it starts there, that he just believes a lot of this stuff is BS and a way for consultants to fleece a rich candidate.
REHMWhat do you think, Larry?
SABATOI think that's absolutely right. And, you know, we've learned that this billionaire is a cheap billionaire. I mean, he knows how to make money, and he knows how to keep it. Can I just throw in a comment about Brexit?
SABATOBecause I hear this constantly. And just to reinforce the polling at the end was actually very close to the results. It was in -- within the margin of error. Furthermore, the reason why this analogy is false, that it's comparing the British Brexit vote to U.S. election, in addition to the fact that we have a candidate election, not an issue election, is that the British electorate couldn't be more different than the American electorate.
SABATOThe electorate for Brexit was 94 percent white, six percent minorities. Minorities were heavily opposed to Brexit. Our electorate, counting up all the pre-election vote plus the vote on November 8th, will be somewhere around 70 percent white, 30 percent minority. So again, the comparisons -- the people making these comparisons never explain that or mention it.
SABATOSo I just wanted to throw that out there.
REHMSure, and Reid.
LIZZAAnd I just want to go back to Paul's original point about the projections and whether or not his vote still matters. First of all, there are, you know, down-ballot candidates who are desperate for Paul's vote. (laugh)
LIZZAOne way or the another. But the second thing is, look, I'm a Seattle Mariners fan, and at the beginning of this season, ESPN and all the rest projected that the Mariners would make the playoffs. Well, the Mariners didn't make the playoffs because they still had to play 162 games. There are still the equivalent of 51 ballgames to be played on election day. So the projections are projections, the polls are largely accurate, but, you know, we still have the play the game.
REHMAnd, I mean, anything could happen.
REHMThink about the release of those emails that were dumped on the public. Did that change anything in people's minds?
LIZZAYou know, if you look at the polling since the third debate and the period of time that the WikiLeaks has been -- the WikiLeaks documents have been out, it doesn't look like this has been a serious negative for Hillary Clinton, just strictly looking at the polling. Everything, all of the momentum in this race since the third debate has been towards Clinton and away from Trump.
REHMSomehow the dropped...
LIZZAReally since the first debate, actually.
REHMThe dropped emails got overwhelmed by Trump's comments.
LIZZAIt's almost like there's too much news in this race. I mean, in any other context, the number of stories that are in those emails is just extraordinary. But at the same time, Trump was dealing with his most difficult news cycle of the race.
REHMExactly. Ryan Lizza of the New York Times, I'm sorry, of the New Yorker, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And here's a caller from Epping, New Hampshire, William, you're on the air.
WILLIAMLet me first thank you and your staff and all your many guests over the years for their participation.
WILLIAMWe're having Secretary Clinton here for a rally in New Hampshire today. Mr. Trump has been here recently. In the past two general election campaigns, campaigns, there have been late campaign rallies here in our little state with four electoral votes. I wonder if any of the panel can suggest why we're such a desirable venue.
REHMRyan, how would you answer that?
LIZZASay it one more time? I didn't quite understand the last part.
REHMHe said, why is New Hampshire such a focal point always.
LIZZAWell, it's just a state that has demographics that are equally balanced, and that makes it a swing state. So it's two things. Historically it's the state that goes first in the primaries.
LIZZAAnd it's been sort of -- you know, there's a long history of that.
REHMAnd votes first in the nation.
LIZZAIt votes in the first primary, and it's protected by both parties. So it has that elevated status. And because it has a very balanced electorate between the Democrats and the Republicans, it's a swing state in the general election. The two aren't really related, although maybe there's something I'm not thinking of, but it is a coincidence that the two first states, Iowa and New Hampshire, also for many years now happen to be swing states.
LIZZAThe third state, for instance, South Carolina, is an important early state, not at all important in the general election. It's a very Republican state in the general election. So it's just a fluke that the demographics of that state are balanced enough to be a swing state. But Reid, maybe you think there's some other reason?
WILSONI just -- both Iowa and New Hampshire have very highly engaged political electorates. Go talk to -- I remember being in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and going to the -- what is that, Johnson County, the Johnson County Foreign Policy Council, and I thought to myself, why does Johnson County, Iowa, need a foreign policy, it's because everybody knows everything about politics. (laugh) They pay attention to it.
WILSONThey say in New Hampshire, you know, you're not going to commit to a presidential candidate unless they've been to your house three times. It's highly engaged electorates, highly educated electorates in both states, have much higher than average college degrees in terms of the population. They're not terribly diverse states, both states have pretty low minority populations, but I think because they're highly engaged by the Dems and the R's who are running for president, who show up and engage with them, I think that's why they're -- by and large why they're swing states in the general.
ZEZIMANew Hampshire also has a competitive Senate race, or has been competitive up until now, which is another, you know, another aspect of it, too. You know, it's interesting to see, I was up in Maine a few weeks ago, which has just a handful of electoral votes, but they split them by congressional district, and they may be split where -- from what it looks like right now, Clinton is ahead in one of them, and it's a virtual tie in another. So we are seeing these candidates kind of go to places that you know, they don't normally go to, like northern Maine, where Trump has been twice, and Clinton has dispatched Kaine and other people, as well.
REHMKatie Zezima, national political correspondent for The Washington Post. We'll take a short break here. We have callers in Charlotte, North Carolina, Oakton, Virginia, Baltimore, Maryland, all waiting, your emails, as well. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. As we try to look at what's happening in these races, here's a tweet from Tom, who says, "I'm a Democratic Michigan voter. How does Larry Sabato see Michigan as voting? Trump says he's ahead, but CNN shows it leaning toward Hillary."
SABATOWell, of course, as everyone has said, anything can happen between now and November 8th. But Hillary Clinton is well ahead in Michigan. She's ahead, last time I saw the polling averages, it was between five and six points in Michigan. And people say, well, that's nothing. Things can over -- turn over in a night time. Not really. This is a summary of a dozen surveys with decent samples. You accumulate the samples and you've got a big sample with a relatively small margin of error.
SABATOSo, no. Michigan was one of the states that Trump had hoped to win. He had a rustbelt strategy that he thought would carry him through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin. And he may, or may not, win Ohio. But the other ones appear to be pretty safely in Hillary Clinton's column.
REHMOkay, and Reid Wilson, what is Trump's strategy in the remaining days from his position?
WILSONLarry just mentioned the rustbelt strategy and we talked earlier about the Pennsylvania -- a state that he thought he had to win. Or rather, he does have to win to get to 270 electoral votes. And in the early polling, we saw that Trump was doing better than expected. Or better than sort of the national average in states likes Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, even up in New Hampshire. And what those states have in common is they are -- well, maybe not New Hampshire, but what the rest of those states have in common is that they are the ones that have been hurt by trade deals, that Donald Trump was talking about over the last 25 years or so.
WILSONYou know, the jobs that left America, the manufacturing jobs that left America are jobs like that Carrier plant in Indiana that Donald Trump keeps talking about. These are places where predominantly older, white, blue collar workers have lost their jobs, or don't see prospects for their children's jobs. That being said, he is trailing in the vast majority of those states. We've talked about Ohio as the outlier, though I'm not entirely convinced that Ohio is not going to be in the Democratic column come November.
REHMHowever, his spokespeople continue to say he is winning, that it's really the media that's simply reporting the bad news.
WILSONAnd Donald Trump himself just tweeted a few minutes ago that he is winning and that the media refuses to report it. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that Trump is behind. So, sure, the media is reporting that Hillary Clinton is winning. Donald Trump does not seem to believe it. Although Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, does seem to believe it.
REHMHow do we account for his blaming the media over and over?
WILSONWell, just to point out that there have been -- of the 40 last polls, 38 of them have shown Hillary Clinton ahead. But there are two that have shown Donald Trump ahead. So he has seized on these two polls. Now, if you have 40 polls of anything, you're probably going to have a range. So, there's the range in those last 40 polls is something like plus two for Trump to. like, plus 10 for Hillary Clinton. So, not surprisingly, you would have a couple, given, you know, the variability in polling a couple where he is ahead.
WILSONBut overall, she's ahead by an average of about six to eight points nationally. What was your question?
REHMOn the media.
WILSONOh, blaming us.
REHMOn the media.
WILSONWell, I mean, what -- I mean, look. One of the things you do as a -- one of the things you don't like to have, as a politician, is an independent source of facts and news. And if you can discredit the press, and your supporters believe you rather than them, that's a pretty good deal. And I think that that's been -- that's been Trump's strategy from day one is to discredit the media and have his base rely on him for information.
REHMWhat kind of feedback have you been getting?
ZEZIMAYou know, pretty much that exactly -- that exact thing. You know, that the media can't be trusted, that your people are saying that the media is in the tank for Clinton, which is not true, obviously. But yeah, that is, you know, Trump is essentially saying, listen to me. I'm the one you should listen to. I'm the one who's telling you the truth here. And this is what he's saying at these rallies that he's having.
REHMAll right, and here's a tweet from Steve. "What's happening in the US Senate and House races? How does control of the Senate look? What about governors' races and state legislatures?" That's another two hour conversation.
REHMBut overall, Larry Sabato, what does, let's say, the Senate and the House look like?
SABATOSure. In the Senate, we have it 47 to 47. That's counting these senators being held over, obviously, from the other classes of senators. So, 47 to 47 with six relative tossups and the tossups are in Nevada, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Two seats we see as very likely to change from Republican to Democratic, Illinois and Wisconsin. My own personal evaluation, this doesn't necessarily reflect my whole team. We argue a lot. (interviewer laughs) But I think the Senate is leaning to the Democrats.
SABATOI think often these races break late. If Hillary Clinton does indeed win by anything close to the margin being suggested by the polling averages, I think Democrats are going to carry enough of these Republican seats. And of the six I mentioned, five of the six are currently held by Republicans. The only seat Democrats are defending is in Nevada, and I think Democrats are going to hold that seat. There also -- they also have a reasonable chance to pick up every single other seat that I've mentioned.
SABATOThey may not win them all, but they only have to gain four to get a 50/50 tie in the Senate, with Tim Kaine, the new Vice President, presumably, breaking that tie. And they may do better than that. Let me stress, not all of my team members agree with me, but that's where I'm going to come down as an old man.
REHMWhat about the House races?
LIZZAThe House, and I'll defer a little bit to Reid and Larry on this, but the House it does look like the best case scenario for the Democrats is sort of low single digits, maybe low -- excuse me, high, high, you know, in the 10 range. It doesn't look like unless we're seeing a wave building here. It looks like the House is very, very difficult for the Democrats to take back.
WILSONThere are not that many competitive House races across the country because of the way the District lines are drawn. And the fact is that Democrats need to pick up 30 seats to get back to control. That's probably not going to happen, unless what Ryan mentioned, unless this sort of wave develops late. And what some Republicans worry about is what Katie brought up, this -- the tape with Billy Bush and Donald Trump's comments about women. Beginning the development of that wave.
WILSONAdd in the Trump suggesting there's a rigged election and depressed turnout on the Republican side. Or it's simply Republican depression based on the fact that it looks like Trump is not going to win. All of this conspires to really scare a lot of Republicans that they could be seeing a wave develop. But I'm not really sure that they're there yet.
REHMAll right, to Jeremy in San Antonio, Texas. You're on the air.
JEREMYYes, ma'am. Thanks for taking my call.
JEREMYI just had a quick question and I've been very apolitical. I've never been a part of a campaign, I've never paid too much attention to the presidential race. Yet I do remember back in 2000 when Bush won the election, how the media allowed the Democrats to get on and completely discredit the election results. And they never sat there and bashed the Democrats for doing this. Yet, I see already when Trump brings up allegations of a rigged election, the media is just, you know, hammering him, saying how irresponsible and un-American he is for doing this. And it just seems like there's a huge double standard in the media.
WILSONYeah, I think that the example of Florida, a decision, an election that was decided by 537 votes, is much different from Donald Trump saying a couple of weeks before the election that he might not accept the results of an actual election. Al Gore ran through his legal challenges, which he had every right to. And Donald Trump will have every right to if there are legal challenges to be made. Al Gore lost.
WILSONAnd then when the -- when members of the House of Representatives, when Democrats in the House of Representatives brought up challenges to Florida's electoral vote, the presiding officer of the United States Senate, who was presiding over the reading of the electoral votes knocked down all those challenges, the presiding officer was Al Gore, who was knocking down challenges that would have made him President of the United States. So, this is totally different to say that there is a -- that not prosecuting the regular legal challenges that ought to be prosecuted is anywhere akin to questioning the fundamental integrity of an American election.
LIZZAYeah, what I've seen a lot of Trump supporters express frustration at the fact that in 2000, Al Gore, of course, conceded to George W. Bush in one phone call and then called back and retracted the concession. And some, I mean, perhaps the caller, frustrated Trump supporters are saying that - see, the Democrats didn't respect the election results. So, you know, why are they beating up on Trump? As Reid eloquently explained, it's a very different circumstance. Florida was the deciding state.
LIZZAWhoever won Florida won the election. There's an automatic recount rule in Florida when the election results are as close as they were in 2000. So, it would have been irresponsible for Al Gore to concede the election when there was an automatic recount, the results of which were actually going to decide it, and work through the legal challenges. Remember once the Supreme Court ended the counting in the state, effectively ending the recount, giving the 38, I think it was 38 electoral votes, or whatever it was in Florida, to George W. Bush, Al Gore immediately conceded the election.
LIZZADespite the protests of some of his most ardent supporters. What's different here can't be -- you can't repeat it enough, what's different here is we have one candidate for a major party who is alleging vote rigging with absolutely no evidence. And look, this is the -- our Democracy depends on confidence in the election process, right? There's a bit of mystery, a bit of that keeps a Democracy together. And if we don't have confidence in the results, then that's when we start going down the path of a lot of democracies that have failed.
LIZZAThat's why there are so many voices that are so outraged about this and think it is so dangerous.
ZEZIMAAbsolutely. I think Ryan said it, is absolutely correct, you know, this is one person who is alleging widespread, you know, fraud and rigging before the election -- I mean, early voting has happened, but you know, very, very early in the process. And this is definitely something that is far, far different from what happened in 2000.
REHMAnd here are the views from a couple of listeners. From Florida, a tweet from Katie. She said, "voted early this morning. Line already wrapped around the building. 150 votes cast in first hour at one Gainesville poll." An email from Georgia, "regarding Florida, we have to sign the envelope for our ballot. If we do not sign, it does not count. They know exactly who is voting."
REHMAll right. Let's go to Birmingham, Alabama. Katie, you're on the air.
KATIEYes ma'am, I was wondering if any of your panelists could speak to the fact that Alabama could possibly become a swing state if we registered the massive amount of unregistered minority voters. There's just so much -- a lack of education here, and I think that if we registered those voters that Alabama could become the next New Hampshire.
REHMWhat do you think about that, Ryan?
LIZZAYou know, I don't know the demographics of Alabama well enough to speak expertly on this, but we do, obviously, what we're seeing in the south, we're seeing a new south and an old south. And we're seeing more of the old south turning into the new south, right, it started with Virginia. Virginia's not even going to be a swing state in 2020. Virginia's a solidly blue Democratic state now. And the big news this cycle is not so much Alabama, but Georgia, where the demographics in Georgia have turned toward the Democrats. And there's some polling that suggests that's a much closer race than it's traditionally been.
REHMRyan Lizza of the New Yorker. And you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Here's an email from Mary. "Please remind your listeners about the need to vote because of so many close down ballot races. I've been canvasing the last two weekends in North Carolina. It still feels too close to call at all levels. I'm concerned that people won't vote if they think the presidential race is already decided." Larry Sabato.
SABATOThat's a very important point. And again, just to stress what the other panelists have already mentioned, these Electoral College projections are built on the assumption that the parties and the candidates will do what they have to do to get their voters out to the polls, and that voters will respond. If voters simply assume that it's over because they hear a projection like mine, that has Clinton well ahead, then obviously we're well on our way to a Dewey defeats Truman.
LIZZA(laugh) Yeah, there's a Heisenberg Principle here.
LIZZAYou know, reporting the results of the experiment can actually impact what's going on.
ZEZIMAAnd you know, we've seen, even President Obama has been out this past weekend, saying -- he was saying, you know, you need to get out and vote for down ballot. He was actually calling out Marco Rubio for, in Florida, for supporting Trump after saying that he was a con man. And he called out a candidate in Nevada as well. So, I mean, especially for Democrats, they're seeing these polls showing them way ahead. You know, they're really actively urging people to get out and vote down ballot as well.
REHMNow some Republicans, I gather, are shifting their focus from Trump to these down ballot races.
LIZZAThey are, but I've been a little surprised that there hasn't been a more of a concerted effort, maybe some louder voices sort of cutting Trump loose. And really making the argument that, to Republican voters, that hey, it's likely to be Hillary Clinton. What you need is a check on her, so make sure you vote for your Republican Senate candidates and make sure you vote for your Republican House candidates. Frankly, in 1996, when Bob Dole was going down to defeat against Bill Clinton in Bill Clinton's reelection, the Republican Party was much louder and more aggressive at making that argument.
LIZZAWe've seen some of it. I mean, we saw Paul Ryan in a private conference call tell his members that. But he hasn't said it publicly, and I think, frankly, a lot of Republican leaders are worried about alienating Trump's supporters if they were to do that. Maybe in the final two weeks, we'll see more of a message like that. But I don't, I don't think -- it doesn't seem like the establishment of the Republican Party has truly cut Trump loose yet.
REHMAre we going to see lots of new voters who haven't voted before come in and vote for Trump?
LIZZAYou know, that is a great question. One of the Trump campaign's arguments is when they're not arguing that they're actually ahead in the polls, they're arguing that the reason they're not ahead in the polls is that there is a silent majority out there for Trump. And it's basically, there's a lot implicit in this statement, but they're basically arguing that people don't want to tell pollsters that they're support Trump. Because they're somehow embarrassed. This has been studied.
LIZZASome political scientists have tried to figure out if this hidden Trump vote exists. And everyone that's studied it has come to the conclusion that it -- there's maybe a minor, a very, very small percentage of voters, but not enough for him to win the election.
REHMAll right. We'll leave it there. Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. Katie Zezima of the Washington Post. And Reid Wilson of the Hill. Thank you all so much.
REHMGreat to see you. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.