Congress expert Norman Ornstein on what the debate over the debt limit says about dysfunction in Congress, and his ideas for how to fix it.
Guest Host: Susan Page
Donald Trump is giving headaches to Republican House and Senate candidates. The latest reason: allegations from a dozen women of sexual harassment and assault. Depending on whether Republican contenders defend or condemn their party’s presidential nominee, they risk alienating women, independents or Trump supporters. This week, Trump’s campaign says he has no more big-donor fundraising events scheduled for the GOP. That could hurt get out the vote operations. With less than two weeks to go until election day, guest host Susan Page and a panel of guests look at how the Trump campaign is affecting senate, house and governors’ races.
- Josh Kraushaar Political editor, National Journal
- Matea Gold Reporter covering money and politics, The Washington Post
- Stuart Rothenberg Founding editor of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report; columnist, The Washington Post's PowerPost
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Donald Trump's campaign and questions about his fundraising plans are creating challenges for other Republican candidates. With me in the studio to talk about what this could mean for the GOP's Get Out The Vote operations and control of the House and Senate, Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report, Matea Gold with The Washington Post and Josh Kraushaar with National Journal. Thank you all for being with us.
MR. STUART ROTHENBERGGood to be here.
MR. JOSH KRAUSHAARGood to be here.
MS. MATEA GOLDGreat to be here.
PAGEWe're gonna invite our listeners to join our conversation a little later in the hour. Our toll-free number, 1-800-433-8850. You can always send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave us a message on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Matea, you had a big scoop in yesterday's Washington Post about Donald Trump's fundraising plans. What did you find?
GOLDSo what's very interesting is that top Trump fundraisers said that they don't have a formal fundraising schedule to bring in large dollar donations for the remaining weeks of the campaign and this is in sharp contrast to not only what Romney's campaign did in 2012 when he deployed his wife and sons and members of Congress to continue raising money for the party in the final weeks before Election Day, but also even more relevant to this moment is a sharp contrast with what Secretary Clinton's campaign is doing.
GOLDWe counted 41 events up until November 3rd that are being headlined by top surrogates, including Cher, which means that there's going to be a huge flow of cash going to the Democratic party in these final critical days.
PAGESo the -- it's 41 Democratic events and so far as we know, zero Trump campaign events.
GOLDWell, since our story published the Trump campaign has said they have a handful of events scheduled and it sounds like they're going to do some ad hoc events as they said. And they maintain they're still raising money for the party through online donations, a share of which goes to the RNC and also through phone calls with major donors looking to bring in funds in these final weeks. But what's really important here is not just what they're not doing in these final weeks, but the fact that from the beginning of this election cycle, Hillary Clinton has made an aggressive effort to bring in large donations for the party.
GOLDThis is an advantage that she had set from the very beginning of this race and it's paying off for her now.
PAGENot only has she raised a lot of money, Stu, but she's had a big Get Out The Vote operation and the Trump campaign is sort of subcontracted that. What are they doing?
ROTHENBERGRight. You know, this is more of the same, if you think about it over the last six, nine months, the last 15 months that Trump has been in the race. He really hasn't done much for the party. He didn't have a ground game for himself. He didn't spend money on those traditional campaign events and organizations. And so I think it follows, Donald Trump is his own campaign manager, his own political party, his own person and he doesn't do much for the campaign.
ROTHENBERGHillary Clinton understands the nature of modern campaigns, which goes anything from raising high dollar and low dollar amounts of money to organization, to putting in offices in individual states in individual districts. So we have a fundamentally different approach to politics with Donald Trump versus everybody else in the universe.
PAGEAnd Josh, I saw the US Election Project, which is tracking voting in a serious way. It's reported yesterday that more than 10 million people already have voted. Is that unusual? Is that number higher than before?
KRAUSHAARIt suggests we may have a healthier than expected turnout. A lot of people are actually voting against the candidate against their favorite candidate, rather than for Trump or Clinton. But it also suggests that Democrats are doing a very good job. They're using the money to very good effect to turn out early voters. You look at North Carolina and Florida, two of the biggest battleground states, two states that Donald Trump absolutely needs to win if he holds any chance of winning the presidency.
KRAUSHAARAnd you look at the early voting date of this year compared to 2012 and Democrats are overachieving their expectations. They're turning out a lot of the voters that don't turn out quite as often for midterm elections. They're turning out base voters. So the money that the Clinton organization is pouring into the ground game and the Get Out The Vote efforts looks like it's paying off in these key battlegrounds.
PAGEYou know, we have a poll in today's paper, a national poll, that USA Today did with Suffolk University, that shows that a majority of Americans are worried about violence on Election Day. 51 percent think there's at least some chance of violence on Election Day. And I wonder if that is fueling some early voting because people just want to be in a position not to have to go to their polling places.
KRAUSHAARThe law -- I mean, some states have actually curtailed the number of polling places that you're allowed to vote and there have been anecdotal evidence of long lines in states like North Carolina because of that. But look, I think that's -- there was a story in Bloomberg that came out today suggesting that the Trump campaign's strategy is to really tamp down on the base Democratic voting by trying to, you know, have targeted messages to African Americans reminding them of some of the Clinton rhetoric in the '90s and trying to turn down turnout among young voters who may have just been aware of the Clinton scandals of the '90s as well.
KRAUSHAARI don't know if that'll be effective, but that's certainly -- their strategy is now openly not to win over the persuadables. It's to tamp down turnout among key Democratic groups.
ROTHENBERGThat absolutely makes sense because when you look at the survey data on these presidential ballot tests, you see that Trump is stuck pretty much between 37 and 40 percent of the vote. He almost...
PAGENot a winning number there.
ROTHENBERGNo, no. But you suppress Democratic votes. You either suggest intimidation or cross pressure those voters and you know, then maybe Donald Trump has a chance. So that would make sense.
PAGESo we know Donald Trump has some trouble in national polls in battleground states. Maybe it's slightly closer than the national numbers. But when you look at down ballot races, Matea, when you look at Senate races, House races, governor's races, how much difference does it make whether Trump is funding Get Out The Vote efforts. Does it affect people down the ballot?
GOLDWell, sure. And it's actually not just Trump. It's the Republican party. Traditionally, the Republican party has relied on the nominee to help bring in the funding for a national voter mobilization effort that helps the entire ticket. Usually, that's supplemented by the presidential nominee. Romney had hundreds of staffers doing field work on the ground in concurrence with RNC field organizers. Trump had 168 paid staffers on payroll at the end of September, according to the last FEC filing, while Clinton had 815.
GOLDSo you can see in those numbers how much he's really outsourced this function to the RNC and they are in much better place than they were in 2012 when they acknowledged they were really beat in the field game by the Democrats. But they need every resource they can get because their incumbents, particularly, are locked in some very tough reelection battles.
PAGEYou know, Josh, it's not just Get Out The Vote efforts. You look at some of these key Senate races in places like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire where Hillary Clinton, the polls show, has a pretty healthy lead, not a double digit lead, but she's at seven, eight, nine points in the latest statewide polls. How much -- how hard is it for a Republican Senate candidate like Pat Toomey or Kelly Ayotte to make up that ground?
KRAUSHAARHistorically, at least in recent history, it's been very hard, as people tend to cast more party line ballots. It's harder to have distance from the presidential nominee, though this year may be the exception because Donald Trump is such an unusual Republican candidate. And if you look at the national polls, Trump gets about 80 percent of the Republican vote, whereas congressional candidates, Republicans, get about 90 or more percent of the partisan vote. And you can see that.
KRAUSHAARYou look at some of the generic ballot tests saying which party would voters rather have in power in Congress and you're pretty close to an even ballot. Democrats have a one-point advantage in the ABC tracking poll that came out yesterday, a two-point advantage in the Fox poll that came out yesterday. So we really could see a pretty high level of split ticket voting. The big worry, though, that Republicans have is that turnout among college-educated, anti-Trump Republicans, that people may just be so disgusted with this whole election, they may not show up and that would be a big drag on the Republican party.
PAGEStu, how hard is it to get people, in this day and age when things are so polarized, to split their ticket?
ROTHENBERGWell, it's an added burden that Kelly Ayotte doesn't want to have and Pat Toomey doesn't want to have and even Richard Burr now in North Carolina doesn't want to have. He's much rather have the top of the ticket winning and you just need to hold that vote or hold most of it to win. But I'm still a little uncertain how this is going to work out, I must admit because if you think four years ago, you know, Heidi Heitkamp ran way ahead of Barack Obama in North Dakota. She won very, very narrowly over Richard Berg -- what was his name?
PAGEHow quickly you forget.
ROTHENBERGRichard Berg? No, I don't -- Richard Burr. Over Berg. And so in a presidential year, I always remind people, voters have two ballots. A ballot for president and a ballot for Senate or Congress. In these midterm elections where you tend to have more wave elections because you don't have a presidential ballot, the only way you can express your opinion about president is in a Senate race or the House race. So it is possible to have some of these Republicans running well ahead of the presidential nominee.
ROTHENBERGBut if you ask Kelly Ayotte or you ask Republican insiders who are close to that campaign or watching that campaign, they'll say, well, look, if Kelly Ayotte's losing -- if Donald Trump is losing in New Hampshire by three, four and five points, absolutely Kelly Ayotte can win. But if she -- if he's -- if Trump is losing by 10 or 12 points, it's a whole different ballgame.
GOLDOne thing that I think is so unpredictable right now is to try to assess the down ballot impact of candidates who had been supporting Trump and then backed away from him because they are now feeling the pinch on both sides. When they were continuing to stand by him amid a lot of controversial comments and episodes that were surfacing from his past, they were getting beat up by Democrats and moderate Republicans were uncomfortable with their stance.
GOLDSome of them who have now backed away are getting the heat from Republicans who are saying you're betraying our nominee. And so, you know, the party was saying yesterday, was telling reporters, they're doing predictive modeling to try to figure out where voters are going and who's turned out and in this environment, I think it's very hard to know who those voters are casting ballots for.
PAGESo Jason Chaffetz, a prominent Republican member of the House, said, after the disclosures or the allegations of sexual misconduct, it was outrageous, the language that Donald Trump used in that "Access Hollywood" video, outrageous. He couldn't possibly vote for him. And yesterday, he announced, well, he wasn't going to endorse him, but he was going to cast a ballot for him. That may risk disturbing everybody, not just people on one side.
PAGEWell, we're going to take a short break.
ROTHENBERGWell, they actually -- oh, okay.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break and then we're going to ask Stu Rothenberg what it is he wants to say. We're going to take your calls in a bit, too. 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. With me in the studio, Matea Gold, she's a reporter covering money and politics for The Washington Post. Josh Kraushaar, he's a political editor for the National Journal. And Stu Rothenberg, he is the founding editor of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. And, Stu, you were trying to get in right before the break. What did you want to say?
ROTHENBERGWell, Susan, I was just going to say that Joe Heck, Republican Senate nominee out in Nevada is the poster child for this issue, this problem -- we don't know how it's going to be resolved -- of the candidates who endorsed Donald Trump and then unendorsed Donald Trump. It's a particular problem not only because of the way he did it, but now Nevada appears to be in play. And so is it going to be close? Is Trump going to win it? Has Heck alienated those Trump voters? It's a fascinating question.
PAGESo we -- Democrats need to pick up only four Senate seats, if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, to take control away from the Republican Party. Josh, will they do that?
KRAUSHAARThey are favored to do that but it's by no means guaranteed. I mean the biggest advantage Democrats have is that they have a lot of opportunities. So the map was always favorable for them at the beginning of this year. And you have as many as six or seven races that are within the margin of error that are trending a little bit in the Democratic direction. So they would just need about, I guess, two -- two, if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, they only need two of those six to take the majority.
PAGEBecause there are two that we think are going to flip, in Illinois and Wisconsin.
KRAUSHAARTwo, in Illinois, Mark Kirk's seat and also Ron Johnson in Wisconsin are favorable too, to the Democrats. It'll be hard to see Republicans holding those seats. So they -- Democrats really just need two of six and they also need to hold the Nevada seat, which is Harry Reid's seat that is also very competitive.
GOLDAnd I think one thing that's been so fascinating is that the financial resources in this final run in the battle over control of the Senate have actually moved to the Democrats' favor in some manners. My colleague, Paul Kane, had a smart story about this that just posted on our website, which is that the Republicans invested very early in trying to protect their Senate incumbents from a Trump wave and a Trump ripple effect, whatever you want to call it, to the point where they have very little cash on hand left to protect these Republican candidates at a time when they are now being buffeted by all of these back-and-forth winds that we've been describing. Do you support Trump? Do you walk away from him?
GOLDDemocratic -- the Democratic Senate Committee and Democratic campaigns are in much better financial shape. And now, really, it's the Senate -- Republican Super PAC that is rushing to the rescue. They're plowing $25 million into six Senate races in these final weeks, which is a huge amount of money. And also, they're passing a massive premium. They are not getting very good pennies on the dollar, because they're buying so late. And so this is really turning it into a dog fight on the airways.
PAGEBuying late and also candidates' campaigns get the lowest possible rate when they buy TV ads. That's not the case with these Super PACS. Paul Kane's story talks about a very -- totally different strategies that the two parties had when it came to spending early or spending late. What's the reasoning?
GOLDWell, I think that the rationale from the GOP's point of view was, we need to get in there and build a firewall early. And I think you could argue that was very smart and smart strategy at the point where they were in the race. I mean, they went in and, for example, put in a huge amount of money around Rob Portman in Ohio, to the point which Democrats sort of cried mercy and backed away. But, you know, they're now having to put millions more back into Pennsylvania for Toomey. We're seeing money going to Missouri, which was a race they did not anticipate to play in. Obviously, New Hampshire is going to be one of the most expensive races at the end of this. So I think no one really anticipated how competitive this would be until the final days.
PAGESo Josh says it's possible but not guaranteed that Senate -- that Republicans lose control of the Senate. What do you think?
GOLDYes, I mean, I -- this is one of those years where, you know, you look at the polls and you see the path obviously favors the Democrats. But, I mean, who knows? I mean, there's -- there are, I think, a lot of unpredictable factors in each state that are hard to calculate.
ROTHENBERGI was talking to a Republican political consultant about the spending issue. And he said to me, you know, you can criticize the NRSC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee -- I think they officially changed their name to NRSC -- for not raising enough money. But you can't criticize them for making the decision they did about early spending. And when you look at a race like Richard Burr in North Carolina, he is very specifically getting some criticism for not engaging his opponent, Deborah Ross, the Democratic challenger, early on and, as Republicans like to say, taking her head off early on. And instead, she made the race about him. He was slow to respond.
ROTHENBERGSo you have to, I mean, it really isn't a question of, do you go in early or do you go in late? You have to go in both. You have to raise enough money to do both. And you have to be prepared to go in early. Were you going to ask me where I thought the Senate was?
PAGEI was going to ask you that. But you're usually pretty shy about making predictions. What do you think?
ROTHENBERGI predict -- no, you're right, I am. But I agree with my colleagues here that when you look at the number of races up, you have to say that it's more likely than not that the Democrats will take over the Senate, absolutely, that they'll win somewhere between four and six seats. Could we have a, from the Republican's point of view, a pleasant surprise and the Republicans only lose three seats? Yeah, I wouldn't rule it out. But I think that's less likely than Republicans losing four, five or six seats.
PAGESo Ohio's Senate race has been a surprise because, at this point, Rob Portman, the Republican incumbent seems to be in very good shape against what -- a pretty significant Democratic challenger, Ted Strickland. Florida has been a little bit of a surprise too. Josh, tell us what's happening there. Because Democrats are now -- seem to be backing away from that Senate race against Marco Rubio.
KRAUSHAARCandidates matter. And even though we talk about the grand macro-political environment, I mean, if you have a bad candidate in a big, expensive Senate race, it makes a big difference. And Ted Strickland, because of his age, because of his record as an ousted governor when he lost to John Kasich, and to, frankly, just because of a poorly run campaign. Portman ran a great campaign. He spent money, as Stu was talking about, and he really defined the race on his own terms. In Florida, you have a similar dynamic, where you have a little-known congressman who has some personal baggage, misrepresented his resume...
PAGEPat Murphy is his name.
KRAUSHAAR...Patrick Murphy, the Democrat. And Democrats have been very wary about spending $10, $20 million it would take to really compete in Florida on behalf of a candidate who has, you know, who isn't your top-tier candidate, isn't one of the strongest candidates they have in their lineup. So, you know, they've really had to figure out where to pour -- Democrats have had to figure out where to pour their resources. And they've looked at rudder (word?) states, like Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, where Evan Bayh is running, instead of some of the more traditional battlegrounds, because of the quality of their candidates.
PAGEWell, Indiana is another state that's been a surprise, because it -- we thought it was Republican leaning. Evan Bayh, who used to be in the Senate from Indiana got in. We thought that meant he would be in a very strong position. But now it looks very competitive. Matea, tell us what's happening there.
GOLDI think Indiana, at this end of this race, is going to be looked at as the money pit of 2016. Because it attracted millions of dollars on both sides in an effort by the Democrats to take back that seat. They had Evan Bayh coming out of retirement and this was their white horse who was going to win back the seat. He came back in though with quite a lot of baggage, including questions about whether he had indeed been a lobbyist, you know, his residency in the state versus his time here in Washington. And Republicans still feel very confident that they're going to keep that seat. But what it has done is forced both the GOP and the Democrats to pile millions of dollars into a race that might end up basically a draw.
PAGEAnd it leaves you with the impression that Evan Bayh didn't plan to get back into politics, because he didn't do some basic things like maintain a residence and go stay there in the state.
ROTHENBERGWell, apparently, Indiana political figures have an issue with that, that they don't seem to understand that voters in Indiana think it might be nice that their legislators actually live in Indiana. But the...
PAGERichard Lugar got caught in that too.
ROTHENBERGRight. Right. This is and -- but you mentioned two races in a row, Florida and Indiana, that are really interesting, because they have changed over the months. I remember -- one of my many mistakes -- when the talk about Marco Rubio running for the Senate, I -- after getting out of the presidential -- I thought, well, that's a crazy idea here. He's -- he turned his back on the state to run nationally. Now suddenly, at the last minute, he's going to look to save the seat. It looks like political ambition and nothing but transparent political decisions. And...
ROTHENBERG...it's going to be tough. Yeah, well...
PAGEPolitician is acting in a political way.
ROTHENBERGIt's going to be, you know, it's -- he -- the Republican Party fared poorly in the primary down there. And I talked to somebody afterward who said, no, when he went back to Florida, his Republican numbers were terrific. Republicans really liked him. It was simply a case that they liked Donald Trump better. In Indiana I think I got it right, in that I wrote a column -- a Post column right after Evan Bayh got in, saying, this didn't smell right to me. This was a guy who comes in at the last minute. How much money did he have in his personal account? Didn't he have like $15, $20...
PAGETwenty, yeah, almost $20, I think.
ROTHENBERGTwenty, I was...
PAGEThat he was just holding on to.
PAGEFor a rainy day.
ROTHENBERGIt was just, right, you're right. And so he was going to come in to save the seat, to save the state. It's -- and it just struck me as, this is Dick Lugar all over again, somebody the voters like the way they remember him.
ROTHENBERGBut they don't remember him at how he is now. And so that's exactly what happened. So some of these races, they started off close and they stayed close, right? Toomey, or Kelly Ayotte or some. And some of these races are fundamentally transformed during the six or nine months or ten months of the campaign.
PAGESo candidates matter, campaigns matter. You know, the Missouri Senate race is a big surprise to me. Didn't think Roy Blunt was going to be in any trouble. He's in the fight of his life now.
KRAUSHAARYeah. In this anti-establishment, anti-insider political environment, being a lobbyist, being someone who's cashed in on public service -- as Hillary Clinton is finding out on this presidential campaign -- is a big liability. And Roy Blunt, in a pretty red state like Missouri, he also didn't know where his home was in Missouri. I think he also got grilled on that question and had a trouble answering it. And he...
PAGEYou should have the address in your head.
KRAUSHAARThat should be like the number one thing.
PAGEYou ask me my address, I'm going to be able to tell you.
KRAUSHAARPolitics 101, right? So, and he's neck and neck against a very talented Democratic challenger, the Secretary of State Jason Kander. So candidates matter. And if you're an insider, if you're someone who has gone Washington and hasn't really paid attention to your constituents back home, it's a drag on your campaign. And Blunt is finding that out in Missouri as well.
PAGELet's go to the phones and talk to George. He's calling us from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., one of those swing states, with one of those swing Senate races. But I think he wants to talk about something else. George, hi, you're on the air.
GEORGEBut actually, that -- they just, in fact...
PAGEGeorge, hi, you're on the...
GEORGE...Rubio and his opponent just debated last night and I think his opponent won, the Democratic opponent won. But what I want to talk about is, the panelist talked about the lawmakers who, in fact, have -- who initially endorsed Trump and later unendorsed him. But what about the -- Chaffetz, for instance, who unendorsed him after that very salacious video, and now has re-endorsed him as of last evening. Could you talk about that?
PAGESure. George, now are you -- you going to vote? Have you -- are you going to vote in Florida?
GEORGEWell, yes. Of course I'm going to vote. And I'm going to -- I have no problem in voting for Hillary Clinton, although I really have issues with her. But given the choices we have, regrettably, there's very little choice...
PAGEAnd who are you going to vote for...
GEORGE...and I do have very serious issues about her. But my main choice was Bernie Sanders. Of course, he didn't win...
GEORGE...the primary. But of course, given the choice and given all of the horrible things that has come out of the mouth of Trump, you know, you pretty much have no choice in this case.
PAGEAnd are you going to vote for the Democrat, Patrick Murphy, in the Senate race there?
GEORGEI will vote for Patrick Murphy, no question. I never did like Rubio anyway, even from -- I'm an independent. But I never was a fan of Rubio anyway.
PAGEGeorge, thank you so much for your call. You know, George's real question was about Jason Chaffetz. He's the only one of several candidates, Republicans, who have found themselves trying to walk a really delicate line when it comes to what they say, think about Donald Trump. Tell us about some of the others who have had this problem and are having to deal with it.
GOLDWell, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire is a prime example. She made a slip in a debate and said she thought that Trump would be a good role model. Apparently that did not go over well and she then walked away for a bit. And, you know, she -- both she and Chaffetz sort of represent the what happens when you try to walk on this very narrow balance beam, which you can often fall off, right? And so Chaffetz, last night, we saw said he's not endorsing Trump but he's voting for him, which of course brought no small amount of disparagement and (word?) .
PAGEI saw a tweet this morning that said, that's like saying, I'm not going to write a reference for this guy to be, but I'm going to hire him, like.
PAGEWell, Josh, you were just in New Hampshire.
PAGEWhat struck you while you were there?
KRAUSHAARWell, first of all, the flip-flop is worse than being for Trump in the first place, if you're a Republican. I mean, I was in New Hampshire and I've been covering that race pretty extensively. What the Ayotte campaign found after she withdrew her support for Trump, after the video came out, she said, she's now writing in Mike Pence for president, her numbers plummeted among Trump supporters. They said they can't support her for president. And then they've rebounded since then. But this is what Republicans across the board are finding. You can't win, you can't lose. You basically, if you say you're not going to support Trump, you're going to really lose a lot of support among the Republican base.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Well, Matea, let's take a step back. Why does it matter who controls the Senate? Does it matter much. If Hillary Clinton wins the White House, how much does it matter that -- whether Democrats take it back, control or not?
GOLDWell, I think you just ask President Obama that and see how he has been stymied in terms of the agenda that he's largely tried to push through. And, you know, from Clinton's point of view, they are trying to get not only a mandate but the political muscle to get through an agenda that she hopes will be sort of the signature piece of her administration. And we have seen this incredible gridlock here in this town, with the divided political structure. And, you know, I think that the Republicans are arguing that they need to be a check on a Clinton administration, which sort of gives you a sign into their thinking about which way the presidential race is going to go.
GOLDSo they obviously want to hold on control and stop her from pushing through a lot of these programs. But I think if she comes in with a Senate in her control, not only are her appointments going to be able to go through, but she's also going to be able to have a lot more leverage when it comes to legislation.
PAGEHer appointments, say, to cabinet posts. Her appointments to the Supreme Court. Also the question of investigations, with Republican control, you are more likely to have investigations, aren't you, Stu?
ROTHENBERGYeah, sure. But you're going to have with the Republican House. There's probably a Republican House. And I'm -- they're already planning. I'm sure there are a series of investigations into various aspects of the Clinton universe. Matea's certainly right. It's just more helpful to have a majority. When you have the majority leader, you can decide more in terms of the kind of ebb and flow of legislation and what's discussed and when it's discussed. But the Senate, in most cases, you need a supermajority. And so the larger the Democratic majority, assuming there is one, the better for the Democrats.
ROTHENBERGBut the Republicans won't be irrelevant. We have all witnessed situations where the minority party in the Senate was cohesive enough, polarized enough, defensive enough that, even though there are only 46 or 47 Republicans, they were able to stop a lot of the Democratic initiatives.
PAGEWell, you know, we have a tweet from Ray, who's -- I had sent a tweet out saying, is the House at risk, Republican control of the House -- and he says, no. The GOP House is not at risk. And he attaches a map of the latest Cook Political Report House forecast, which is of 10 to 20 seats flipping to Democrats. That's not enough. They need 30. Is it possible that they'll get to 30, Josh?
KRAUSHAARThere's an outside chance but I'm very skeptical. And I think the Cook Report ratings really demonstrate why it's so challenging for Democrats. First of all, they didn't recruit the strongest candidates in all these suburban districts, this winnable seats, where -- suburban Philadelphia is a great example, where there are two seats that lean a little bit Republican but are very winnable if there's an anti-Trump wave -- and the Democrats didn't land candidates in either district. And they're not spending money in those two districts. So those are two missed opportunities. There are other examples across the map.
KRAUSHAARAnd you also see in some of these specific races that are being contested, Republicans are gaining ground in some districts, Democrats are gaining ground in other districts. There's no wave-like atmosphere that seems to be taking place on the ground at this point.
PAGEThat's Josh Kraushow -- I'm sorry -- Josh Kraushaar. He's a political editor for the National Journal. Matea Gold's also with us. She covers money and politics for The Washington Post. And Stu Rothenberg from the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll go back to the phones and take your calls, 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about down ballot races for the House, the Senate and whether Donald Trump's candidacy is going to be a problem for some of those. Do Democrats have a chance of winning back the Senate or even the House? With me in the studio, Stu Rothenberg, Matea Gold, Josh Kraushaar. And we're taking your calls and questions. Let's go to the phones and talk to Dan. He's calling us from Salisbury, Maryland. Hi Dan.
DANHi. How are you?
DANSo I was just curious if there is any sort of data on down ballot races for, you know, Green Party candidates or Libertarian candidates. I know because of the heightened interest in Jill Stein and Gary Johnson this year, getting a larger percentage than maybe usual in a Presidential election, if that's translated to the smaller ballot. The down-ballot races.
PAGEHey Dan, what about yourself? Are you going to vote for a third party candidate?
DANYeah, I always vote for a third party candidate. If you remember Jimmy McMillin. I used to live in New York. I voted for him for mayor. So, I generally vote third party.
PAGEAnd why do you always vote third party?
DANI want more voices to be in the conversation. I feel like the -- having a choice between two voices only is ridiculous and that the more options we have, the more chance we have at a discussion verses I'm for this or I'm against this. And it's a stupid way to be. I think everything should be -- there's a lot of shades of gray. Everything's not black and white.
PAGEHey Dan, thanks very much for your call. So, third party candidates, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein. Do they have an effect on the ballot? What do you think, Stu?
ROTHENBERGWell, two answers. One is, of course, the pollsters are always include them to find out where a particular House or Senate race is. I can't think of any race where a Libertarian candidate or a Green Party candidate right now is making a big splash.
PAGEYou know, the exception might be Utah, right? In the Presidential race.
ROTHENBERGOh, that's right. Evan McMullin. Who is neither a Green Party or a Libertarian Party.
ROTHENBERGUtah's obviously an abhorrent case, a very unusual case, a conservative Republican state where for a variety of issues, Trump's vulgarity and Trump's criticism of minorities -- they've been looking for an alternative. So there is, there is a case. You're absolutely right, a case where not one of the two major third party candidates, but an independent candidate could matter, is mattering. It's also true, Susan, that I have a piece in today's Post looking at Gary Johnson and Jill Stein and noting that while they will do much better than they did four years ago.
ROTHENBERGBoth of them were their party's nominees four years ago, and Gary Johnson got just under one percent of the vote and Jill Stein got just above a third of a percent of the vote, that they're going to do much better than that. I still think this turns out to be a really failure for them, because given the weaknesses, the vulnerabilities, the problems of the two candidates at the top of the ticket, if Gary Johnson turned out to be a decent candidate, if he knew where Aleppo was. If he could have named one foreign leader he admired.
ROTHENBERGIf he didn't sound like he was baked half the time, he should have been in a position to outperform what he's doing now. And Jill Stein the same way. Her big problem is, you've got now a Democratic Party, sure, you've got a corporatist Democrat Hillary Clinton. I can understand why progressive Democrats would not be enthusiastic about her. But this is also a Democratic Party now of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Jerry Brown. So it's hard, the future isn't great for the Greens either.
ROTHENBERGSo, while I understand Dan's values and his vote intent, and it's perfectly reasonable, I think these third parties actually had a golden opportunity this time, and it seems to have been frittered away.
GOLDAnd you know better than I, Stu, but I believe that the share of the vote that the third party candidates have been getting in the polls has actually been eroding over the last several weeks and months.
ROTHENBERGThat's right. If you look back, Gary Johnson was getting 10 and 12 percent in some polls early on. There was even hope that he would get 15 percent, or he hoped, and his supporters hoped he'd get 15 percent and into the debates. Not being in the debates is a big deal. But you're right. So now, he's down to anywhere from I don't know, three to seven in the surveys. And Jill Stein has dropped off only a couple points, but she was never above five or six.
PAGEYou know, we have a lot of emails and tweets asking us about the Koch brothers. Here's a tweet from Sylvia. She says, the GOP's outside money game is strong. The Koch brothers are putting in 20 million plus. It is imperative Hillary Clinton do her own fund raising for get out the vote. In an email from Diane, who writes us from Cleveland, she says, where are the Koch brothers? Don't they usually swoop in with their money to save down-ballot Republicans? Matea, do they?
GOLDSo, this has been a very different approach taken by the Koch network this year. They actually are putting far less money into television ads. They have spent the last several years building up a permanent ground operation. They have hundreds of staffers across 35, 36 states. And they're using them to try to mobilize voters through door knocking, mailers, phone calls. It's much less sexy than, you know, a blitz of expensive television ads. They feel like it's a better investment of their money.
GOLDBut it has led to sort of an absence on the airwaves of what Republicans usually have seen the last several cycles. Which is a very well-funded arsenal of ads coming in at the last minute from that network.
PAGEAt the end of the day, will there have been more money spent on campaigns this year than ever before? Or is it going to be less?
KRAUSHAAROn the Presidential side, I think a little bit less, because Trump has just not spent the amount of money you usually see for a Presidential nominee on Presidential campaign ads. But on the Senate side, the House side, you're continuing to see extremely high levels of money being spent. It's like a nuclear, you know, trying to keep up with the Jones's. Each party is spending a lot of money. You gotta catch up to keep up.
PAGEWe have a swing voter, I think, from North Carolina on the line. Oscar, he's calling us from Durham. Hi, Oscar.
OSCARHi, good morning. Thank you for having me.
OSCARYeah, I'd just like to mention that I don't think Donald Trump represents the moderate Republicans. And I've been a registered Republican since I could -- the age I could vote. And my wife and I are both Republicans and we both voted for Hillary Clinton. And any Republican who supported Trump, we also voted against them. So, we basically decided to vote for Hillary Clinton and also for anyone that could help her out to actually make things happen in government.
PAGEAnd who did you vote for in your Senate race then?
PAGESo, she's the Democrat. Were there some Republicans you voted for because they had opposed Trump?
OSCARI would have, but there were none. So...
PAGEAnd Oscar, you say you and your wife are registered Republicans. You voted Democratic this year. Will that stick, or in four years, will you be back to voting, pretty much, for the GOP?
OSCARIt depends on how Hillary does. If Hillary, look, what I want is government. I consider myself a moderate Republican. And all I want is for the government to do their job. You know, we pay their salaries. You want them to go to the government and do their jobs. Not postpone selecting a Supreme Court Justice. I mean, that's just ridiculous. I mean, that's like -- it is in the Constitution, the President, the sitting President selects the Supreme Court judge. Let him select the Supreme Court judge.
OSCARYou know, if we start sending people just to make up their own minds in there and just decide when they're going to do something and when they're not going to do something, then they're not doing what they're supposed to do for us. The citizens of the country.
PAGEOscar, just one last question. Have you ever voted for a Democrat for President before?
PAGESo Oscar, thank you so much for your call. You know, Josh, this is the Republicans' worst nightmare is Oscar. Right? He's been a solid Republican. He's never voted for a Democrat before. He voted basically a Democratic ballot this this time, and he says what he does in four years depends on what happens.
KRAUSHAARThis really has the potential to be a realigning election of sorts. In that college educated white voters have, throughout the whole century, essentially, voted for Republican candidates usually by significant margins. Mitt Romney won by about 12 points in the exit polls over Obama among -- even though he lost the election. Donald Trump is trailing by about 12 points on average in the national polls among that demographic group that it sounds like Oscar, or a lot of voters like him are a part of.
KRAUSHAARTrump is trying to run up the score with blue collar, white voters, and in North Carolina, there's sort of these cross currents, where you have rural voters in the state that are -- maybe used to vote Democrat, are moving in the Trump column. But there are a lot more voters in the suburbs and in the populated areas around Raleigh, Charlotte, and across the country. And that's why Trump is really facing such long odds in this election.
GOLDAnd what Oscar articulated, I think, is also a really bad sign for the Republicans who are trying to make the case that you need to elect our candidates to be a check on Hillary Clinton. There are a lot of Americans who do not like the gridlock in Washington, so I do not know if that argument is actually going to resonate with people that much this year. Who now just feel like the system's broken. We want to get something done. So, you know, if they do like her policies, if they're going to vote for her, it seems like that argument is not going to resonate.
ROTHENBERGYes. Thank you, Susan. I'm not surprised by this call at all. In fact, I brought about this many months ago again. The argument has been, well, Mitt Romney won white voters by 20 points, 59 to 39. The argument has been, there is still, there are still these hundreds of thousands of white voters out there who don't participate. They've been frustrated with the political system, distrust our leaders, don't feel that government is responsive. And now, Donald Trump, the guy who's coming in on the white horse to save the world, the universe, the planet.
ROTHENBERGHe's going to bring them out. And I always thought, well maybe, yes, there are some white voters who -- there are lots of white voters who don't vote. But most of those people are so disconnected from the political system that even Donald Trump won't bring them in. But I always thought, okay, let's concede that there are some more white voters who vote Republican. But how is Donald Trump going to do among Latinos compared to Mitt Romney? 18 to 29 year-olds compared to Mitt Romney?
ROTHENBERGCollege educated voters, self-described pragmatists or moderates like Oscar. It just never added up to me when you looked at the various elements of the Republican coalition and I think Oscar is not alone and I think Oscar is an example of why Donald Trump is going to do worse among white voters than Mitt Romney did.
PAGEWell, if that's the case, and these -- all these structural factors and demographic factors favor Hillary Clinton, why was the race pretty close, at least until pretty recently?
ROTHENBERGI don't think it was. I have to challenge your premise. I think that right after the -- coming out of the Democratic convention, it was about a 10 point race. I think it got close to about a five point race. I don't think it ever got closer than that. I know some people said it was even. I don't think so. I think it was a five point race. If you look at the NBC News, Wall Street Journal, that tend to be in the mid single digits. And now it popped open some more.
KRAUSHAARWell, Hillary Clinton is and was a deeply disliked candidate herself. I mean, if you had a more generic Democrat running against Trump, with his, even at his high point in this race, he probably would be losing by more significant margins. But a lot of people were trying to pick the candidate they liked a little bit more, but even though they don't like either candidate.
PAGEHere's a tweet from Jason. He says, why do you guys always talk about the Koch brothers and never talk about the long collaboration between Clinton and George Soros? Matea, what's the role that George Soros has been playing this year?
GOLDI actually wrote a big story about the role that Soros and other billionaire liberals have been playing on behalf of Clinton and the Democrats earlier this week. Check it out. But the main point is that she tapped into this base of wealthy supporters very early on this cycle. And they have given tens of millions of dollars to a super PAC supporting her and Priorities USA Action, which is the main super PAC running ad on Clinton's behalf has now raised more money than any super PAC in history.
GOLDAnd if you had predicted that a Democrat would have had that super PAC, I think all of us would have been surprised.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. We have a tweet, an email I guess, from Deb, and I don't know what the facts of this are, so I'll give it to our panel. Deb says, the guests need to correct something they said about Evan Bayh running for the Senate in Indiana. She says that Bayh has 10 million dollars in his coffers, not 15 to 20. And all polls show he is five points ahead. Can somebody address that?
KRAUSHAARSo, it's in that 10 million -- I mean, he had a lot more money than any Senator out of the Senate has had in quite some time. And that was why he decided to jump back in because he did have this financial advantage. And as far as the polls, Indiana is one of those Senate races where Republicans and Democrats privately disagree on where the race stands right now. But one reason Bayh has a slight edge in the public polls is that he's a better known candidate. People know Evan Bayh.
PAGEWell, his family has been in Democratic politics -- in politics in Indiana for what, 60 years?
KRAUSHAARHis father, Governor. He was Governor. So there's a slight disadvantage that the Republican, Todd Young, has, when it comes to name identification. When it comes to getting his own name out there.
PAGEYou know, we had a Republican in North Carolina, Oscar called, saying he was voting for Clinton. Now we've got a Democrat from Vermont saying she's voting for Trump. Patty, hi.
PAGESo tell us what you're doing.
PATTYI'm voting for Trump. I've gone Republican this year because I can't stand Hillary Clinton and I was disillusioned by Bernie Sanders. I like what Trump stands for. I want a change, but I do have one thing to say. The way everybody's bailed out on him, all those Republicans, in four years, whoever wins this time, in four years, I will not vote Republican for any of them. I will -- I don't know what I'll do, but all my friends feel the same way. I have a lot of women friends. They've changed from Democrat to Republican for Donald Trump.
PAGEAll right, Patty, thank you so much for your call. Patty was calling us from Westminster, Vermont. Now, Patty has gone in one direction, but the fact is a lot of women voters have gone in the other direction. It's where Hillary Clinton has her, has her big advantage among women voters, Matea.
GOLDYes, and the Trump campaign is trying to eat into that by emphasizing the past marital indiscretions by former President Bill Clinton. They have a very overt strategy from the candidate on down to make a case that Hillary Clinton is not good for woman. And going right to the heart of her relationship with her husband and how she treated woman who accused him of various allegations. And that's because they know that this is her big ace card. I mean, they're, I don't know, Stu, have we ever seen such an imbalance in terms of the woman vote?
ROTHENBERGIt's really remarkable now, isn't it? It's as if we have a male party and a female party. And it's probably not healthy. But some of this has to do simply with the quality of the candidates. Their unique assets and liabilities. And also the fact that Hillary Clinton will be the first woman President. After that, you know, that may be a -- once that happens, if that happens, assuming it happens, it's probably going to happen, I don't know, people may, voters may look at that a little differently. It won't be this defining event for many people.
PAGEYou know, I'd like to ask each of you to tell us about one race where you think there's going to be an upset. A race where the conventional wisdom is that one candidate is going to win, but you think there's a good chance the other one will win. Josh, let's start with you. What is your upset?
KRAUSHAARSo, I'll go to the House for this one. And Darrel Issa is in a very, very tough race in California. He's in a district -- he's a guy who hasn't had to worry about his re-election and that's a big warning sign. The members who lose are in a surprise type of race are usually the ones that just aren't prepared for their campaign. And this is a district, that Isa represents, that's getting a little more Democratic, getting a little more Hispanic. It's in the suburbs in Southern California. So, I would not be surprised at all if Darrel Isa, one of Obama's biggest thorns, from his time in House leadership, ends up losing on election night.
PAGEMatea, give us an upset.
GOLDWell, based on where the money's being spent, I don't know that this will be a huge surprise, but I think Kander is likely to take Missouri. You see how much...
PAGEYeah, he's running for the Senate.
GOLD...for the Senate.
GOLDAnd, you know, one of the things that really seemed to catch fire was this ad that he did in which he was blindfolded and assembling and disassembling a gun and talking about his support for, actually restrictions on access to weapons. And also making the point that he is, obviously, knows what he's talking about and uses firearms. And so, that's a race I think the Republicans are worried about.
PAGESo, that put him kind of against the Democratic conventional position on guns. It reminded me a little of the Joni Ernst's ad in Iowa where she was castrating pigs. I guess maybe these are stunt ads that have worked for some candidates. Okay, Stu, you're last up.
ROTHENBERGBy the way, I was talking to a Republican insider last night about that race, and he agrees with Matea. Or Matea agrees with him. He agrees with Matea that Roy Blunt is an underdog that's probably going to go down. I'll give you an obscure House race -- I'm going to request Josh to correct my missing details on this, but I think it's Florida 18 and it's Republican Brian Mast that's going to upset Randy Perkins, a wealthy Democratic businessman.
PAGEAll right, so you'll all have to come back on the air after the race, after the election and tell us how you did with these predictions. I want to thank our panel for being here with us. Stu Rothenberg, Matea Gold, Josh Kraushaar, thanks so much for joining us on The Diane Rehm Show. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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