tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS October 31, 2014 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
gwen: elections are just around the corner and much is at stake. the contenders, candidates and what comes next. tonight on "washington week." >> i like to complain and i want to feel like i have the right to do so because i cast my vote. >> there's some people that need to be out of office and others that need to be in office. >> it's always about the elections, but the season seems to be longer and longer every year to me. >> voting has already begun and tuesday will tell the tally. will the republicans take the senate? >> the president has the playbook and harry calls the plays. let's take the playbook away. >> will gwen: will democrats push back? >> when you step into that voting boot you have a choice to make. it's not just between candidates and parties, it's a choice about two different
visions for america. gwen: but what will that choice mean for the economy, education, health care and the lame duck president? covering the campaign, molly ball, national political correspondent for "the atlantic," karen tumulty, national political correspondent for "the washington post," amy walter, national editor for the "cook political report," and jeff zeleny, senior washington correspondent for abc news. >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as live from our nation's capitol, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill. corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> how much money do you have in your pocket right now? >> i have $40. >> $21. >> could something that small make an impact on something as big as your retirement?
well, if you start putting that money towards your retirement every week and let it grow over time for 20, 30 years, that retirement challenge might not seem so big after all. >> the future of surgery is within sight. our research is studying how real time multi-modality surgery can help precision and outcomes. brigham & women's hospital. it all starts here. >> funding for "washington week" is also provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. so as we brace for the big wave or for the minor splash that
will drive the analysis tuesday night, we gather here around the table to offer you a final-weekend, halloween-night assessment of what the 2014 midterm election has turned out to be. has it been a referendum on president obama's record or on his congress' future? has it been a defense of incumbency? check out democratic senator mark pryor's approach. >> it's why i've worked across party lines and tried to take the best from both parties to get things done for arkansas. neither party is always right. i'm mark pryor and i approved this message because i'll work with anyone to make arkansas better. gwen: or is the problem washington itself? georgia republican senate candidate david perdue makes this pitch. >> if you're as frustrated as i am by the dysfunction in washington and believe we can do better, then i'd really appreciate your trust and your vote.
gwen: let's start by talking about the voters. are they motivated or throwing up their hands in disgust? karen? >> voters have -- other than the strong partisans of each party, we always see a midterm drop-off of voters, particularly among young people, among minorities, among single women who of all democratic constituencies. but despite the ease with which people can vote in so many states in, colorado by mail now, that turnout is going to be pretty darn low this year at the polls. gwen: i know you've been traveling all over the country. we all have. i'm curious when you talk to voters if you get that from them, that i get from them, which is exasperation and the hate of television ads, and then they recite them to you. >> they do, because they are happening so often. the best sense is to sit in a hotel room and watch all these ads. it's a $4 billion campaign. at this point so many people
have voted, those ads are still running. they should be getting a discount because it's kind of a rip-off. voters are angry at everything, at government, at incumbents. that's one thing that i'll be watching on election night. even republicans who should be safe. all incumbents are a little bit anxious, because even someone like mitch mcconnell, who looks to be doing ok in the polls right now, he's not a beloved figure. so the incumbency is not a good thing, even on the republican side this year. >> gwen: amy? >> well, there is a sense that it doesn't matter so much about votes. the voting is not that important in the sense because it's not going to make a lot of difference. they don't really care who's in charge in congress, but they know whether they put a democrat or a republican in charge they don't expect to see much change. so that's the deeper frustration. when you listen to voters and what are they talking about? they're talking about the economy, concerns about their kids' education, their own
retirement, and nobody's really talking about that. these ads are much more about talking to the base, so if you're republican you're going to hear a lot of anti-obamacare messages. if you're a democrat you'll hear a lot of social issues that you like, but you're not talking about the core issues that the majority of people in this country care about. gwen: molly, aren't these candidates, especially these tight senate races, aren't they counting on motivation, enthusiasm, getting their base to turn out? doesn't that require some sort of engagement? >> well, you can engage people by getting them excited about you or get them afraid of the other guy and that's what a lot of these candidates are choosing to do and what a lot of the outside groups are doing with these overwhelmingly negative constant billions of dollars of tv ads. i do think -- i feel like a bit of a broken record talking about this being an anti-washington election because i feel like we've been saying that every year since maybe 2008. and i guess it's us, it's washington. we haven't gotten any better,
so the voters keep casting that anti-washington vote. but at the same time, we all covered 20 so. that was a mad-as-heck election. that was people really bringing out the pitchforks. i don't get that sense of a real tide of anger, especially anger in one particular direction that 2010 was. so that's why, as you said earlier in the show, it seems like it's going to be a little more of a splash than a tidal wave. gwen: mad as heck. that's so sweet. well, as you can see everyone tonight has been on the road, reading the polls, talking to candidates and the voters to try to get a handle on those tea leaves. here's part of my conversation last weekend in north carolina with the two candidates involved in the most expensive senate race ever. republican thom tillis and incumbent democrat kay hagan. gwen: why is it, so close to election day, things are so tight? all these ads, $100 million worth? >> you know, north carolina is this purple state, but i feel very good about where we are.
i do think this out-of-state money is something i'm very disappointed in, but it's because of the supreme court -- gwen: but you -- >> -- decision. gwen: -- benefited from it as well? >> you know, i think no matter who gives money, it should be disclosed and it should be transparent. gwen: someone has quoted as saying that a persuadable voter at this stage is as hard to find as a pink unicorn. >> i do believe there are persuadable voters out there. i believe that there are voters on election day who will go into the ballot box and make a decision at game time. gwen: well, it's game time. what do you all see? >> i mean, i think that republicans have this air of confidence about them and they know that they're probably likely to pick up the six seats that they need. that's the number we have to keep in mind on election night, six seats. but they don't know exactly where they're going to come from. they generally know where the three will come from, montana, south dakota, but even this close to election day millions have vote and they're still not sure. >> you meant west virginia.
>> west virginia, exactly. >> i was going to say, did something happen in virginia? >> republicans are scarred by what happened in 2010 and 2012, the senate republicans at least. they're not quite sure it's going to happen. there are so many teats in play, it would be hard to imagine them not finding three seats elsewhere. >> there's one factor that's a little bit different in north carolina. kay hagan, the incumbent senator, is likely to be hit by this anti-washington sentiment. but thom tillis is the speaker of the house and people in north carolina aren't exactly wild about the legislature's performance either. so they're both being hit by a little bit of an anti-incumbent sentiment. and another issue in north carolina is there is no other state in the country, at least in the last presidential election, where young people and old people's voting patterns were so different, with the young going one way and the old going the other. young people are going to be the hardest ones to get out, and those are the constituents, particularly in north carolina,
democrats need. gwen: that's part of the problem, isn't it, molly, the obama coalition that helped him win north carolina in 2008 and around the country, were africans, latinos, young women, single women and they don't seem to be that moved this year. >> i think that voters sort of correctly perceive that not a lot is at stake in this election. the candidates are always going to say this is the most important election in our lifetime, but that's not true. no matter what happens, even if republicans take the senate, we had divided government before. we will have divided government after the election. obama will still be in the white house. the republicans, barring some kind of freak occurrence, will still have the house of representatives. so whether the senate is in republican hands, it will make some difference but it's not going to change the basic fact of life and it probably won't undo the partisanship that has kept that stalemate going for the last six years. so i think it's hard for
candidates to convince voters that there's a reason for them to come out to vote. and, you know, democrats have this ground game that they are really banking on, that they've spent a lot of money on this year. you can't turn people out to vote who just don't want to vote. gwen: go ahead. >> that is, i think, the key to all of this. republicans said to me you can't win on turnout when you're losing on message. and the message to the democratic base is one of, you've got to turn out. it's so important. you came out for obama. that's fine, except for this is a base that is soured on the president, much more so than they were in 2012. i mean, i went and compared the numbers. north carolina, colorado, iowa, the really important races where the president -- he didn't win north carolina, but won the other two. his numbers among all of those groups you just talked about, except african-americans have gone down tremendously. single women, latinos, young
people, it's dramatic in terms of their approval rating of the president. so trying to motivate people who feel disappointed -- and i think molly's right, it's not a pitchfork kind of election, it's a passive election, like meh. gwen: let's walk through some of the states. georgia, as far as we know friday night, things are still dead even. >> no doubt about it. perhaps even with a slight edge for the democrat there. >> michelle nunn. >> michelle nunn. the challenge or the complication is there's a runoff election. and the winner has to get 50% plus one, otherwise it goes for two more months, the first tuesday in january. gwen: there's a libertarian candidate. >> and that complicates it. so republicans are absolutely worried about not winning it on the first election. but the second go-round, we'll see. gwen: colorado? >> i was just in colorado. i'll take this one. colorado is a really interesting state because it
went for obama twice and because democrats were starting to feel confident that they had a permanent coalition there. over the last decade they've re-engineered the state in a democratic direction. but now we seem to be seeing a little bit of a backlash to that and republicans getting wise to a lot of the tactics democrats have used. corey gardner, who a lot of democrats believe is maybe the republicans strongest of all the senate candidates cycle, a congressman, a republican, who despite having taken conservative positions, is able to sell himself as this sort of sunny, work across the aisle moderate, taking on the incumbent. mark udahl, who never expected to be in trouble. the fact that we're talking about states like colorado on election eve tells you what kind of year this is. gwen: i was in colorado and so were you, karen. one of the interesting things is that this is a perfect example of what you're talking about, this being a more moderating kind of election. this is not a tea party election at all, for among the republicans doing well. corey gardner is mr., hey, everything is fine here and he's not the only example.
>> but mark udall -- the cycle that's worked for democrats in colorado has been social issues, with reproductive issues being sort of the silver bullet. he was essentially trying this play again. corey gardner saw it coming, got sort of wiggled out of his support in the past for the personhood amendment. i also think that there's a sense among colorado voters of, you know, there's so many times you can run this play and make these arguments before people just quit hearing it. gwen: arkansas, weren't you in arkansas? >> i was in arkansas. that is a place where mark pryor has the family name that is a golden name of politics. it just may not be enough this year. the democratic -- the republican winds are blowing so hard it's going to blow out the democratic traditions looks like. but mark pryor -- i was out there a week and a half ago and
bill clinton was at his side. and bill clinton is going back this weekend. he's going all across this state. i'm not sure that's going to work. but arkansas is a changing state. in 2008 there were still four democratic members of congress, i believe. the legislature was democratic. it's just a change in southern states, so it's hard for him. gwen: my favorite two things about that race is tom cotton, the republican, the veteran, who also comes across as not being very hard-edged. he has an ad with he and his wife and a puppy in his lap. love that ad. the other is a story that was in "the washington post" about david pryor campaigning for his son, going to all the small towns in arkansas and saying he and his wife was the antiques road show. i loved it, i loved it. kentucky. >> kentucky feels a little anticlimactic right now. this was supposed to be the marquee race, right? can mitch mcconnell hold on? he's as unpopular in the state
as barack obama. even though it's a republican state. and alison grimes, the democrat. you know, really running a very strong campaign, raising tons of money, making it -- trying to make it a referendum on mitch mcconnell. he, of course, making a referendum on obama. but you see the reason that mitch mcconnell has been able to win in kentucky. and he wins by narrow margins every time. but he is a dogged, smart, aggressive campaigner and it has shofpblet he's opened up something of late. you know, i think this is what's important, too. you made the point about this isn't really a tea party election and this to me is fascinating. seeing how these candidates, even though they're very conservative, tom cotton, corey gardner in colorado very conservative. but they've been running as more moderate candidates. what happens when they come to washington and they have to govern? the base is expecting them to be conservatives. they've seen them campaign more moderately.
it's going to be very -- i think it's going to be very challenging. max: let's talk about -- gwen: let's talk about iowa. the candidate there wanes she is run ago strong race against braley. >> she was endorsed by sarah palin, but also mitt romney. this is what republicans have done this year. jeff talked about how republicans fell short in 2010 and 2012. democrats thought they won those elections. but it was the case that republicans lost them. this year republicans have not nominated a todd aiken or a sharon engle. they have nominated candidates like johnnyy ernst who were conservative enough to satisfy the base, but could pivot through the general election and sound like normal people and not say things that got them in trouble and would be played over and over again in a campaign ad. so you have these sort of sputtering democrats on the
sidelines saying, no, no, i swear she's an extremist. doesn't sound that way. voters don't perceive her that way. she seems like what she is, which is a small-town iowa girl from a farm, let's not forget the hogs. >> how can anyone forget the hogs? >> it's interesting. in the primary she talked about castrating the hogs. in the general election she has another commercial about the hogs, but it's about washington being a mess. there's no testicles this time. can you say that on pbs? i might get bleeped. >> in iowa there's a strong governors race and democrats across the board are getting sort of sucked in by that. but she's the one to watch. >> don't forget there were a couple of big gaffs by the democratic nominee, congressman bruce braley, who said dismissive things about the senior senator, chuck grassley, being "just a farmer," being not even a lawyer and running the judiciary committee. gwen: let's talk about kansas.
the republicans have figured out a way to get everybody in, and on behalf of pat roberts, as has -- i guess sarah palin has been there, but bob dole has been there. everybody has been campaigning for him, against the independent, gregorman, because? >> because the republicans have sounded the five-alarm fire and brought in every single republican. this shouldn't be happening. but pat roberts was asleep at the switch again, he almost got taken by surprise. so they are trying to get every sort of faction of the republican party, the moderates, the conservatives, the christian conservatives out and fired up about this. but i'm not sure -- it's been a fascinating story. greg orman may have peaked a little soon, we'll see. it takes a campaign organization to get voters out and he's kind of out there on his own. >> and kansas is a fight -- it's an intraparty fight. this is not a fight between the two parties. this is kansas and it has a
long tradition of they're very conservative part of the party and the moderate part of the party and this is where greg orman has done very well with the suburbs, and he appeals to the moderate republican who is frustrated, and the governor is also very conservative. you know, that is where roberts needs to bring in a bob dole, because he needs to get those old-line republicans back. he doesn't need the sarah palin republicans now. he needed them earlier. >> also worth mentioning, the democrat in that race dropped out. gwen: that's true. >> or was edged out. gwen: we have a couple more to hit before we run out of time. louisiana, where there may also be a runoff. there is going to be a runoff. >> everybody make your reservation. so we can all have great dinners there. this is a state where you need 50% on election night. there are three candidates in that race, which means it's more likely than not that nobody gets 50%. so we go into early december,
we have a runoff. it's going to be very tough for mary landrieu. that state has changed dramatically over the last 10 or 12 years. it's really -- it's not enough just to turn out new orleans. for a democrat to win there, you have to do better among white voters there, and that's going to be tough. gwen: we might also be up late waiting on alaska. that's also a late, tight race. >> that's because the democrats -- they think their ground game is going to save them in that state. so they have put a field operation into the most remote native villages. so they're going to be sort of going out and getting those votes back. gwen: is this an issue of free election in the end, or does it all come back to getting people to turn out, getting your people to turn out, rather than obamacare or the economy or education or any of the issues -- even women's issues that we keep hearing people talk about? >> it's somewhat of a free election, but it certainly started as an obamacare
election. now you look at the ads. it is not as much of an issue as they thought it would be. as molly said before, it's sort of a fear election, too. something like a million dollars has been spent just on ebola ads alone. it's not really -- i don't hear much policy discussions about isis right now, and those are the issues, or hardly any discussions about what the next congress is facing, like the debt ceiling. so not issue-free, but certainly not issue-heavy. gwen: i missed new hampshire, by the way. jeanne shaheen and mark -- scott brown. >> well, that's another race, just the fact that we are talking about it tells you how favorable the climate has turned for republicans. because when scott brown first announced, he looked like a long shot. he's a carpetbagger from massachusetts. jeanne shaheen hasn't done anything to tick anybody off. all of the analysis, including mine at the time was, well, maybe if there's a wave he has a chance to ride it. this is how close we are to
some kind of wave, he is now within single digits of jeanne shaheen. he's still behind. but the fact that he's giving her a scare is the symptom of the fact that even in blue states, even in states like new hampshire, where obama won twice, democrats are still having trouble and president obama is not welcomed. >> this issue -- there is an issue in this election and it is president obama. and his job performance. and also, just the whole wave after wave of bad news from the border, from isis, from ebola that has hit -- max: i want to ask -- gwen: you reached out to newt gingrich and became speaker of the house in 2005 because the 2004 election took everybody by surprise. and you asked him, does it feel like that? he says it feels maybe like a rising tide. let's face it, he said all the low fruit's been picked here by the republicans. he says the thing to watch is
that the number of state legislatures that are going to flip this time to the republicans. he said, which is an extraordinary amount of power over redistricting, over building a field team of future candidates, that he thinks that may be the real significance of this election. gwen: there are a lot of governors races which could flip the other way. we talked about it a lot last week. but when you start looking around the country that is going to affect people's lives more. >> it's interesting how many governors are in trouble. not just republican governors who were elected in 2010. that's a lot of them, people like scott walker in wisconsin, rick snyder in michigan, rick scott in florida, paula page in maine. they came in on a republican wave. so in a year that's not as favorable to republicans as 2010, there's a lot of democratic governors in peril as well. pat quinn in illinois. dan malloy in connecticut, who is in a very, very tight race, in connecticut, one of the bluest states in the country. so i think that is another
symptom of just the mood -- the anti-incumbency mood, people not being satisfied that they have leadership and wanting to kick out whoever is in charge. gwen: well, there is so much to talk about come tuesday night. we'll all be sitting on the edge of our seats. whether people think it's going to affect their lives, these elections always give us an insight into where america is, not necessarily where the candidates are, but where americans are. that's always worth watching and voting, thank you, everybody of the we have to go now, but as always, the conversation will continue online on the "washington week" webcast extra, where we'll keep talking politics. but pivot to 2016. yes, it's time. that streams live at 8:30 p.m. eastern and you can find it all week long at pbs.org/washingtonweek. tuesday night join judy woodruff and me and amy here for a full night of elections coverage on-air and online, including a results special at 11:00 p.m. eastern. and now, that, of course, we'll
be making our plans for dinner in louisiana. we'll see you here next week on "washington week." good night. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> the future of surgery is within sight. our research is studying how real-time multi-modality surgery can help precision and outcomes. brigham & women's hospital. it all starts here. >> additional corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by prudential. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you.
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