The Six Senate Races That Matter (with CNN’s John King, Part 2)

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CNN’s Chief National Correspondent John King is back in the bubble to break down the major House and Senate races this midterm that will determine which party controls Congress next year. From John Fetterman in Pennsylvania to Herschel Walker in Georgia, Andy asks John which candidates are most likely to flip their state, who’s spending the most money in the final weeks, and what to watch closely on Election Day.

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Andy Slavitt, John King

Andy Slavitt  00:18

This is IN THE BUBBLE with Andy Slavitt. We’re picking up part two of our conversation with John King from CNN. Part one was Wednesday, where we did an overview of what the key issues that are animating this midterm election cycle are, we dug in deep on a number of the state races. And we talked about the very real prospect that we could end up electing a set of state wide officials, governors, secretaries of state, and attorneys general, who are essentially supportive of the claim that Donald Trump won the election. And therefore, in 2024, it will really potentially change the landscape. If you haven’t listened to part one, go ahead and do that. Part two is a bit more fun, in some respects, because we’re not talking about issues, we’re talking about the key races and how the issues animate themselves among these races. And we’re going to talk about essentially the House and the Senate, and what is going to make the difference in deciding which way they’re going to fall. As everybody probably knows, they’re tight by a very, very narrow margin, very difficult to call. John will give us his opinions and perspectives. And I try to push him you’ll hear towards the end of the episode into doing something he never likes to do, which is make a prediction. And credit to John, he does. So we’re going to talk about the house, we’re going to talk about the six key Senate races. And we’re going to I think, have a great conversation. I spent the last couple of days with some high level political people, and thinking about them as governor types, getting their take on the midterms. And you know, I think that there is a feeling that a lot of Republican money is being thrown at the last three weeks of the race into some key states. I think that’s making Democrats very, very nervous. Some of you might have seen the John Fetterman interview on MSNBC, that’s also been a cause for some concern among Democrats. And so I’d say that on the Democratic side, there’s a fair amount of nervousness on the Republican side, probably increasing confidence. And still, I think it’s really important to know that none of the pundits, John included, are gonna decide who shows up in Washington in January in the next Congress, that’s gonna be decided by the voters, by all of you by all of us. And a lot of this will come down to who shows up, and how much people have a passion for voting. And so I think it’s entirely possible to see any of the kinds of outcomes that could happen here. money aside, I think grassroots organizing people getting involved can beat money. And we’ve shown it before. We’ve shown it over the last number of years. So it’s very important election. A very cool conversation with John, I’m glad to be back to do a second conversation, we’re gonna pick up pretty much where we left off and jump into the House and Senate races.

Andy Slavitt  03:31

So, John, on Wednesday, we broke down the key issues in the midterms. Now, I want to turn to the house and key Senate races. It let’s start with a house and polling and money. Which party has the edge when it comes to financial spending in the last few weeks, which of course is, you know, pretty important part of who gets elected?

John King  03:57

Yes. In the House races, Democrats have had a general advantage over the course of the campaign. Democrats have done a much better job using act blue, for example, using the internet using central locations to get things to their candidates. Republicans have caught up to a degree. One thing you’re seeing, I’d have to look more closely at the specifics of house we’re definitely seeing this at Senate races, where a Democrats, the Democratic candidates, and this does apply to House races as well. This is generalizing but in the whole Democratic candidates themselves. This specific campaigns, for the most part, have outraged Republicans. Republicans are coming in late though with super PAC money in some of their groups over the summer. Those groups were not spending as much the Republicans have even convinced Donald Trump who’s very reluctant to spend his own money. He has a new super PAC, it’s called MAGA Inc. Now he’s going in and some Senate races right now for candidates. He backed in the primaries who were having trouble in the general election in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. That’s a couple of million dollars. It’s not a ton of money, but it’s some money. The Republicans have been trying to rattle the Trump cage for some time to spend some of it and let’s see if he does more if he Does that will help those two candidates? It’s not enough to make a huge difference nationally by the Republicans. Generally Republicans are coming in late to try to make up for what has been an overwhelming democratic advantage over the summer and very early fall.

Andy Slavitt  05:12

Got it. And in the Senate races, clearly the candidates seem to matter, like who is running seems to matter. Is that true in the house as well? Or are the number of competitive races so few? That, you know, in effect, it’s going to be shaped by these larger trends you’ve already talked about? And I’m curious specifically, if there are some of the dynamics that might exist in the Senate where you’ve got Trump back to kind of populous candidates who are election deniers, who are particularly ill suited, perhaps for a district or anything else that you might be seeing in the house that might say, Hey, this looks different than it has in the past.

John King  05:56

I think you raise the key question. I’m going to mention a Senate race, but then come back to the house. But remember, a few years ago in a big Republican year, Jean Shaheen held on in New Hampshire. She was the former governor, she got elected to the Senate. She’s genie back home. She has a brand, right. So you have to watch now the free night at the House races. Do you have a brand back home? Are you going home every other weekend or every weekend and doing the things that get your brand deeply entrenched in the community? Way, way back. I’m a guy. I’m from Boston and Teddy Kennedy did this. You know, Ted Kennedy was the liberal icon. He was you know; he was Ted Kennedy. He was a national institution. Mitt Romney almost beat him one year but Ted Kennedy held down in that race. Why? Because he was in Worcester and Gloucester and everyone else cutting a ribbon, all the things you would think why the hell is the senator here? It matters. It can matter if you build your brand as someone who represents your people. I’ll give you two examples to look for on election night for this. Matt Cartwright and Susan Wilds are the Democratic incumbents in Pennsylvania, seventh and Pennsylvania. Eight. Susan Wilde was elected in 2018 in the Trump way, the blue wave that made Nancy Pelosi speaker, alright, so she’s only had the district for two terms. Now. It’s a district that leans just Republican you might call it 5050. It’s probably Republican plus two in terms of registration. Right next door is Matt Cartwright in a district that’s a toss-up maybe Republican plus one or plus two. These are two congress people, regardless of party who do the right thing, meaning they go home a lot. There, they go home, they talk to their people, they know their community, can they survive in this year, consumes a wild Hold on in a really competitive district when the tide is the other national titles against you. Matt Cartwright is running both of these rematches, by the way, the people they beat in 2020 in the presidential year, they’re running against them now in the first midterm. So it’s for me, it’s just a fascinating test. Did you need that increased turnout in a presidential year? does turn out really dropping this midterm year? Or are we in the age of higher participation? And can you win a rematch in the Cartwright district the candidate is someone who says Donald Trump won Pennsylvania tried to help Donald Trump overturn the results in Pennsylvania. Those things aren’t true. But they do motivate and animate the Republican base to a degree. And they’re also eight o’clock poll closing. So I told you it like my job on election night are there clues? If those two Democrats can hold on. It doesn’t tell you Democrats are going to keep the majority there are too many races in play. But it does tell you that Democrats are doing pretty well, if they can hold on. And it says there’s a possibility they’ll hold the majority or the flip side of that is maybe they lose the majority. But the Republicans have a tiny majority. And that will make a huge difference. If the Republicans win the house by how much is a giant factor in you know, Kevin McCarthy’s ability first to win the speakership. And then if he does to do anything, without having, you know, the Family Feud, if you will, within the Republican Conference.

Andy Slavitt  08:41

Yeah, that is a really interesting question, which is, if what you’re saying is it’s very likely that the Republicans are going to take care of the house not guaranteed, but very likely, how much does the size of the majority matter if he if he has a 10? Seat majority? What did the next couple years look like? If he has a 40 seat majority? What is the next couple years look like?

John King  09:01

Well, I would put it this way. Does he need Marjorie Taylor greens vote to be speaker? Does he need Lauren bellbirds? Vote to be speaker? Does he need Jim Jordan and the Freedom Caucus vote to be speaker? If the answer is yes. What does he have to promise to get them? Does he have to promise that they will try to impeach the president united states? Does he have to promise that they will try to impeach members of the cabinet? Does he have to promise that they will move quickly to a host of aggressive oversight hearings? I believe Democrats or Republicans in charge the congressional oversight is a good thing. If you’re legitimately asking questions about policy, where did the money go? Prove to me it was spent effectively and if you find something bad, great, that’s your job. But not the we want to exact political revenge because the Democrats twice impeach Donald Trump. So we’re just going to haul them up here, you know, and have a pinata contest. So I do think the size of the majority and who’s in it, assuming the Republicans win, I don’t rule out the democrats doing it, when I get this close to election, I really tried to program myself the data tells me and history tells me Republicans are likely to win the house. The voters often tell us different things.

Andy Slavitt  10:11

But what you just said is odd, John, and in some ways that there is a way in which a bigger Republican majority could be better for a more functional house for the Democrats than a smaller one, where the Barbara Taylor Greens have more power allowed Joe Manchin type power?

John King  10:29

Yes, yes. In the sense that if the president United States has to do anything difficult if we’re just trying to, you know, you’ve been around the government enough to know, you know, we haven’t passed a budget by the normal rules, meaning they pass appropriations bills in every committee, then the House passes one, the Senate passes one, you have a conference committee, maybe we don’t need to do it that way anymore. Sometimes the old rules should be thrown out. But by the way, the system is built to pass a budget. We haven’t done it that way fully. Since Bill Clinton was President of the United States. That’s a long time ago, we passed and Americans like divided government, and that’s why this happens, because you have a president of one party and either the Congress both of the other party, or you know, that’s another fascinating question, do we know Joe Biden’s president for two more years? Let’s assume for the sake of the conversation, this is not, you know, it’s not done. But if the Republicans take the house, then who wins the Senate becomes hugely important. That doesn’t mean Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy if the Republicans took the Senate, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy don’t agree on much. So that would be a fascinating political story, too. But if the Democrats also control the Senate, you know, then when it comes to just basic things, like funding the government, or if the house, you know, goes ahead with impeachment.

Andy Slavitt  11:41

And justices, and approving judges.

John King  11:44

And justice and justice and improving the courts up and down the line, presidential appointees up and down the line. So this is an incredibly consequential midterm election and the pieces of the chessboard, who controls the House who controls the Senate. The only one we know is the White House. That’s the only piece of the chessboard we know in Washington, which makes it so fascinating and yes, consequential with a capital C.

Andy Slavitt  12:06

Well, let’s turn to the Senate then. Interestingly enough, you know, it’s a 50/50 Senate, as everybody is aware at this point, and the six races that appear to be the most interesting race. What’s interesting, one thing that’s interesting about them, to me at least is three of them are Republican seats right now, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio. And three of them are democratic seats right now, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. Let’s maybe start with the ones currently held as Republican seats that are potential Democrat pickup opportunities of the three, maybe put them in order of which one is Democrats are most likely to pick up.

John King  12:45

I would say Pennsylvania just because of its recent presidential history. Now someone smarter out there listening is going to say, well, the Democrats also carried Wisconsin last time. But you have an incumbent there that Ron Johnson has many flaws as a candidate, including the fact that he’s still to this day, will not say January 6 was an armed insurrection. He still wants to convince people it was a minor event. But he is an incumbent to can raise money in that race. And I always give incumbency advantages just because they’ve won before and the voters are familiar with them. It doesn’t mean but the Pennsylvania race, you know, Biden won the state was a trump state in 2016. And Biden won and even though Trump’s vote count went up, so there’s the Democrats figured with Pennsylvania out in 2020. The question is, can they figure it out in 2022? You have two unorthodox candidates, John Fetterman, the Democratic lieutenant governor is not out of central casting when it comes to politics, right? He’s wears his gym shorts, and he wears his hoodies. And he had a stroke, just right before the primaries. So it’s just as unorthodox as you can come including the questions about his health which he has tried to answer. Let at this point in that campaign, he is out there more. He says he still has some issues. And it’s a long recovery for anyone who knows anybody in their family or personally has gone through something like that. But he’s doing better. And then you have Dr. Oz. Who’s one of these, you know, Trumpy celebrity candidates fentimans, trying to say he’s from New Jersey, certainly not an orthodox politician, no experience on the ballot. But because Biden won that state not by a ton, but won it solidly, because it has this big suburbs and the choice issue back on the table and the big in a close race in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia suburbs decide who wins, I would say on my look at the data that that’s the best opportunity doesn’t mean it will be by the time we get close to election day. And also again, my brain works through the night as it happens. And that’s also an early poll closing, we might not know the winner, we might be counting votes. We were counting votes in Pennsylvania until Saturday and 2020. Remember, the election was Tuesday. So I’m not saying well, no that night, but we’ll at least get a glimpse of the marches.

Andy Slavitt  14:44

Let’s take a quick break. We’ll come back and talk with John King from CNN. And take a deep dive into this very fascinating Pennsylvania Senate race. After the Republican primary, which was pretty bruising seem to be well behind, and Fetterman you know, it seemed to have this sort of folk status kind of as this really interesting guy with very progressive views but kind of lived in relatively humble circumstances. And it seemed like he was doing a decent job even in while he was in recovery, portraying as sort of out of touch and carpet, bigger carpetbagger. But it seems like that dynamic has changed more recently, that there’s a closer look at Fetterman and his biography. calling attention to his health is the appearance that that race has tightened. Can you tell us more about what seems to be going on there? And what’s going to happen since it is, as you said, the best pickup opportunity for the Democrats?

John King  16:10

There’s no question that it has tightened. And I think that the question within that question is what is it right? Is it just Republicans coming home? Is it just you know, Trumpy Republican voters who look at Dr. Oz and say he’s not one of us? This is not an America First guy. You know, this is not a trade guy. He’s just not one of us. Right? I don’t even mean the New Jersey part of that. I just mean temperamentally and how he conducts himself. He’s, if Trump is a […], in some ways, just about their mannerisms. So is it just Republicans coming home or McCormick voters in a primary, a very hotly contested primary, but sometimes you have hard feelings? Your guy lost, you know, in the front, and it takes a while. So is it just Republicans coming home? And that’s what is narrowed the gap? If that’s the case, you know, that happens, right? Races always get tighter at the end when either people are just starting to pay attention or people whose candidate didn’t win in the primary. Is it just that or have the very aggressive Oz questions about veterans’ health had an impact? And I would add this you because you see the same thing in Wisconsin, Republicans have put a ton of money in on the crime issue. And both John Fadiman in Pennsylvania and Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin are progressives are and on some issues have been very progressive, and they’re talking about we need criminal justice reform, you know, or reforming police departments. Fadiman would tell you; he never has had to fund the police. But he you know; he’s talked about police reforms and criminal justice reform. And the Republicans are using that issue very aggressively. And in some of the data, you would argue very effectively. And this is a challenge for Democrats on how to respond to it. Sometimes the democratic answer is this isn’t going to work. I’m going to focus over here, this is where I want to focus and Fetterman has spent a lot of time on the choice issue. He spent a ton of time on the I’m one of you issue, you might disagree with me on some things, but I’m a Pennsylvania I’m one of them a blue collar guy, I get you on these issues. Does that work? Does that work? I remember, you know, my I always go back to my first campaign. You know, Michael Dukakis thought that Willie Horton ads were ridiculous. That they were he thought they were racist, and they weren’t, thought they wouldn’t work. And they did. And so you know, it’s there’s always a challenge of that the other guy’s doing this, do I need to get in that? Or do I just ignore him and do what I set out to do? And I do think that’s a question how Fetterman deals in the one debate they’re going to have with the crime issue, how Mandela Barnes deals in the Wisconsin issue with the crime issue, because that’s a drag on them at the moment, and whether or not they can deal with it could be decisive in the race.

Andy Slavitt  18:34

[…] Johnson in Wisconsin, appear to be tightening in some polls, I think, are showing Johnson with an advantage. Now, Wisconsin, from everything we all know about it is a very, very closely divided state in terms of their politics. Did the Democrats have much of a chance to knock Johnson out?

John King  18:54

I think that race comes down to the question I have about this midterm and the new age we live in, as I think I’ve said twice already. I’ve been doing this for nearly 40 years. Sometimes that’s helpful. Sometimes it’s useless in the sense that, you know, are the rules changing? Right, what and so traditionally, in a president’s first midterm, you know, turnouts down across the board, but it’s the other guys who are motivated, who have an enthusiasm advantage, right. So it would be the Republicans in this case. You know, when Obama lost all those seats in 2010, it was Republican enthusiasm gap when Democrats won all those seats in 2018. Because Trump was in power, it was the Democrat enthusiasm edge. So history tells you Republicans will have an enthusiasm edge. If that’s the case. On election day, Ron Johnson is likely reelected narrowly. It’s a very competitive state, but that enthusiasm edge is enough to get you across the finish line. That’s the big question. It’s my question anyway, Andy, because in 2018, turnout was way up in the midterm election, even Republican turnout was up to Democrats overwhelmed with their enthusiasm and the suburbs revolted against Trump, but Republican turnout was not way, way down like you normally see in a first president’s midterm participation was good for a midterm. So and then in both the 2016 and the 2020 presidential elections, we had higher than normal participation was going up. I think turnout in American elections is still depressingly low across the board. You want everybody to vote, but comparatively 2016 than 2018. And then 2020 are high participation elections. Do we get the traditional midterm drop off in 22? If we do, everything tells you that helps Republicans if we don’t, whether it’s a Dobbs decision, or whether we just live in this age of higher participation or a combination thereof, then Mandela Barnes has a chance.

Andy Slavitt  20:40

Okay, let’s talk about Ohio, which is the third pick up opportunity. And I think if the Democrats win in Ohio, they’ve had a very good night, because they’ve probably I’d say, probably one in Pennsylvania, I’m guessing. And they’ve grown their majority and which probably serves to do nothing but diminish show mansions power, if they if they don’t need any one vote for anything. So it’s an interesting race to the Democrats think they can win. What defines it? This is a state that I think you would hard to call purple anymore, you’d probably have to say it’s a red state. Yet the other senator is a very progressive Democrat. How does this one lay out?

John King  21:20

Yeah, I would say you’re right that it’s a red state and Sherrod Brown is the Asterix now, you know, 10 years ago, he was one of several competitive Democrats in the state. Right now. He’s the only one and Tim Ryan is trying to prove otherwise, they’re, you know, this a fascinating race to me, because oftentimes, again, regardless of party, if you go back and look, when House members run statewide, especially when they run statewide for the first time, it’s usually an epic failure, because they know their district, they usually their district, and then they run statewide, and the rest of the state is different. And nobody knows who they are, because he wasn’t their congressman. And it’s just hard that Tim Ryan is competitive. That tells you something right. Again, it tells you there’s not at least at the moment, any big huge red wave out there. And number two, back to the quality of the candidates. You know, JD Vance is a famous author. He’s on Fox all the time. He’s a celebrity candidate again, but he’s not a politician. And for all the times people criticize politicians, I hate politicians. I want something different throw out all the bums in close races, eight times out of 10, the better politician wins. Because you’re it’s an instinct thing. It’s a daily thing. It’s a reaction thing. That would be a huge deal. That would be a huge deal. You have, you know, you have an incumbent governor running for reelection there. That race, you know, the polling of that race is close-ish. The expectation is Mike DeWine wins. So if you have a Republican incumbent governor at the top of your statewide ticket, you know, the state Republican Party is built into that, if you will, the structural advantages are all on whoever owns the governor’s office in a state with the political party as long as it’s functional. And in Ohio it largely is. But JD Vance is not a perfect candidate. Tim Ryan is a very aggressive candidate.

Andy Slavitt  22:57

And unlike Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, he’s also running is much more of a moderate than a progressive, right?

John King  23:02

Yes, yes, he is. And he’s running on blue collar economic issues. And I will listen to you, you know, we talk about the economic data points, and they’re real inflation is real, you know, people’s concerns about the future, the economy is very real. But I would also say that all of this is influenced by COVID exhaustion. You know, people are exhausted by COVID. And all the questions COVID has raised all the stress COVID is put on their hot life. And then the two by four of inflation came along, and it’s just like fleas. When do I get a break? Right? Tim Ryan is a blue collar guy, and he’s able to communicate that there are things you know, people who are watching here, Democrats, Republicans or Independents, you might disagree or agree with him on different issues. I’m not taking sides on policy issues, but in this environment, he seems to be a good fit, if you will. He’s a more casual guys more laid back guy. And he’s running hard. He’s running hard. And again, like Fetterman, he’s running hard saying, you know, you know me or you should you know, he’s a House member. That’s hard. But I’m one of you. I’m here. I get your issues. This guy. You know, he’s not one of us. Does it work if the Democrats win Ohio, then something big is happening on election night? Huge, something huge is happening on election night. And again, you made the right point. Look at the map, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, right. Those three races are in, you know, they’re not exactly the same. But they have cities where Democrats need to turn out their base vote. They have close in suburbs where the Dobbs issue the deaths the democratic constituency in recent years anyway. But in this election, what happens in the close in suburbs with people who otherwise might vote Republican because of inflation might vote Republican, because they used to be suburban Republicans and Trump drove them away a little bit. So you have that and then you have a lot of small rural towns where Trump runs up the numbers hugely. Can JD Vance run up the numbers usually, can Dr. Oz run up the numbers hugely, you know, in those small rural communities where, you know, there may only be a few 1000 people but Trump got them all. That makes a difference, right. If you’re trying to offset votes elsewhere, 100 Here 100 Here 1000 there help you offset the big 10,000 50,000 that the Democrats get in the urban areas in the close in suburbs? So if Ohio if I’m spending a lot of time on Ohio on election night, that tells you something’s happening out there.

Andy Slavitt  25:10

Okay, why don’t we take a quick final break? And we’re going to come back. And I want to ask John, about the three Senate seats currently held by Democrats, and which ones Republicans could pick up? Okay, so let’s talk about the three potential Republican pickup states, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona. Which of those three do you think is most likely a pickup for Republicans?

John King  25:54

Republicans would tell you and Democrats under their breath would tell you they’re worried most about Democrats are worried most about Nevada right now.

Andy Slavitt  26:00

So talk about that race, because Nevada is a very unusual state, more independence, higher Hispanic population. But it’s been it has been solidly blue state recently.

John King  26:13

It has been punished severely by COVID. Remember, as there’s a lot of leisure and hospitality industries there in the Vegas area, the Clark County area just wiped out by COVID. I mean, just a couple of years of devastating economic devastation. And now you have inflation on top of that, you know, for working the working class constituency. One of the lessons everyone’s still trying to figure out from 2020 Is Trump made significant inroads among Latinos, especially among Latino men. Was that an aberration? Was that just one thing? Was it some, you know, some affinity with Trump that that constituency has? Or are they drifting back to Republicans, I was talking to a Democrat the other day about this, who says that, one thing that we will see on Election Day is the Democrats who’ve done a great job registering new voters and new voters don’t show up in public polling, because the media polling calls, just calls people’s houses or calls their cell phones, campaigns calls based on voter registration list. So they would see some of these people showing up. But the Democrats insist they’re going to shock us on Election Day with these new voters in law and largely in the Latino community. But you have a Democratic incumbent there. This will sound weird, but for people who really closely follow the game, Harry Reid, the former Senate Majority Leader for was a dominant force in the Democratic Party that stayed for a very long time, and he has passed away. And so some question whether there’s a leadership transition, a generational transition out there in the brain trust and the organizational hierarchy of the Democratic Party, that might cost them just a little bit, right. You know, so if you think well, why does that matter? Right? If it cost you just a little bit, you know, you don’t turn out voters as well in this little place, and you lose the endorsement of that guy over there. In a close race, you know, that little 1%, or half of 1% actually matters. But Adam Laxalt, it’s a known name in the state. He is, this is this is one of many tests, where voters you know, your traditional midterm election, climate inflation, she’s a Democrat, she votes with the president most of the time, textbook, midterm campaign, see if it works. Laxalt, unknown name, no density, the state, but also one of the many Republican candidates in a state that will matter in 2024 will matter. The next, you know, 6-10 presidential elections, is someone who says Donald Trump was cheated. He’s tried to wiggle away from that a little bit as a general election candidate. But there are a number of those too, and I have no idea. The data, you know, we’ll learn on election day how that plays with the tiny slice of independents who are left true independents who are left in American politics with suburban people who probably who maybe ran from Trump, but who want to be Republicans again, and can’t figure out how to get back on this. That’s another one of the great tug of war states, but that’s the one that Democrats are most worried about.

Andy Slavitt  28:47

Well, the those that type of candidate, you just talked about the election denial, candidate that Trump is candidate, certainly hard to bet would have been better illustrations than the other two potential Republican pickup states. Were those are the data their candidates in Georgia and Arizona. Maybe we’ll start with Georgia. You’ve you referred earlier to Herschel Walker. You know, this is Walker and Warnock. And, boy, there’s just so much to potentially say and think about this race. John, where do you begin?

John King  29:14

Well, I’ll begin with the governor’s race, which is in Democrats listening will get mad at me for saying this, but all of the data has shown Brian Kemp, the Republican incumbent governor with a consistently, is that enough to help Herschel Walker and does it turn out on Election Day, Stacey Abrams calling card is participation and turnout. Does she energized her voters? And does she surprise us? Leave your mind open to any possibility. So I’m not saying it’s done. But the data that on that race has been consistently showing a pretty significant outside the margin of error complete? Does he help Herschel Walker, remember in Georgia, you have to get to 50 plus one or as a runoff, and there is a Libertarian candidate in the Senate race. So how does this controversy impact Walker? You know, you could adopt the Trump rules if you will, that the Access Hollywood tape was supposed To mean, game over, Donald Trump could never win anything. And then Donald Trump went on to be president. So does this scandal impact Herschel Walker, I do think we should be careful in thinking that it automatically does. Because we do live in these tribal polarized times. I do think though, again, to the I’m a broken record, but little things margins matter in very close races. And so again, are there you know, Joe Biden won Georgia, because of the Atlanta suburbs, especially when you move, you know, he won the African American base in the city and Fulton County, but then he also won Whites, Blacks and Latinos as you move out into the suburbs. And he also did much better than any previous candidate for president to Democrat in the more ex urban areas, as you move further out, the box stores, the box store areas. That’s how Brian Kemp became governor. And so can just Herschel Walker hold that, if camp does do they still vote for Herschel Walker orders, Walker’s numbers go down a little bit in the far out suburbs. So as you start to get into more […] areas, and then here’s the question I have, Andy, you need a lot of Christian conservative evangelical votes as a Republican in Georgia. That’s how Trump is so competitive and all those little tiny counties, the rural counties, where they’re largely White, they’re conservative Christian voters. Do they vote for Herschel Walker? Because he’s the Republican, and because Trump backs him, and because they have a history of maybe disagree with Trump on some of these issues, but they got the Supreme Court they wanted, and they think we need a Republican Senate. And it’s all about that, it’s about what you get with a Republican senator, not who the Senator is? Or do they say, you know, what, and again, people out there have different views on abortion, but for those particular voters who are deeply religious, and who have their beliefs, heartfelt beliefs, principled beliefs that they had forever, I just can’t do it. I just can’t do it. And they vote for camp and they never either they skip the Senate race or they vote for Warnock. Again, it doesn’t take a lot. In a very close race, it just takes a tiny little bit in a little bit in the suburbs a little bit ahead among evangelicals in the rural areas, and Walker’s in trouble. And then there’s the question, because of the third party candidate. There’s the winner get to 50 plus one, or are we back the first week of December, December 6 for runoff?

Andy Slavitt  32:04

Yeah, a lot of really interesting questions here, right to say nothing of the fact that two black men running in Georgia for Senate, two Black men who couldn’t be any more different. But you hit on I think, probably the most compelling point, which is this sort of, I will say flawed candidate, looking at even how Mitch McConnell talked about some of his candidates that I think, you know, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, I don’t know that he was referring to Wisconsin, but you could say the same thing about Johnson, these are polarizing candidates who are not cut from the cloth of the sort of traditional Republican senator cut from the cloth of Donald Trump. And they’re following that way. Your question is an interesting one, which is, if you want to control the Senate, at the end of the day, does it even matter? Because if you say I’m about judges, do you say I’m not even gonna think about it? I’m gonna vote for my tribe. Quickly, Arizona, that I don’t know if you put that as third on Republicans most likely to get lists given the poll and the still continued strength to Kelly, Masters tacking to the center, Arizona becoming more and more blue over time, but again, with a large Hispanic population and the question mark that you raised there, how do you see that one?

John King  33:23

I view Arizona as the biggest laboratory of this election denial question, because you have a Republican candidate for governor, a Republican candidate for senator and a Republican candidate for Secretary of State, the guy who counts the votes, who have said that Donald Trump won the state and he was cheated.

Andy Slavitt  33:39

Despite an actual physical recount?

John King  33:44

Despite even the since the Ninja Warriors, the crack group that the Trump people brought in to audit. It was never an audit. It wasn’t legitimate. But even they even the people Trump brought in the Trump force is brought in to cast doubt came to the conclusion that Joe Biden won the state. Joe Biden won the state. He won the state of Arizona, it was narrow. Arizona is an incredibly competitive state. Its demographic changes. You know, it’s this little pendulum that swings a little bit in the middle right now. But you’re right masters has tried to tap to the center, including in a debate, where he said, you know, Joe Biden is the legitimate president in the primary. He said Donald Trump was the legitimate president. So my question on that just taking that in the Senate race, how do voters process that? Do they process that on the election denial issue that you know, is it a flip flop flip? Or do they processes should I believe this guy when he says something about taxes or about national security or about pick your issue? Right, can I trust him when he changed his mind from just a few months ago? You remember you know George W Bush back in 2004 force John Kerry into this I was for it before I was against it. That used to matter in politics flip flopping again with enough, right? Do you get enough of the swing vote on this guy’s a flip flopper you don’t want them in the job, whether it’s fair or not. Can you make it stick? Used to matter? I don’t know if the old rules apply.

Andy Slavitt  34:54

And Kelly’s a popular, really relatively popular guy, I think and as is Warnock I think these are these are very good quality candidates. Yes. From just the standpoint of all the things you’d hope to have, right, if you’re gonna put the best foot forward, right?

John King  35:08

Yes, in Kelly in the debate with Masters. I believe the one and only debate with Masters, you know, Masters is trying to time to bite and trying to time to issues at the border. And Kelly, in the debate said, look, you know, I agree with the President on many, many things. And I’ll support the president, I agree with him. But I’ve also called him dumb about some of the things he’s done at the border. And I stood up to him and said, you need to do things differently. That’s a challenge for any Democratic incumbent. You don’t want to, you know, PO, you know what I mean, to say they’re the Democratic base, you can’t overly dump on your president, because you need all those Democrats to come out and vote for you. But at the same time, you know, where do you find that? Where do you find an issue where, you know, I’m not in lockstep with this guy who might you know, who might be more controversial among swing voters or soft Republicans that you need to get? In our poll, very recent poll out there. Kelly was outside the margin of error. The Nevada Senate race was the Republican was on top a little bit, but it was essentially statistically a tie. Kelly was up six, just outside the margin of error. Democrats feel okay about that. But again, they’re just worried about the other turbulence because of the governor’s race and the Secretary of State’s race, you know, you look at your race, but then you also have to look around like what other cars are on the track and if two of those cars hit if there’s some issue with some of the other cars on the track? Do I get caught up on it? Or do I somehow managed to, you know, stay in my lane and get through it?

Andy Slavitt  36:25

Okay, so let’s step on top of the Senate thing for a second and look peer down at it, what’s more likely to happen? The Republicans winning Nevada, or the Democrats taking Pennsylvania?

John King  36:38

You’re asking me to do the one thing I don’t do. What is more likely to happen? The Republicans taking Nevada or the, you know, I view them as actually, this is not a cop out, I view them as actually equal possibility. If you made me bet today, on the day we’re having this conversation, I would say the Democrats narrowly take Pennsylvania and the Republicans narrowly take Nevada, but if you came back to me 48 hours from this conversation, I might view it differently. That’s based on what you see in the water today.

Andy Slavitt  37:05

Well, then, you know what you’ve done job because you’ve said it’s equal when you forced us down to the second tier, which is, which is more likely the Democrats taking Wisconsin, or the Republicans taking Georgia.

John King  37:18

I have a hard time in the current environment, seeing Walker winning Georgia. But again, that’s using my experience and the rearview mirror of how things have happened before. And so I do think that you know how camp closes, could change my calculation there. You can’t close it and it’s so big. It says he went by so big, this one gets Andy. This is a bit of a cop out. But it gets at the idea that the thing I don’t quite understand is that in our presidential elections, we become so tribal, that ticket splitting just simply does not happen. You know, there’s so few examples of it in both the 2016 and the 2020 election, I believe you’d find one in those two cycles, where somebody votes for president and then goes to a different party, when they vote for United States Senate. Now, there’s no presidential race on the ballot. So it’s a little bit different. But in the places where the governor candidates, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans are winning, two people then start bouncing around, is that the mood people are in, Americans, like divided government, Americans traditionally have you know, that’s where they end up. But two people think that way, you sit around the kitchen table with your husband, your wife, your partner, your children say, I’m going to vote for x because I want divided government. I suspect not many of those conversations happen. You might say, to put a check on Joe Biden, which is where you get there. But I have a walker was a challenging candidate to begin with. So I have to give advantage Warnock there, but there are a lot of caveats to it, including they gotta get to 50%. You know, let’s say Warnock quote, unquote, beats Walker on election day, but he beats him with 49.5. You know, then you got to one, then you got a one month campaign again. And so what happens there? So that was tricky dicey. If in this year, Mandela Barnes can be an incumbent Republican senator, in a state as closely contested as Wisconsin, that’s like the Ohio race. I mean, if either one, if either Ryan or Barnes are winning, or if both were winning than the Democrats are having a night that is outside anything anybody imagined.

Andy Slavitt  39:19

It sounded like a formula for another 50/50 Senate. And you know, with maybe one or two in either direction.

John King  39:28

Yeah, yeah. I can give you a reasonable scenario, where you know, they certainly so they break Republican, right. They break Republican and Oz squeaks it out, and JD Vance wins, and Ron Johnson wins, then nothing has happened essentially, in it because they were all Republican seats are you’re still at 50/50. And then the Republicans get Nevada. They’re at 51. Right. So the three industrial states Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Democrats got to do something there. Alright, they almost just to give themselves room to lose somewhere else. And then the question is If the Democrats were could somehow win two of those three, then things get interesting. But this is the chess game that’s going to play out, you know, you can sit in a room with Mitch McConnell or with Chuck Schumer. And they can give you a reasonable scenario that gets each of them to 52 or 53. And then they’ll both tell you at the end, it’s probably going to be 50/50 or 51/50. That’s, you know, that’\s just the way they expect it to go. Now, again, having lived through many of these, they tend to break late, and they tend to break in one direction, meaning most of the close ones break in one direction. So that’s why you know, Clinton lost the house in 94′. Obama got blown out in the house in 2010, you know, and Trump got blown out in the house in 2018. In the more recent ones 2010-2018. We knew at this point, it was very clear at this point, the house was going to flip what the surprise was the margin, right, the 63 seats in 2010, the 42 I think it was in 2018. You know, if you’re having a conversation a month out, you know, that was 40 seats in the Obama years that was 25 or 28 seats in the Trump era, and then the wave happened, right, then they broke and they broke late. Is there some external factor that will happen that helps one party one way or the other? That swings it? You know, that’s the thing you don’t know, is just a trickle up in gas prices, enough to create more of a Republican year, just something happened that benefits the president and the Democrats in the final 30 days. This is the this is why we do this. And this is why it’s so fascinating.

Andy Slavitt  41:26

Thank you, John.

John King  41:27

I look forward to talking to you after we count all these votes.

Andy Slavitt  41:43

All right, this week was voting week, next week, Health Week and Pandemic weekend in the bubble. Monday, Katelyn Jetelina, your local epidemiologists. We’re going to talk about some of the numbers and some of the threats that we’re seeing in Europe for the wave that is very likely to come here over the course of the winter. Let’s hope not. But Katelyn and I talked very recently in just as a teaser, about the likelihood that we’ll have another Omicron type of a winter. And she has a percentage answer, which was a little higher than I thought it would be. So we’re gonna bring you that on Monday. Great episode. And then Wednesday is Health Week continues. Why not the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Javier Becerra, big picture, managing the pandemic, what happened before what’s happening next, and the outlook for a lot of the other things going on that are affecting health epidemic preparedness COVID, monkey pox and the like, much, much more. And then we’ve got some great episodes that we’ll bring you one on Roe, one with Cody Keenan from the Obama White House, and a bunch of others. So thanks for tuning in on this Friday. Have a great, great, great weekend. And we’ll look forward to catching you on Monday with Caitlin.

CREDITS  43:07

Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kathryn Barnes, Jackie Harris and Kyle Shiely produced our show, and they’re great. Our mix is by Noah Smith and James Barber, and they’re great, too. Steve Nelson is the vice president of the weekly content, and he’s okay, too. And of course, the ultimate bosses, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, they executive produced the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, with additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia where you’ll also get the transcript of the show. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter. If you like what you heard today, why don’t you tell your friends to listen as well, and get them to write a review. Thanks so much, talk to you next time.

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