Charlie Cook: How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Political Landscape
Charlie Cook: How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Political Landscape


I’m Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report, and I’d like to thank the folks at Leading Authorities for letting me use their studio and facilities, today to talk with you a little bit about what’s going on. This crisis this tragedy, this challenge facing our country in the world and what may be ahead of us between now and the November 3rd election. You know, this is a tragedy that a lot of people are comparing to 9/11 and I can I can see that to a certain extent. But there’s certainly real differences that I think are awfully, awfully important. You know, 9/11 just hit us all of a sudden for folks in my generation. We remember exactly where we were on November 22nd 1963 when President Kennedy was killed, or where we were when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. But for us, But this is something that gradually came along. We saw it just for a little bitty piece in the back of the newspaper of illness, strange illness in China, and gradually getting closer and closer and bigger and bigger. So in that sense it was really different from 9/11 The other thing was that 9/11 3000 lives were lost, and there were people in the World Trade Center in the Pentagon in those airplanes that were from all over the country. But it was really more concentrated in the Northeast and in the New York area. This isn’t some ways almost more like the Vietnam War, where we had 58,000 American lives lost and from every state in every community, and that it was something that really kind of permeated and changed our society in so many ways. This is something that maybe feel a little bit more, more like that. So you think of something that’s huge and consequential as this and you say, well, how will this affect events? How will this affect the upcoming elections? It’s hard to imagine something like this not having a profound effect. But what effect? How much? How will it manifest itself? Those are great questions we’ve seen a couple of two major national polls have come out in the last three days. One NBC News Wall Street Journal, the other for NPR PBS, conducted by Marist College and the interesting thing in these polls is that how very little has initially changed. President Trump’s job approval rating has hardly moved. I think he was one point off that the trial in the NBC Wall Street Journal poll about the same basically that NPR PBS poll. The match up with Joe Biden between President Trump and Joe Biden. It was like a point different than where it was last month. So you look at that, say, how could anything not have any effect one way or the other? Because other things like right direction, wrong track. Do you think the country’s heading the right direction or off on the wrong track? Or even do you think the economy is getting better or worse? Where in that NBC Wall Street Journal poll, 34% thought the country would be getting better in the next 12 months? 31% thought worse, 31% about the same. And you look at all kinds of questions and you see well, gosh, this hasn’t changed anything at all. Well, I think it’s a couple of things. One is we haven’t fully digested what’s happened, and we don’t really know what it quite means, but the other thing goes to the tribalization and the the excessive, the hyper partisanship that we’re seeing in our country, where roughly 75% of Americans are sort of locked in. They either love President Trump and approve of what he’s doing or they loathe him and disapprove of just about everything he’s doing. And they have different perspectives on on so many different issues. I mean, it’s fascinating to compare how Republicans look at climate change. Does it exist? What is it caused by? What should we do? And where Democrats are. Even the state of the economy. We see 50 55 point differences between how Republicans look at the economy and how Democrats look at the economy. And the thing is, this is not new to President Trump. That we saw this under President Obama as well, where Democrats would look at the economy coming out of that 2008 financial crisis. Democrats would look at, say, the glass is filling up. That President Obama is doing its best. It’s getting better, etcetera, etcetera and Republicans would look at that same glass and say the bottom of it is barely covered, and it’s not you know, hardly filling up at all. We’ve seen that continue on with President Trump, where Republicans almost as soon as he was sworn in, they were anticipating the policy changes. They were anticipating the economy getting better, while Democrats only thought it was a matter of time before President Trump would mess it all up. This incredible partisanship that we’re seeing and in in that NBC Wall Street Journal poll it was fascinating, to see even 20 25 point differences and people, whether they were willing to, whether they were planning on stopping going to large events, going out to restaurants completely different points of view from the two different sides. And it’s like two parallel universes that partisans are are living in. So that when you have so many people locked in to one side or the other, it really does reduce the volatility that’s out there. So that’s part of what’s going on. Obviously, President Trump didn’t create this virus, and you know it’s it’s affecting the whole world, and people can second guess whether he’s handled it well or not. But I think that you know what maybe more important would be what’s happening with the economy and how does that affect his election outcome? And how does affect the U.S. Senate. The U.S. House of Representatives in control of those two chambers? Good, good, good, good questions. One of the things that you know that we’re playing with is in terms of what role will the economy play? Because increasingly, identity politics and culture is driving voting decision more than the old days where we thought that Americans voted their pocketbooks and that the James Carville adage of “It’s the economy stupid” because that certainly was the case. But now we’re seeing more different kind of politics, that people in small town rural America, whites, particularly in small town rural America, whites with less than a four year college degree whites that are in living and without a college degree who live in high manufacturing areas. They’re looking at the world through one thing, and they’re voting one way. While those in the knowledge economy, those in a living suburban America, are approaching things very, very, very differently and looking at things in a very, very different way. So how are things? How are things going to be affected? That’s a really good question. And what I’m one of the things that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is not the partisans that are locked in either for President Trump or against President Trump. But what about that narrow little slice of voters in the middle? The swing voters and they’re not many of them, but in the dozen or so states that are gonna be the battleground states in the half dozen states that are likely to be the focal point in this election, you know, the Frost Belt three of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and then three Sunbelt states that I think are going to be just as close. Arizona, Florida, North Carolina. Those six are most likely going to determine this election and then within those states, a smaller subset of swing voters. And for these swing voters, they don’t naturally love President Trump. They don’t naturally loathe him. And they have mixed feelings. And a lot of these swing voters, pollsters tell me, are saying that they’ve been giving President Trump full credit for the economy being strong for the last three years. They acknowledge it, they give him credit, but the same time they have very strong doubts about his character and about his and and his leadership style. And so far that’s balanced out. Now the question is, how much will the economy slow? And even if President Trump is not facing a headwind, even if he’s not blamed economically for the fallout from the Corona virus, the question is, will that mild tail wind that the economy has been with the swing voters? Will that diminish? Will some wind come out of his sails? And will that mean that the misgivings about his personality, leadership style character traits will that elevate or not? It’s just a theory, but we’re gonna be watching this incredibly closely In terms of the congressional elections in The U.S. Senate. I had been thinking for a long time there was maybe a one in three chance that Democrats had of picking up control of the Senate. But now I think it’s a lot closer than 50 50 that the situation in this upcoming 2020 congressional elections very, very different from 2018 In 2018, in the House of Representatives, the battleground was the suburbs, and we saw Democrats when they picked up 40 seats in the House of Representatives. They did that picking up seats, that longtime Republican seats that had been in the in Republican hands for, you know, in some cases, virtually the Civil War. That but seats suburban seats outside of around in and around Atlanta. Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Richmond, Virginia. Those just in the Sun Belt. Rapidly changing suburban districts. That’s where Democrats won their majority in the House of Representatives. But over in the U.S. Senate, we had a completely different map, a completely different battle in the House. Democrats picked up 40 seats and the Senate Republicans picked up 2 seats, because in the Senate that map, the seats there were up were by and large in red conservative Republican states. States that had disproportionately small town rural voters. Democrats had 10 Senate seats up in states that President Trump or candidate Donald Trump carried. There was only one Republican seat up in a state that Hillary Clinton ended up carrying in 2016. So that there was a huge imbalance there, and the map favored Republicans. Well in 2020, the map is different. It’s not a blue Democratic states for the most part, but it’s purple Suburban states, and that’s where this thing is gonna go. Gonna be very, very, very close. Now, right now is is just about anybody will be watching this knows, The U. S. Senate is split between 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. So Democrats need a three seat net gain in the Senate if they win the presidency and the new vice president could break the tie or four seats if they don’t. Now complicating things is there was Democratic seat that’s almost automatically going to go into Republican hands in Alabama with Doug Jones, who went in a special election. So in that sense, it tilts to 54 46 to start off with. Now, I could get Democrats pretty easily to 48 or 49 seats coming into the last few weeks. The Democrats had really good chances in Arizona, a challenge to Martha McSally. In Colorado against Cory Gardner. In Maine against Susan Collins. Really, really good chances of beating two out of three, maybe even three out of three, but even three out of three with Jones going the other way would just get him up to 49 seats that they had to come up with at least one or two more dependent upon what was going on in the presidential election. Well, we’re seen some weird, you know, some other things happening when one of the things with places we had been watching is North Carolina with Tom Tillis. And it’s not that Tillis has done anything wrong, but that North Carolina is one of these Sunbelt states that are really growing fast growing suburbs around Charlotte around the research triangle. Is that changing the complexion of the state, enough? We’re gonna be watching the special election in Georgia with Kelly Loeffler the appointed Republican senator, for a two year seat. What happens there where she’s also has a conservative Republican congressman, Doug Jones, running against her? We’re gonna be watching an open seat in Kansas. Normally, Republicans don’t have to worry about Senate seats in Kansas. And if Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, where former congressman if he were running, this would be a lock for Republicans. In fact, if almost any Republican were running, it would be or we’re getting the nomination. It would be, but they’ve got a very controversial former secretary of state who just lost the governor’s race two years ago. That is the leading contender for the nomination. So ah, what happens there? Suddenly, a seat that ought shouldn’t be in danger. We’re having to watch very carefully. Just last week, Governor Steve Bullock inMontana jumped in against Steve Daines, the Republican incumbent. Now Montana’s a state, that’s pretty Republican and but that having a sitting governor is pretty popular running suddenly that makes that seat in play. And while I would certainly give Danes the Republican the advantage, it’s one where we’re gonna be watching very carefully. You know, we’ve seen some weird numbers coming out of Iowa. In the new De Moines register poll that showed Joni Ernst, the Republican incumbent, with some soft numbers. In other words, we’re seeing a lot of numbers that that we’re seeing enough seats in play, maybe 6,7,8 Republican seats that are in play. Enough to raise this up. Maybe not to 50/50 but pretty, pretty darn close In the House of Representatives that are referenced earlier our model that David Wasserman runs at the Cook Political Report, David’s model has it roughly between No net change and Republicans picking up about 10 or 12 seats. So the center point is Republicans picking up five or six. Now that’s without factoring anything that’s going on right now, and we don’t know how to factor that in any way. But when you might say that’s the jumping off point that will be moving sort of one direction or the other so that it’s gonna be difficult for Republicans to get a majority in the House. But it’s not impossible by any stretch. But if the political environment in the suburbs is anything like the way it was back in November of 2018 then Republicans may not be picking up seats at all. They may not be able to knock off many of these many, if any, of these others, so they’re just so many elements of this election that we don’t know what’s gonna happen. I mean, the one of the only things were pretty sure about our very sure about is that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee, will be watching to see you know who does he pick to be a running mate and all of that. And we’ll be seeing things that we’ve never seen before. Like there’s a very, very, very, very good chance that there is no physical Democratic and Republican conventions this summer. So how does that work? There’s just so much going on that we’re just in a new world now. And, um, you know, we’re just gonna have to watch it one day at a time and, uh, be mindful that there’s no precedent for anything like this. We’ve never faced anything like this. And so, you know, people in my business, we tend to look at at historic precedent. You know, well, when things were like this, this happened or that happened. But, you know, we have to keep reminding ourselves that we’ve never seen anything quite like this. And so we’re just gonna be watching very carefully. We’ve just got to sort of knit things together and not allow politics to divide us. But thanks a lot for giving me your time today. And you take care of yourselves.

1 thought on “Charlie Cook: How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Political Landscape”

  1. TheComicalCanadian says:

    great video keep up the amazing work

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