Handicapping the Midterms

Email a Friend

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Melinda Henneberger, founder and editor-in-chief of Politics Daily, and Nate Silver, blogger for the New York Times' Five Thirty Eight blog checked in on how some of the races for governor and Congress are playing out across the country.

Democrat Jerry Brown, in a tight race for governor of California, looks to be developing a slight lead over Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman, guests Nate Silver and Melinda Henneberger said. That's despite Whitman spending $119 million on the campaign to date. "I think a lot of voters find it very satisfying when the big spender doesn't manage to spend his or her way into office," Melinda Henneberger said.

Polling guru Nate Silver called Whitman "the 3:1 or 4:1 underdog."

Discussing last night's debate in Nevada between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Sharron Angle, Henneberger said coverage of the debate was favorable to political newcomer and Tea Party supported Angle. Silver noted that professional punditry is often out of step with voters' impressions.

Sometimes the way the media perceives a debate doesn't match how the public sees it. Sometimes, also, how the public sees it is affected by the kind of media narrative and so forth. I'm not sure this matters all that much. Nevada is another state where there are not that many undecided voters. It's going to come down to turnout.

Meanwhile, the race between Tea Party Republican Christine O'Donnell and Democrat Chris Coons for Delaware's Senate seat may be fun to watch, but it is not competitive, the guests agreed.

The Wisconcin Senate race — between progressive incumbent Russ Feingold and Republican Ron Johnson is quite tight. The newcomer Johnson - who says he never visited the nation's capital before this campaign, may force the Democrat's most liberal member out of Washington, Henneberger said.

Next month's elections will almost certainly bring many more conservative Republicans to Congress, but voters should take all the prognosticating and horse race coverage with a grain of salt, said polling expert Silver.

Anyone who thinks they can call what the Republicans number will be within a three point range is just making a guess. They are not being scientific about it. The math and the science says, that when you have that many races in play, in places where they often aren't in play and you have different kinds of candidates, we are not really going to know all that much until Nov 2nd occurs. We know it is going to be a big year, to some extent, for the GOP but that could mean 30 seats, in which case the Democrats would hold the House, and it could mean 70 or 75...I'd say therie is a 1 in 3 chance Democrats hold the House.

Listen to the entire conversation on The Brian Lehrer Show.