Road to the Oval Office Podcast: VP Debate and One-Month Countdown

Mark AldermanBlake Rutherford and Howard Schweitzer of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies discussed the VP debate and state of the race with a little more than one month left in this election season.

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Blake: Thank you very much, and thanks again to everyone for joining us for another call in our series on the 2016 presidential race. We're certainly grateful to everyone who's dialed in. As our conference operator said, questions, comments are always welcome during the course of this call. Just email us at I'm Blake Rutherford and I'm joined as always by Mark Alderman, the chairman of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies and Howard Schweitzer, the Managing Partner of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies. Mark, Howard, great to be with you guys.

Thanks Blake.

Blake: We are 34 days away, which still seems like an eternity to me, but we are getting closer. We are one presidential debate behind us which we talked about a week or so ago, and we are now the only vice-presidential debate behind us. That's really where I want to begin the conversation. Last night in Virginia, Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence took the stage to talk about their respective campaigns, the heads of both of their tickets, policies and problems that both campaigns have faced.

It was an interesting debate insofar as you had a lot going on leading up to this debate. You look at it from the the Trump perspective, a really tough week heading into this vice-presidential debate: the story in the New York Times regarding his 1995 tax returns, the more than 900 million dollar net operating loss that he claimed, which in turn may have resulted in the fact that he has not paid any federal income taxes since - perhaps for as long as nearly 20 years - which put the Trump campaign on its heels; Donald Trump also making some remarks about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on men and women in the military returning from combat, which generated a number of negative headlines for him.

So, a tough environment for the Trump campaign and Governor Pence coming into this debate. Alternatively, we saw the Clinton campaign beginning to see numbers move in their direction. That first debate, which pretty much everyone described as not only a big victory for Hillary, but a very bad loss for Trump in terms of seeming presidential. The polls since then would seem to suggest that that was right. She started to see some momentum in key battleground states; I'm going to come back to that towards the end of our call, but that's really the stage whereby both of these candidates came to Virginia to spend 90 minutes talking about the race.

Mark, I want to begin with you. Vice-presidential debates: every 4 years we debate their consequence. Do they really matter? Do people really care? What do you think after last night? Is this a vice-presidential debate of any real consequence?

Mark: Well Blake, I experienced last night's debate the way that most Americans did: I didn't watch. I learned about it second-hand from social media, cable TV, satellite radio, and my judgment based on everything I heard late last night and this morning about the debate, without having seen it, is that it almost certainly is of no consequence, like every vice-presidential debate. But, there is a potential consequence that is good for Clinton Kaine, bad for Trump Pence.

That is that all the discussing that I heard last night and this morning about the debate, was about Mike Pence and Donald Trump, not about Mike Pence debating Tim Kaine. It was as though Trump were his opponent and all of the talk was about how he has a different Russian policy than Trump does and he didn't defend Trump on attack after attack after attack, and he looked and sounded better than Trump did. If there is any consequence, and I still think almost certainly not, especially with the larger than life characters at the top of the ticket, I think maybe it's a little bad for Trump because people watched a Republican nominee whom they wished were at the top of ticket.

Blake: Howard, what are your takeaways from last night's VP debate?

Howard: Well, a few. First of all, both of them looked - I actually did watch it - and they both looked uncomfortable to me, having to defend the person at the top of the ticket. I wouldn't have wanted to be either of them doing that. They did what they had to do, for the most part and I think came out okay. To me, Tim Kaine looked weak and kind of like a squeaky school kid. I did not think that he acquitted himself particularly well in the debate. I don't think he looked particularly presidential. Fortunately, for Hillary Clinton that's not going to be basis for people casting their ballots on November 8th. It seems, I think in most people's view that Mike Pence came away - if you look at the debate as a debate - winning, but my-

Mark: But it's not high school.

Howard: Not high school. That's our theme for our call series. It's not high school. I think Trump lost last night, is my view. By winning, they lost. I think, Mike Pence is ... By the way, as extreme and conservative as he is, he looks more like a traditional Republican candidate might look, not appearances-wise, not physically, but just in terms of the way he approaches issues, the way he speaks. He looks more like a traditional political candidate. Anybody does, compared to Trump, and by putting that out there and letting everybody see it - although as I predicted, really it was a snooze fest and nobody really cared at the end of the day - but by putting him out there and making him ... He looked more presidential, and I think the contract to Trump, at the end of the day, hurts Trump, and causes traditional Republican voters out there today to scratch their heads and say, "What the heck did we do here? We could have had a guy like him, a person like him. What are we doing?" So I think they lost by winning.

Blake: So it's interesting, because when we think about vice-presidential debates we think about it really in 2 contexts. 1, prosecute the case of the other guy, right so Tim Kaine's job we might argue was prosecute the case against Donald Trump, don't really worry about anything else. In Mike Pence's case it was prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton, but also help us begin to understand whether there is any defense to Donald Trump. Mark, you said in your initial comments, "Look, he really didn't defend Trump."

Mark: There are 2 vice-presidential debates that come to mind as having moved the needle a little bit in the winner's direction. In 2004, Dick Cheney won the debate against John Edwards. In 2012, Joe Biden won the debate against Paul Ryan. Each of those was a little consequential because of a couple of things. Number 1, the incumbent president of the United States had gone into the first debate ahead and came out behind because of a bad performance by Bush and Obama, respectively. Number 2, the vice-presidential nominee for the president's side was the vice-president of the United States, was not the Governor or Indiana or Senator from Virginia, but mostly the difference in those debates from last night is, the vice-president in each of those states vigorously and successfully defended the president. Mike Pence did not vigorously or successfully defend Donald Trump. From what I have heard in all the commentary, he didn't much defend him at all. That's why I don't think this fits the mold of vice-presidential debates that have mattered, and even those mattered only until the second presidential debate.

Blake: Right. It's interesting because Tim Kaine ... I want to talk about tactics a little bit. Certainly, there was some strategy to Mike Pence's approach, although we may not really understand in his mind whether he thought that the style in which he presented himself, which I actually think was particularly effective compared to the style of Kaine and I'll come to that, but the substance was a little thin insofar as there were obvious contradictions with some of Trump's policy positions, most notably on Russia. There was not an effective or vigorous defense on why he would not release his tax returns, I think some real missed opportunities to draw very stark and pointed critiques with Hillary Clinton.

The Trump Pence ticket just hasn't really gotten debate prep right, but I'm not sure Tim Kaine got it right either last night, Howard, and I want to come back to that. Tim Kaine mentioned Donald Trump's name 160 times in that debate, which he doubled-up the number of times that Pence mentioned Hillary Clinton's name, but tactically you weren't particularly a fan of the way Kaine approached this debate. In the sense of what the ramifications are going into the next presidential debate, do you we forget about this by the close of business today?

Howard: Absolutely. By Sunday night, it's a distant memory. No one's going to remember this or care. I think more than any election in, I guess, our lifetimes, this is about the top of the ticket. It's not about substance. It's about ethics and personality, not in that order. That's what's going to determine what people do and what people are interested in.

Mark: The weather will literally have more of an impact than this election, this week, that the vice-presidential debate. Hurricane Matthew is going to slam North Carolina-

Howard: That's a great point.

Mark: ... where early voting is going on, will obviously depress turnout. Not ultimately we hope, but that will be more consequential than the vice-presidential debate.

Blake: Yeah. That's really, really interesting, what we kind of-

Howard: I mean-

Blake: Yeah. I'm sorry, Howard.

Howard: Just one more comment, Blake. It's as we said in our call last week. Look, this ultimately comes down to getting out the vote, and did either of those guys either draw people off of their couches or keep them there? No.

Blake: Right, I mean, this was one of the things ... I was talking to a friend of mine last night and after about 20 minutes I said something to the effect of, "The only people who are watching this are either political junkies or people who are just sort of in it because they know what they're going to do." The undecided voter-

Mark: Of which there are 11 in the country.

Howard: Exactly.

Blake: ... is no longer ... Either they've changed the channel or they just simply don't care anymore about this. I think part of that was the format, which was uncomfortable. I find these seated debates to be generally just awkward. I can't really grasp why we've decided that every vice-presidential debate has to be a seated table debate. Now we've had several of them over these cycles. The Biden-Palin debate was not that, but I think it's awkward too.

I think the moderator was lost in the context of how combative Tim Kaine decided to be. That's tough for any moderator. It was particularly tough last night and i think the notion that every time Mike Pence opened his mouth, Kaine stepped in to interrupt just made it very difficult. Mark, this is what I said to you earlier, from just a viewership perspective, just hard to watch, because there was so much talking over each other, so much interrupting in a way that you finally just ... It wasn't even high school, it was worse than that at times, I thought. But I certainly didn't think that after long there was one undecided voter still watching that debate. They might have tuned in at the beginning but then I think that-

Mark: As we've said before, we are interested in undecided voters in 10 states, maybe not even anymore 10 states. In those 10 states, there are maybe 10% actually undecided and my thesis is, that only 11 of those 10% in 10 states are actually undecided about whether to vote for Clinton or Trump. It's unimaginable that at this point anybody is choosing between those 2. The 10% who are undecided in 10 states that matter are trying to decide whether to vote at all, and that goes to the turnout point that Howard made. When you drill down and drill down and drill down, there just weren't people watching that who are going to be meaningful to this election.

Howard: The irony is that you have 2 of the oldest candidates we've ever had for President of the United States, and if anything the vice-presidential selection actually matters. I mean, it matters. But, this isn't going to determine whether you vote, as Mike says, or how.

Blake: Sort of a nice segue, because we previewed this a little bit when we began the call. Mark, nice setup here, as always, to what's happening out in the states, because we have seen some movement out in the states and I want to talk about this as kind of a preview to the next presidential debate which will happen on Sunday. We got a new poll out in Florida showing Hillary Clinton now up 5, which is outside the margin of error. She hasn't been outside the margin of error in Florida in a very long time. We've got a new poll out in Colorado, Hillary Clinton now double digit lead in Colorado. A poll in North Carolina, still very very close but she's now taken a slight 2 point lead and that Senate race has gotten really tight. I want to talk a little about the Senate today, too. Pennsylvania: 2 polls, Hillary up 9, Hillary up 10.

The only place where Trump seems to be holding his ground is in Ohio, but if you look at the electoral map, the way it sets up right now, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania: that's really the tried and true battleground. Maybe Ohio to a degree, but these numbers, Mark, are pretty encouraging if you're Hillary Clinton.

Mark: The Trump campaign knows it's not going to win Pennsylvania. Clinton is going to win Pennsylvania. She was always going to win Pennsylvania, although it closed considerably, but I don't think there's a path to 270 for Donald Trump through Pennsylvania, and I think they know that. There are many paths to 270 for Secretary Clinton and they all go through Pennsylvania, which she is going to win, but it's still, Blake, a year in which nothing has gone according to precedent and plan. I think it's way too early to conclude that Colorado, for example, is off the table. Colorado's been, for reasons I have no understanding of has been very bouncy this time.

Blake: Right, right. I was surprised by this poll.

Mark: It goes from double digits to Trump's ahead to double digits. I wouldn't take that or a lot of these places off the map, but I'm taking Pennsylvania off the map this morning.

Blake: It is interesting, Howard, because if we do look at the map and for purposes of argument, give the Romney states to Trump minus North Carolina, because that really is close, but credit him with Ohio where he really has ... His lead has been pretty consistent and sustained. The Clinton campaign certainly not pulling out of Ohio, but that Senate race seems certainly gone for the Democrats and Ohio looking pretty steady for Trump. That puts him at 216 electoral votes, Hillary at 243 if you give here the Obama states and then leave your toss ups, being Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Nevada. She wins Pennsylvania, that puts her at 263, which means that all she has to do is win Colorado and this is over. But, she could also win Pennsylvania and Nevada, be at 269, not get there.

Trump's got to win Florida. No question about it, there is no path to 270 for Donald Trump without Florida. There is, as it stand right now though, really no path for Donald Trump, if Pennsylvania's off the table, Mark, as you have said. Certainly, polling would suggest that's right. She has maintained a very steady lead in Pennsylvania for a while. Now it just seems to be getting bigger, I do think a testament to her ground game here as well and the organization. But Trump's going to have to win Florida, he's going to have to win North Carolina, he's going to have to win Colorado and he's going to have to win Nevada. That's how he wins.

Not outside the realm of statistically possible, because of the volatility that we have seen in these polls, but as people ... I hear this all the time: "Where do I concentrate my attention? Where do I really look?" That seems to be the bank shop that Trump has to hit. He's got to hit Florida or he's out. He's got to hit North Carolina or he's out. Then, Nevada and Colorado have got to break his way.

Howard: I mean, he's running a momentum campaign. He has no ground game. He is not playing it that way. I guess he can direct whatever ad dollars he spends to certain places and he can show up certain places, but I think his campaign rises and falls based on the national media momentum he generates. There's no question in my mind, sitting here today - and it's been the case throughout the campaign from primary season until now - you'd rather be Hillary Rodham Clinton than Donald J. Trump today, but-

Blake: In the context of the electoral map?

Howard: In the context of who's going to-

Blake: Or everything.

Howard: Yeah.

Blake: In life.

Howard: That might be a tougher question.

Mark: Different analysis.

Howard: She's more likely to win but by no means is this over, and if we accept the premise that, Mark, both you and I have articulated, that I don't know anybody hanging out on the fence, but maybe they're out there. How do the polls flip so quickly, and who is hanging out on the fence?

Blake: A lot of volatility and that what I just ... I struggle with, to you point, Howard, and would love both of your perspectives, because there-

Howard: I just don't believe the polls.

Blake: Yeah, well okay, but this gets us to the point of reliability, right? We've seen in other places where, be careful how much stock you pit in this data. Just go ask Eric Cantor, for example.

Howard: Go ask the Brits.

Blake: Well, right. That was going to be the bigger one.

Mark: But there's the fact of this cycle's polling that I think is very reliable and very consequential and that is that the polls go up and down when Clinton goes up and down. Trump stays where he is. Trump is always plus or minus 40 in all these polls. He's never been - in any of these swing state polls that we're looking at - he's never been above 43. He has been at 37, 38 in some of them, but the average has been plus or minus 40 throughout. There are 5 weeks left. Anything can happen. It's still close. Way too early, way too early to call the election, but he has to get above 40 to win because the third party vote is going down and that's Hillary is going up.

The action in the polls is Trump is locked at plus or minus 40. People who says they aren't voting are beginning to say they are and they're voting for her, and people who said they were voting for Johnson or Stein are beginning to say they're voting for her and that's how she's going up. So, 40 isn't going to win it. 44, 45? That may be enough to get elected president.

Howard: I think the most consequential poll number for this election is President Obama's approval rating, which has steadily increased and is now reliably north of 50%. At the end of the day, when they write the history - and gosh, I want to see all the movies and read all the books - she's running for a third Obama term, like you've said many times, Mark. That is what is most likely going to carry the day for her. Now, it didn't entirely help yesterday when former President Clinton threw current President Obama under the bus, but maybe that was intentional also. Who knows?

Blake: I want to talk a little bit about that.

Mark: I was intentional on Bill Clinton's part. I don't think it was planned in Brooklyn.

Blake: Howard, to you point about President Obama's approval rating. It was released yesterday that he's going to spend roughly 2 days a week campaigning for Hillary Clinton between now and election day. We haven't talked about Michelle Obama, who over the course of the last couple of days has given some just phenomenal, phenomenal speech, talking about Hillary Clinton, so I think we consider them in context. But, you also have on the other side of that - we talk about the positives, we can talk about the negatives - we did have Bill Clinton's comments about the Affordable Care Act, which generated a lot of headlines, which ...

Not saying that the Trump campaign is with it enough to do anything substantive, but you could imagine an effective attack ad that could be generated with those comments, so there's still some ... Republicans are looking at trying to seize some of that momentum back based on what happens with surrogates and other people. I offer this as kind of a segue to Sunday night, because Trump's got the national spotlight once again to try and deal with the challenges that he seems to create for himself, which are much more significant, I would say, than any of the challenges coming out of the Clinton universe.

Mark: I just want to say this about what Bill Clinton said yesterday, which was dumb. Obviously was dumb. He's walked it back and said that it was dumb, but it could have been worse. We've all been waiting the whole election cycle for this to happen, and I feared it was going to happen in an even worse way. The people out there - I keep coming back to this again and again - the people out there who are going to matter, the undecideds who are trying to decide whether to vote in, we're now down to 4 or 5 states, don't care what Bill Clinton says about the Affordable Care Act. They're against it, too. They are almost certainly against it, too.

Howard: That's why, yes, it was likely stupid and unintentional from the perspective of the campaign, but in the warped world that we live in every day, maybe they were saying that because they wanted to telegraph to people on the other side of the aisle, "Hey, everything's open. The thing you hate the most ..." I mean, that's warped and cynical, but possible.

Blake: Maybe, it is possible.

Mark: I'm not entirely sure that you're wrong, because ...

Blake: No, that is possible.

Mark: Felicia tells me that all the time.

Blake: But then events prove otherwise.

Blake: I just hear I'm wrong. That's what I get, but we'll figure it out. We have to come back to our Felicia focus group, because that's really going to tell us how this election's going to go. But, in all honesty if you look at what ... Not to get into the weeds on the Affordable Care Act, but because this is such a potent political issue and because the Republicans are talking about it, and because it is driving headlines, I think that it's worth recognizing that to a degree, there's not ... Take the word "crazy." If the word "crazy" had not been used, that this is not as big of a problem because you do have both President Obama having said many time, "Look, there are improvements that need to be made. We expected that more young, healthy people would come into this system through the exchanges. That hasn't happened. People who are buying health insurance are, in fact, sicker, and the costs are higher. We've got to deal with that, and here's some ideas to deal with that."

Hillary Clinton has pretty much said the same thing, and if we take... And it's hard not to because of political speak; words matter and that's what drives headlines and so this was not particularly helpful in that regard, but not actually inconsistent, I think, with where the president is, where Hillary is and I think where moderate Republicans are. They can't get a hearing on substantive changes to the Affordable Care Act because repeal and replace is the only thing that the Republicans have been focused on, 40 some odd times over the last whatever. Not to be cynical, Howard, I think to be practical, that you do take some of the inflammatory elements of the Affordable Care Act out of the equation if you're willing to say, It's not perfect and there are things that we need to work on." Not necessarily the speech I would give to do that, but I think that at the same time, there is some reality there, of these things have got to be addressed. It'll be interesting to see.

It's a nice segue to Sunday night. Donald Trump, we've talked about this in the context of the polls, not headed in the direction that he wants to be headed, really tough week leading into this vice-presidential debate. Your collective analysis that last night, to the extend it mattered at all, was also bad for Trump. Again, the news today. I was talking to someone else about this yesterday. Trump has the propensity to overshadow anything good Pence might do. He can either do that because he says something foolish on Twitter or because information begins to come out that he's just displeased because Pence looks good, Mark, to your point. I think there's certainly a lot of truth to that, especially if we see what John Harwood tweeted almost immediately after the debate saying exactly what you said, Mark: "Trump's not happy with his own VP candidate." We know Trump's never been particularly enthusiastic about Pence, the things that we've talked about in that selection, but be that as it may, Howard's always right, people vote for the top of the ticket. The top of the ticket comes together on Sunday night.

Interesting insofar as we have 2 debate moderators this time, and they seem to not be able to get along if you read the internet today. Boy, we should just have a call about how to pick a good debate moderator, because I'm not sure this group got it right at all. You got 2 debate moderators in a town hall format. Dare I say it, Howard, an enormous moment for Trump. What's he going to do? What can he do, to deal with his current circumstance?

Howard: He's got to hammer Hillary on her negatives. He's just got to ... Foundation, ethics, he's just got to hammer her on everything that she's vulnerable on, on the emails. Right, wrong or indifferent, he's got to be ... Everything from Benghazi to the emails, which are of course related, because we wouldn't have them but for the Benghazi investigation, he's got to just hammer her. She has to do what she did in the first debate, which is undercut the narrative around his success. His entire campaign from the beginning of the primary season until now is premised on him having build a quote "great" company and having been very successful. What she did so effectively in the first debate is undercut the success narrative and she just got to ... that's their playbook, they've been running it the whole general cycle, they've got to continue to run it and just hammer away at him on that.

Blake: Mark, thoughts on the debate Sunday night?

Howard: Hillary Clinton can't sit on her lead. My concern is that she will be more defensive and protective of her lead than the last debate, where all the pressure was on her, where she had to turn it around, and she did. She should come out just as she did last time. I think she has to do, as Howard is saying, what she did last time: undermining his story as a success, which gets under his skin and then Trump does her work for her. Also, the temperament point. I think the closing argument for the Clinton campaign is going to be, "You can't give this guy the nuclear code."

I think it's going to be that direct and I think it's going to be that stark, because another constant in the polling - whatever you think of the polling as a predictor - some of the number have just simply never changed. One of the numbers that has never changed, fascinating but never changed, is that a majority of the people who say they are likely to vote for Trump, say he doesn't have the temperate to be president. If they think that, the very few undecideds that this is all addressed to are bound to think the same, and I think that's her closing argument. But, don't sit on this lead.

Blake: Howard, the information that we're hearing and seeing is that despite the story after the first debate of practice, practice, practice, Trump may in fact may not be doing much of that at all and may be taking a similar approach to this debate that he took in the first one, which I can only sum up as just show up and wing it. Seems to be a very big risk to that campaign if he is not prepared to, dare I say it, prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton. He could not do that in the first debate. He got too flustered. She got under his skin early as, Mark, I think you predicted both would happen and needed to happen to throw Trump off of his game. But, you've been thinking about this debate and where Hillary's challenges are versus where Trumps strengths are. To Mark's point, she has previewed what her strategy is. The Trump campaign is one debate smarter, even if they're farther behind. It creates an intriguing dynamic.

Howard: I think you're right to point out the format, Blake, because I think makes a big difference here in terms of how that plays out. One of the things that I said, I think, a couple of calls ago is that the reason he still has a chance is that every time he opens his mouth, people want to hear what he has to say, whether it's good or bad. That's still the case. That will always be the case, and it's not the case with her. My expectation is that she's going to get some very tough questions from the audience that she is going to be put on the defensive as much or more by the audience than she will by Trump. If Trump has any debate strategy whatsoever, which is questionable, she's going to be asked tough questions about trust. He's going to be able to follow up and just hammer her if he's smart about it.

Conversely, the questions that he gets, I don't see them being as hard. I think he may get questions about ... This is perverse, but he may get questions about actual policy, like trade and immigration. My point is I think he's going to have more of opportunity on Sunday night to speak about his positives than she is. I expect her to be on the defensive all night.

Blake: Well, it'll, I mean-

Howard: I know, I mean, it's-

Mark: I think a couple of things. 1, it'll be real interesting to see how many people watch this. It's must-see TV, but I wonder if it will be as many people as watched the first debate. Now, the first debate was competing with Monday night football, this is competing with Sunday night football, so there's alternative television. But, I'll be surprised if it is as many people, although it's must-see TV, I agree. It'll be a lot of people, but I think that one difference, because of the format and because of the moderators, that is to Clinton's advantage is, I think there's going to be real-time fact checking going on in this debate. Yes, maybe Trump will get policy questions. It almost doesn't matter what the question is, he's going to be challenged to be factual. I think the moderators here are far more likely than Lester Holt was to try to hold him to the facts, and we'll see. It's a completely different dynamic and completely different format. The conventional wisdom is that it works to her advantage, but there's nothing conventional about Trump. We won't know until we watch.

Blake: it certainly will be interesting. Howard, any final thoughts as we turn the corner away from the VP debate and get excited for Trump Clinton round 2?

Howard: My biggest thought right now, Blake, is how I'm supposed to balance Giants Packers versus the debate.

Blake: It is a particularly difficult situation for you. That's exactly right.

Howard: It is, so that's what I'm thinking about.

Mark: Did you watch Thursday night football?

Howard: I did not.

Mark: I'm sorry, not Thursday night, Monday night.

Howard: Yes, Monday night made it easier.

Mark: I think one final thought. Trump is running out of time. Now, again, again anything can happen here. He can win Florida, Carolina, North Carolina and Nevada and Colorado and be the president. That can happen, but he is running out of time because of this early voting. That's the drum I keep banging. By election day, 40% of the votes will have been cast. Every single day, people are going to the polls and voting, and he doesn't really have until November 8th to catch up, is my point.

Blake: I think that's exactly right, and Mark, as we kind of turn because I want to touch on before we end the call what's going on the Senate side, because of the correlation between what we're seeing in presidential and what the Senate's going to look like, and preview some stuff that we may be putting out over the course of the next 2 weeks for folks about that. You touched on Hurricane Matthew and the impact in North Carolina. Trump yesterday was in Arizona before he ended up in Nevada to watch the debate. Hillary had high profile surrogates in every battleground state that we talked about yesterday. Trump was hanging out in Arizona. Decided to spend his debate time live tweeting, when I think I remarked at one point, "Get thee to Florida."

Really, really interesting, the fact that early voting is not to be discounted as a serious factor, and you pointed that out, in this race. I think, where you begin to see encouragement if you're the Clinton campaign as these polls begin to tick up, is that a sign of a momentum trend from an early voting perspective. It can come back around by the time election day holds up, but if someone's made that decision; they were a Jill Stein voter and then they think, "What am I doing? I'm done. I'm going to vote for Hillary Clinton." Their vote's locked in. It's already done, so I think early voting, the next time we talk we'll get into that more. We'll have some data and really take a look at that.

I really want to end the call just with a quick touch in on the Senate, because we haven't talked about it in a while and there is a lot going on out there in a lot of the states that we're talking about in terms of swing states have Senate races that may break the way of the top of the ticket, but may also not break that way. Mark, I just want to do a quick run down. Obviously, 54, 46 in favor of the Republicans. Democrats either plus 4 plus the White House or plus 5. It looks like Illinois, which is a Republican seat, is going to go Dem and Wisconsin, a Republican seat, are going to Dem. I think we can ... Pretty confident in them.

Mark: Illinois goes Dem, Wisconsin goes Dem, Indiana goes Dem-

Blake: That's right, Indiana where Evan Bayh is running.

Mark: So that's 3.

Blake: So that's 3. Then we get to New Hampshire.

Mark: New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan beats Kelly Ayotte after her debate, and her debate debacle with Trump.

Blake: Right. That's exactly what ... Is Trump a role model?

Mark: That stuff matters in New Hampshire, I believe.

Blake: Yep.

Mark: Then, the question is Pennsylvania, because we may lose Nevada.

Blake: Right, I was going to say.

Mark: Those are the 6 states, except take Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana off. Control for the Senate is going to be determined in Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Democrats have to win 2 of those 3.

Blake: North Carolina actually getting a little closer. Whether it stays that way or not, but as you talk about with an odd dynamic, like a Hurricane, affecting what's going on, you do throw caution to the wind. Whether that inures to Burr's benefit, the incumbent Republican, or whether it inures to the challenger. In North Carolina you've also got a Gubernatorial race where the Attorney General Roy Cooper is running for governor, seems to be doing pretty well, and then the dynamic of the presidential. Maybe still a pretty tough call for the Democrats, but because of what's going on with the weather, worth talking about.

I think the other thing that I'd point out, it doesn't seem likely in the context of the presidential, but in Missouri. We haven't seen a poll in that Senate race in a month. Jason Kander, who's the State Treasurer, has run a series of really interesting ads, one of which-

Howard: Best ads I've ever seen.



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Mark L. Alderman


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Howard Schweitzer

Member, CEO, Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies

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