The States That Could Swing the Midterms – CNN One Thing – Podcast on CNN Audio

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David Rind (host)


We made it, you guys. The midterm elections are this week. On Tuesday, ballots will be cast. Some races will be called. And a new political landscape will start to take shape. But I totally get it. If you haven’t been able to follow every twist and turn in each and every race, there’s a ton to keep track of, and frankly, politics can just be exhausting sometimes. So today we’re going to get you caught up.

David Rind (host)


For months, CNN correspondents have been fanning out all over the country, talking to candidates and voters, getting a read of the key races up close and in between, attending rallies and doing interviews. They’ve been checking in with us. So today, we’re going to take you on a tour of the swing states that could shift the balance of power in Washington and reshape America’s political landscape. From CNN, this is One Thing. I’m David Rind.

David Rind (host)


I Want to start with the big picture. As of today, Democrats control the House of Representatives and have a tie breaking vote in the U.S. Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris. 50-50 becomes 51-50. On Tuesday, republicans need a net gain of just five seats to take back the House. It’s even closer in the Senate. Just one flip seat will do. So those are the stakes. The final outcome will largely decide whether President Joe Biden can get any legislation passed in the final two years of his term. But remember, more often than not, the president’s party loses the midterms. It’s happened in 18, the last 20 midterm elections dating back to 1942. It’s as close to a hard and fast rule that we have in politics these days. So keep all that in mind as you watched the returns come in on election night. But they’ll be a few states you will want to focus on because they can tell us a lot about where things are headed. Let’s get the tour started.

I’m Jessica Dean. I’m a congressional correspondent for CNN. And I am covering the Pennsylvania Senate and gubernatorial races.

David Rind (host)


You might remember that Pennsylvania officially put Joe Biden over the top in 2020. It could now help Democrats hang on to the Senate.

What’s interesting about Pennsylvania is it’s an open seat. So Pat Toomey, a Republican, is retiring, which means Democrats see this as a great opportunity for them to flip the seat and Republicans certainly want to hold on to it.

I vow here and now that is a U.S. senator. I will do the right thing for our communities.

So the Senate race is Dr. Mehmet Oz, celebrity doctor, been on television for years and years and years. He’s running as the Republican after a very tight primary.

He literally doesn’t have a plan other than to to to talk.

And then it’s John Fetterman, the Democratic lieutenant governor, who is kind of a cult of personality guy. He doesn’t look like your typical politician.

David Rind (host)


And Jessica is not kidding about that. Fetterman is a mountain of a man. He rarely wear suits. You’re more likely see him in shorts and a dark hoodie. But clothing choices aside, there has been a lot of scrutiny on Fetterman’s health as he was about to become the Democratic nominee back in May. He suffered what we now know was a very serious stroke. He was off the trail for weeks as he recovered in the hospital.

I’ve I’ve always supported fracking and I always believe that independence with our energy is critical…

In the only debate we really saw the effects of that stroke, and he’s still very much recovering from that. And he’s talked about this auditory processing issue that he has for he’ll use closed captioning, but he would speak very haltingly. He would lose words, mush words together. And he said at the beginning, that would happen.

I do want to clarify something. You’re saying tonight that you support fracking, that you’ve always supported fracking. But there is that 2018 interview that you said, quote, I don’t support fracking at all. So how do you square the two?

Oh, I do support fracking and, I don’t, I don’t. I support fracking. And I stand and I do support fracking.

Okay. Thank you, Mr. Fetterman.

The question is now what do voters make of that? I don’t know that the voters if that’s the defining issue, I think the economy is flat inflation, crime, abortion, all these things that when I’m talking to voters, they’re bringing up.

David Rind (host)


Fetterman doctor insists the stroke will not impact his ability to serve in the Senate…but

A couple of months ago, I was talking to Pennsylvania Republicans and they started kind of just telling me, oh, Jess, it’s the Oz-Shapiro voter, someone that’s going to vote for Josh Shapiro and vote for Oz.

David Rind (host)


Oh, a split ticket.

And and Pennsylvania has a really high rate of people that do this, that split the ticket. And they have a history of this.

David Rind (host)


We’ll see if that actually happens. But let’s talk about the voters here for a second.

Jessica Dean (in the field)


Lindsey, tell me who you’re voting for in the upcoming Senate race,.

David Rind (host)


Because Jessica says in the swingiest of swing states the Senate race could come down to who else? The swing voters, many of whom live in the four counties surrounding Philadelphia.

These are the most affluent, educated voters in the state.

Jessica Dean (in the field)


Who are you voting for?

Because he is to me, he seems. He seems fair.

And the women especially are quite independent in terms of their vote. They’ll vote for Republicans and Democrats.

In the past, I was independent and I would vote on either side. But it’s become clearer and clearer that I need to vote democratically.

Jessica Dean (in the field)



Because rights are being stripped away from people.

And in the closing days, we’ve really seen Fetterman zeroing in on this abortion issue.

This is who Dr. Oz wants in charge of women’s. Health care. Decisions.

I want women doctors. Local political leaders. Local political leaders. Local political leaders.

They really seized on this comment that Mehmet Oz made at the debate where he said that abortion should be a decision between a woman, her doctor and local elected officials.

David Rind (host)


In the days after that Supreme Court decision. Polls tilted more towards Democrats due to the urgency around the abortion issue. Since then, though, polling has trended Republican and other issues have become more of a concern for voters. More on those later. But we have to keep this tour rolling and as we head south. Abortion is still a driving factor.

Well, the stakes are high. I mean, it feels like you say that in every.

David Rind (host)


Every time, right?

No, no. This time they really are high. Georgia could determine the balance of power in the Senate.

David Rind (host)


That’s CNN’s Eva McKend. She’s been covering all things Georgia.

The control the Senate could come down to Senator Raphael Warnock holding his seat or Herschel Walker, this political newcomer, pulling off an upset.

I grew up in Wrightsville, Georgia, not far from here, and I was one of those kids that weren’t supposed to make it.

David Rind (host)


Walker is the former University of Georgia football star, a bit of a legend among Bulldogs fans and has long had a fan in former President Donald Trump, who backed his run from the start. But Walker did not arrive on the campaign trail without baggage.

He has a lot of issues. Some of them he’s been pretty forthcoming about, in recent years and attributes it to mental health challenges. Others, not so much. We know that he has a turbulent past and has been accused of violence. CNN, through fact checking, has learned that he has, if not lied, certainly exaggerated about his law enforcement background. And that is sort of just the tip of the iceberg because a major October surprise a few weeks ago.

David Rind (host)


And that’s where we come back to the issue of abortion.

Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign now reeling, upended by an explosive report.

David Rind (host)


Because that October surprise Eva mentioned came in the form of a Daily Beast report that Walker paid for an ex-girlfriend to have an abortion when they were dating more than a decade ago. It’s important to say CNN couldn’t independently verify the allegations. And while Walker says, yes, he did send a $700 check to the woman. He continues to deny it was to reimburse her for an abortion.

I never paid for an abortion, and it’s a lie.

David Rind (host)


A few weeks later, another woman came forward to claim Walker pressured her to have an abortion in 1993. Walker denied that as well.

I’m Raphael Warnock, and I approve this message.

For you. Herschel Walker wants to ban abortion.

There’s no assumption in my mind I because I believe in life, there’s not a national ban on abortion right now. And I think that’s a problem.

Herschel Walker paid for an abortion for his then girlfriend.

It’s Walker’s position on abortion that made this story such a scandal. He believes there should be no exceptions on abortion, not for rape, incest or life of the mother.

David Rind (host)


But Eva tells me that apparent hypocrisy has not really shifted the dynamics here.

It seems like even those who might have been uncomfortable with Walker initially have been coming around.

I think so. I think they were concerned about the things that had come out about him. He did really good debate to kind of ally that. And so that’s really good. I think that helped him a lot.

David Rind (host)


And as we’ve seen in the past, voters are able to stomach a lot if it means their team comes out on top.

Eva McKend (In the field)


Why are you supporting Walker? What issues policies are top of mind for you?

Well, definitely. I want to see the Republicans take over the House, and I think it’s time that we get Republicans back in office.

I think at the end of the day, it’s not so much about the candidate. It’s more about this person as a vehicle to achieve a certain goal.

David Rind (host)


Okay. So like I said earlier, I don’t want you to think that abortion is the only issue motivating voters, because in poll after poll, there’s one major concern that voters in battleground states put above all others the economy and inflation.

Vanessa Yurkevich


So year over year, we’re an 8.2% inflation rate. So that means that everything from your food to energy, what you spend to heat and cool your home, gasoline and shelter, housing, that’s all up.

David Rind (host)


That’s Vanessa Yurkevich. She’s CNN’s business and politics correspondent. And she’s taking our tour to the Midwest.

Vanessa Yurkevich


We went to Lordstown, Ohio. Lordstown was sort of the poster child of U.S. auto manufacturing. General Motors was there for decades.

David Rind (host)


Vanessa says that all changed in 2019 when GM closed up shop in Lordstown. That means a lot of people were suddenly out of a job. Well, over the past few years, that started to change. Big companies like Foxconn have moved in and factories are up and running again.

Vanessa Yurkevich (in field)


What is the current footprint of this facility?

M&M Spokesperson


81,000 square feet with the offices.

Vanessa Yurkevich (in field)


We visited one called M&M Industries, and it was actually an old plant that made seats for GM vehicles. It’s now making plastics, but they’re employing local people from the area.

M&M Spokesperson


There is not enough space. As you can see, our warehouse is currently full. We’re breaking ground right now for a 79,000 square foot expansion.

Vanessa Yurkevich (in field)


That should be really good news for a place like Lordstown.

David Rind (host)


Should be. But are people feeling good?

Vanessa Yurkevich (in field)


They are feeling good about their town, but they’re not feeling good about the economy.

David Rind (host)


And that’s the thing. This is a strange economic moment. On one hand, inflation is definitely running wild. That’s bad. But at the same time, there are tons of jobs available. GDP data is strong. The economy actually grew in the third quarter. Those should be positive signs. But Vanessa says for most voters, it still just comes back to how much will the basics cost me?

Vanessa Yurkevich (in field)


So you’re here at the gas station. You’re filling up today?

Vanessa Yurkevich (in field)


What are your thoughts about gas prices?

Vanessa Yurkevich


People at the gas station said, well, I just spent $70 filling up my my small, you know, sedan. What is that about?

Vanessa Yurkevich (in field)


How would you say you’re feeling about the economy right now?

I’m scared. Honestly. And I don’t I don’t know where we’re going to go from here.

David Rind (host)


We’ll be right back.

Hold on one second. Can we pause for a second? I don’t know why. My hotel room…

David Rind (host)


We’re back with our tour of the swing states that could decide the 2022 midterms.

Literally, that phone has never rang before, so I. That’s wild. All right, go for it.

David Rind (host)


And once he got the phone in his Milwaukee hotel room to stop ringing. CNN’s Omar Jimenez told me about the races he’s been following in Wisconsin.

Let’s start with the Senate race.

Omar Jimenez (in field)


Senator Johnson, you said Mandela Barnes has turned on America. Why do you think this race is so close?

It’s Wisconsin, first of all.

I mean, you’ve got the race between the two term incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

I don’t think he’s the right person to represent Wisconsin. He doesn’t particularly like Wisconsin, doesn’t particularly like this country.

Against the Democratic challenger, the current lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes.

Omar Jimenez (in field)


Ron Johnson is calling you too extreme for Wisconsin. What is your reaction.

Ron Johnson being a hypocrite his entire career and all he can do is distract from his own record. The reality is, for the last 12 years, he hasn’t done a single thing for working people in the state of Wisconsin.

David Rind (host)


This is another pickup opportunity for Democrats. Polling has shown an extremely tight race and voters here have been hearing about all the usual issues inflation, abortion, etc.. But there’s another big Republican talking point looming, large; crime and public safety. Republicans claim that since President Joe Biden took office, the streets have been overrun with danger, often citing the racial justice protests of 2020.

David Rind (host)


How much of that is a real concern versus a political talking point?

Well, a lot of it is real. You know, when you when you go around this state in particular, people people feel it, especially in a place like parts of Milwaukee where crime has exploded. That said, the Democrats in Wisconsin, Mandela, Barnes, for example, he has tried to go on offense on this because with him, Senator Ron Johnson and the Republicans have tried to take some of what he has said in the past in regards to the defund the police movement.

Mandela Barnes has has a very sordid record of hostility toward police having more sympathy for criminals than he has a victim.

Barnes While he didn’t necessarily come out and say, I want to defund the police. He did float the idea of trying to take from some overbloated police departments and use that to help prevent crime from happening in the first place, a position that he still largely supports. But then they have now turn this around and said, Look, I have the support of law enforcement. Barnes has said this, from many law enforcement officers. And how can you say you support law enforcement, of Senator Ron Johnson when you have downplayed aspects of what happened on January 6th?

You know, it is just appalling, the steps that Ron Johnson has taken, you know, just because he didn’t like an election result, tried to send fake electors to the Vice President and also support a violent insurrection and attempt the overthrow of our government. That’s how out of touch and extreme he’s been for this state, but also a danger to this country.

As my team and I were joking to ourselves, Wisconsin has become as synonymous with close elections when it comes to the state’s identity as cheese curds and beer. So we’re expecting things to be close.

David Rind (host)


Our final stop is in Arizona, where I found CNN’s senior national correspondent, Kyung Lah. Is the 2020 election still an issue Republicans are running on there has attended?

I know the calendar says 2022, but it has not ended for the base of the Republican Party here in Arizona.

We had 740,000 ballots with no chain of custody. Those ballots shouldn’t have been counted. We had a.

Where is the evidence in that?

Dana, there’s plenty of evidence you can find it.

David Rind (host)


Up and down the ballot in Arizona. Trump backed candidates are running explicitly on the completely false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. Again, just absolutely not true in any way, shape or form. But it’s not just relitigating the past, though. Kari Lake, the Trump backed candidate for governor, has not definitively said whether she would accept the results of this election if she loses Democrat Katie Hobbs.

I’m going to win the election and I will accept that result.

If you lose, will you accept that?

I’m going to win the election and I will accept that result..

David Rind (host)


The scary thing is it’s not just talk either.

We started seeing reports and video of people sitting outside of two outdoor early ballot drop boxes in Mesa, Arizona. There’s video, surveillance video, as well as local news video of two guys wearing tactical gear carrying weapons. Their heads covered, their faces covered, and they’re wearing camouflage.

David Rind (host)


But watch. What are they watching for?

I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense. And election workers are pounding their heads against a wall, wondering why.

kyung Lah (in field)


Now, a lot of people would just get mad and just look at their phones. Why did you decide to go out there?

Phoenix Grandmother


You know, I’ve been an activist for many, many years and I really get tired of people talking a good game. You know, I don’t talk. I take care of business.

And we’ve already seen some conflict. There is a woman we interviewed who she’s very enthusiastic. She feels incredibly impassioned over the last two years hearing all of the lies. And she feels very strongly that people should be allowed to vote.

Phoenix Grandmother (nats)


He’s putting that in my face. I’m sitting down. He’s with a gun standing over top of me.

Phoenix Grandmother


And I’m standing up and pushing back against those people and standing up for everybody’s right to vote without fear of retaliation or any kind of intimidation.

She’s a grandmother, and she decided to take her lawn chair and sit down next to these armed guys outside of a ballot box and record the whole incident.

David Rind (host)


That’s the thing. No matter what happens with any of these races, there are serious concerns about the future of our democracy here. By CNN’s count, there are at least 52 candidates running for senator, governor or secretary of state who have tried to overturn, rejected or questioned the 2020 election results. We’ve already seen how online conspiracy theories can manifest into politically motivated physical violence. Look no further than that brutal attack on Paul Pelosi just over a week ago. The suspect was allegedly looking for his wife. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking, “where’s Nancy?” Just like we heard on January 6th.

kyung Lah (in field)


Do you believe that Donald Trump won Arizona?

In my heart. I do. Okay, I really do.

When you get that many people involved, there’s got to be some fraud.

kyung Lah (in field)


Does everyone at the table feel the same way?

kyung Lah (in field)


There is an entire wing that believes that the entire process is not legitimate. If they don’t win, it’s not legitimate. And I’m hearing candidates say that and it’s being echoed by the voters who want to participate in this democracy. You know, democracy is not the default. It is an idea that has allowed America to sustain itself. And you just see it dying in certain sectors of American society by a thousand paper cuts.

David Rind (host)


And with that, we’ve reached the end of our tour. I hope it adds something to your election night or election week. Remember, there may be some races that won’t be called right away. And that’s okay. It doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. And, of course, the midterms are a lot more than just these states or just these races. As the results start to pour in, they’ll be a ton to analyze House races, demographic trends, ballot measures, and a whole lot more. And all of that will tell us even more about our political climate and where we go from here. That’s next week. On One Thing.

David Rind (host)


One thing is a production of CNN audio. This episode was produced by Paola Ortiz and me David Rind. Matt Dempsey is our production manager. Faiz Jamil is our senior producer. Greg Peppers is our supervising producer. And Abbie Fentress-Swanson is the executive producer of CNN Audio. Special thanks. This week to Anna-Maja Rappard, Geoffrey Mills and Nicole Grether. Thanks for listening. You can check out the CNN 5 Things podcast for the very latest on all things midterms throughout the week. We’ll be back next Sunday. Talk to you then.

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