Live: Ask NPR's Domenico Montanaro your 2022 election questions
The clock is ticking down to the final day of voting in the 2022 midterm elections. If you have burning election questions, we have good news: NPR senior political editor Domenico Montanaro is here to answer as many as he can this morning.
We're closing this blog — but don't go too far
We're going to stop bringing you updates on this page today, but NPR's reporting on the 2022 elections is far from over.
And don't forget to head back here to NPR.org next Tuesday, Nov. 8, as we bring you election results, plus analysis and context right as the polls close.
Thanks for joining us!
What's the latest on the New York governor's race?
"What is the likelihood of Zeldin winning in the N.Y. state governor's race? Given his close ties to Trump, will NYC come out to vote against him?" — Keith
The New York governor’s race has been an interesting one to watch. It has apparently gotten closer in the polls in the last week or so — though, frankly, I don’t pay much attention to the head-to-head horse-race polls.
We know crime has been a major issue in the race. And it’s an issue Republicans have used to turn out their voters and fire them up. While data may show that crime isn’t up particularly high, it’s just not how many Americans are viewing what is happening. There have been some very high-profile crimes — smash-and-grabs in San Francisco, people brandishing weapons in places that have never really seen that kind of thing, New York subway violence. Homicides are down, but violent crime is up in major cities. So that changes people’s feelings/perspective of feeling safe going out.
So even in a state like New York, which leans pretty heavily Democratic, if people don’t feel safe going out, that gives the party out of power a political opportunity. That’s especially true in executive positions — governors, mayor. That’s how Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York in the 1990s even though he’s a Republican and Democrats in NYC outnumber Republicans something like 5-to-1.
How are candidates trained to run these days?
"Is there a 'candidate election school' that candidates attend to learn issues to drill down on and how to pivot?" — Anne
That’s interesting — there's no such university program exactly that I know of!
But, yes, there have been lots of efforts to train people from underrepresented groups to run. For example, She Should Run is an organization that shows women the ropes of campaigning. Women have made up the majority of the electorate for decades and have turned out at higher rates than men in every election since 1984, and despite strides in recent years, still only make up about a quarter of Congress.
But it’s also why there is such a thriving political consultancy industry. They are able to help shape people who might be good candidates, help candidates with their messaging, teach them about polling, advise them on how to dress, show them what kinds of ads resonate, etc.
But a good candidate just has great talent, the ability to frame an argument and the ability to — and this is most important — raise money. It's a sad reality, but money is so key. I can’t tell you how many candidates I’ve seen who I thought were really good, cut a good profile, made the argument well and then fizzled and lost and were never heard from again — all because they just couldn’t raise the kind of money needed to win a modern-day campaign.
What do the attacks on Paul Pelosi tell us about election threats?
"Do you think the attack on Paul Pelosi will have any effect on the election? Are you worried about more violence this year?" — Emily
Hey Emily! My name is also Emily, and I’m a reporter with NPR’s digital team jumping on to help Domenico answer this. (It might sound crazy, but he’s got a lot on his plate this week and needed to step away for a minute).
ICYMI: Yesterday, the Justice Department filed federal felony charges against a man who broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home last Friday and attacked her husband with a hammer.
NPR’s Dustin Jones reports that President Biden has condemned the assault as "despicable” and directly tied it to the spread of misinformation and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
"What makes us think that one party can talk about 'stolen elections,' 'COVID being a hoax,' 'this is all a bunch of lies' — and it not affect people who may not be so well-balanced? What makes us think that it's not going to corrode the political climate?" Biden said last Friday.
Plenty of top Republicans have also condemned the attacks, though most have stopped short of tying the attack to misinformation or the ideology behind Jan. 6.
Horrified and disgusted by the reports that Paul Pelosi was assaulted in his and Speaker Pelosi's home last night. Grateful to hear that Paul is on track to make a full recovery and that law enforcement including our stellar Capitol Police are on the case.— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) October 28, 2022
U.S. law enforcement agencies have warned of an increase in potential attacks against political figures, election workers and religious minorities. Those agencies say that conspiracy theories have already contributed to several attacks and violent plots in the last few years.
So, yes, we’re a little bit worried we could see further violence this year. But we doubt it’ll change anyone’s vote, given the partisanship behind the way politicians are framing the attacks.
Which party is seeing the most outside money (and what does that even mean)?
"What percentage of campaign dollars these days is from dark money? How do the two parties compare?"— Anne
I haven’t crunched exact numbers from “dark money” as yet, but I can tell you that a majority of money going toward TV ads in the most competitive states is coming from outside groups.
Those two — "dark money" and "outside money" — aren’t the same thing. It’s easy to get them confused. I’ve done it, and have been covering these groups a long time. For context, dark money groups are technically those that have little-to-no donor transparency. (OpenSecrets has a good explainer here.)
But both dark money and outside money often have relationships that make their donors, in some cases, well, murky.
So far, outside groups have spent $1.6 billion on TV ads on the dozen most competitive Senate races. And $1.3 billion of that money is going toward just the top six, according to data from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact as of Oct. 17.
The biggest outside spender in this election is the Senate Leadership Fund, which is allied with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. It has spent nearly a quarter-billion dollars to boost Republican candidates, particularly Trump-backed ones who have been struggling in places like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio and North Carolina. In fact, just in those four, McConnell’s group has spent $140 million to prop up those candidates.
In total, GOP outside groups have spent about $1 billion to boost GOP candidates, or 86% of all the money going toward pro-GOP ads in key Senate races. In contrast, about 56% of the money going toward ads to support Democratic candidates is coming from these kinds of groups.
Now, the Senate Leadership Fund is not a dark money group. It does have some level of disclosure, but it’s gets a little muddy because the same person who runs SLF also runs a group called One Nation, which is also running tens of millions of dollars in ads to support candidates. It doesn’t have to disclose its donors — and it has given some $20 million to SLF.
Democrats also have an arrangement like this — Senate Majority PAC is the biggest Democratic outside spender, with ties to Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. It has spent $145 million in just six states in these elections. And there’s a dark money group affiliated with it— Majority Forward. Majority Forward has bought $34 million in ads, and it has had multiple staffers who have worked for both.
I know that's a lot I just threw at you, so here's a simple way to see it: through the states seeing the most spending on TV ads in Senate races:
1. Georgia: $258 million (Pro-D $141m, Pro-R $117m)
2. Pennsylvania: $241 million (Pro-D $101m, Pro-R $141m)
3. Arizona: $213 million (Pro-D $131m, Pro-R $82m)
4. Wisconsin: $204 million (Pro-D $108m, Pro-R $97m)
5. Nevada: $171 million (Pro-D $95m, Pro-R $76m)
6. Ohio: $167 million (Pro-D $45m, Pro-R $123m)
7. New Hampshire: $128 million (Pro-D $72m, Pro-R $57m)
8. North Carolina: $113 million (Pro-D $40m, Pro-R $113m)
9. Florida: $ 66 million (Pro-D $39m, Pro-R $65m)
10. Colorado: $ 40 million (Pro-D $25m, Pro-R $14m)
11. Washington: $ 26 million (Pro-D $14.7m, Pro-R $11m)
And if you still want more on this topic, head here.
How secret (really) is my ballot?
"I’m wondering how private my ballot will be. I would prefer nobody know how I voted — I’m afraid if others knew, they would antagonize me."— Anne
The good news, Anne, is that no one knows how you vote unless you tell them. Your name doesn’t go on a ballot.
In many states, your party affiliation is public information, meaning whether you identify as a Democrat, Republican or something else or are unaffiliated. All of that can be found on databaseslike Lexis-Nexis. But no one will know how you voted.
Why aren't people talking about Kentucky's Senate race?
"Why has Charles Booker’s campaign received so little national attention? Rand Paul is being challenged like never before, yet it seems our Senate race doesn’t matter to the country. Why not?" — Lisa
Kentucky has been something of a Lucy-and-the-football state for Senate Democrats. There are only so many resources, and they knew they had to protect in Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and Colorado and have a real chance going on offense in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with longer shots in Ohio and North Carolina.
That didn’t leave the party with much room — or confidence — in being able to win in Kentucky. Sometimes good candidates can overcome that, but Kentucky went for Donald Trump by 26 points in 2020, a year in which Biden won nationally. And in a midterm with a Democrat in the White House, Kentucky is even more of an uphill climb for Democrats.
A reporter's tips for listening to political ads
"Opponents accuse each other of lying. What’s the best (& quickest) resource for finding out which candidate ads are truthful?" — Rebecca
I see lots of local TV stations doing a pretty good job fact-checking in segments like this one from an NBC station in Arizona. Also, FactCheck.org and Politifact tend to be great resources on candidate claims.
Otherwise, I recommend watching these ads like a reporter would:
- Be skeptical whenever someone makes claims.
- Check whatever information is provided on screen for where their claim is coming from.
- Try as best you can to get to the primary source material.
If a claim doesn’t pass the smell test, you’re probably on to something. But have an open mind and let the facts guide you on whether it’s true or false.
Sometimes, oftentimes, it’s muddy with a kernel of truth, but perhaps misleading. It’s not easy to unravel. Remember, the people who create ads are professionals and get paid to do this for a reason.
Where Republican candidates stand on inflation
"Are there any GOP candidates (for federal or statewide office) who have solutions to inflation? I’m suspicious that when/if there’s a GOP majority in the House or Senate or both, corporations will lower prices for their anti-regulation buddies in Congress." — Wren
Republicans blame Democrats for contributing to inflation by passing spending bills intended for COVID relief. There’s some evidence to suggest that may be partially true. But it’s hardly the whole story with complicated global economics at play that have been driving factors.
So the No. 1 thing to expect if Republicans take the majority is that they won't propose any massive spending bills to help solve social issues like the widening inequality gap, student loan forgiveness, etc.
Republican economic policy for the last 35 years has essentially boiled down to tax cuts and deregulation. Republicans are in favor of tax cuts during a bad economy to spur growth, but also in times of economic prosperity to give money back to people — despite unpaid-for tax cuts having been shown to drive up the nation’s debt and deficits. It’s not a very targeted approach, but likely what you can expect from Republican control.
Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who is looking likely to be the next speaker of the House, said on Fox News earlier this month of the GOP plan: “[I]n the ‘Commitment to America,’ we will be energy independent, that lower your prices. We’ll take away this runaway spending. We’ll make America more productive to curb inflation ...”
As CNN notedin an article breaking some of this down, the actual GOP document, the “Commitment to America,” includes phrases like “curb wasteful government spending,” enact “pro-growth tax and deregulatory policies,” and “make America energy independent.”
So some very BROAD ideas in there. But here are a few to pay attention to:
1. “Energy independent:” Reading between the lines, this means increasing oil and fracking production in the U.S. One potential problem with this is that, while the U.S. is already producing a lot of oil and natural gas, the companies based in the U.S. are not owned and operated by the federal government; they're global companies. In other words, they sell their product to the highest bidder on the open, global market. Oil produced in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily stay here.
2. “Take away runaway spending” OK, so no big bills.
3. “Make America more productive”. The GOP's ideological approach to that has been multifold and includes deregulation and cracking down on unions. That’s backed up by that phrase “pro-growth tax and deregulatory policies” in the GOP document.
Of course, in a divided government, lawmakers can’t do any of these things alone. And it will be the Federal Reserve that plays the principal role in trying to curb inflation — and they have one, very blunt tool, which is raising or lowering interest rates.
But 2024 is offering Republicans an opportunity to control the White House and Congress, and therefore, the legislative agenda. They are likely to take the House this fall, and even if they don’t take the Senate this year, the Senate landscape is much better for them in 2024, and in this country, presidential elections are anyone’s guess.
What about the Green Party?
"Why aren't there more Green Party candidates on the ballots this year?" — Sean
I don’t have the data on whether Green Party candidates on the ballot in the U.S. have gone up or down for 2022. But I do know that the Council on Foreign Relations wrote recently that the influence of green parties is gaining steam internationally.
The U.S. has had its moments with the Green Party and other third parties, but the major two-party system here is pretty entrenched. The country's two major parties have built strong alliances with voters and have structural and financial advantages.
I’d imagine one key reason we haven’t seen more political parties, like in some other countries, is that for someone to become president, that person needs 270 electoral votes — a majority of them. Third parties have gotten (negative) attention in a couple of presidential elections in the past 20 or so years. Both in 2000 with Ralph Nader’s run and in 2016 with Jill Stein, Democrats complained that the extra candidates cost them control of the White House.
But if you’re interested, here’s the Green Party’s ballot access page.
Are new voting laws changing turnout this year?
"Hey NPR gang! Given the number of laws passed since the 2020 election geared towards election security and voting rights, are we seeing anything new or notable this year regarding voter turnout or the voting experience?" — Patrick
We're going to bring in NPR's Miles Parks for this one — he's been following these laws closely for us.
Here's what he has to say:
Hey Patrick! This is Miles, and I cover voting.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the most notable thing we're seeing when it comes to the flood of new laws over the past couple years is increased early turnout. As of Monday afternoon — eight days from Election Day — 22.5 million early votes had already been cast.
That is a big change from previous midterm elections. For reference, in 2014, about 70% of votes were cast in person on Election Day. Experts I talk to expect that number to be under 50% this year, and that's due to states like Massachusetts and Nevada passing laws that made early and mail voting easier.
When it comes to restrictions, it's a lot harder to track the effect of those in real time. We are in a period of high-turnout elections, but even so, more than a third of eligible voters don't ever cast ballots.
It’s always difficult to define whether they didn't vote because the process was too confusing or arduous, or whether they wouldn't have voted anyway. One key stat we'll be closely monitoring is mail ballot rejection rates in states that have passed laws that make mail voting more difficult. If those are higher than, say, 1-2%, then we will know a fair amount of voters were disenfranchised as a result of the mail voting rules, and not because they just didn't have any interest in voting.
Here's the latest on Herschel Walker
"What’s up with Herschel Walker?" — Sue
Hmm, well, he might be the next senator from Georgia.
To give you a quick summary: He’s in a very close race with incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Walker started out with some advantages here — he’s VERY well-known in the state. Not only is he a former NFL running back, but, more importantly in Georgia, he was a Heisman-winning back for the University of Georgia. And SEC football is huge in this state. He also has an advantage in Georgia because, for all its population growth and Biden winning the state in 2020, the state still leans slightly toward Republicans and even more so in a midterm.
All that said, Walker has some obvious shortcomings that have made his campaign less than stellar. Republican leader Mitch McConnell and other pragmatic Republicans would never have picked Walker to be their nominee after what opposition research (which campaigns and parties do on their own candidates) revealed about him. But, this is still Donald Trump’s party. And Trump wanted Walker because he’s a celebrity and likes Trump — and that got him through the primary.
How big of an issue is abortion access?
"When Roe v. Wade got overturned, I thought abortion would be a huge issue in this election. But it feels like the economy is front and center now. I'd be curious what NPR reporters are hearing from voters? Is abortion access going to be a motivating factor in this election?" — Morgan
Abortion is still one of the most important issues in this election. Pre-Dobbs, Democratic enthusiasm was way down. Post-Dobbs, it was on par with Republicans'. So it has really been a political earthquake. It appears to have resonated particularly with white women with college degrees, who are among the most likely to vote in this election.
That said, rising prices and inflation continue to dominate for Republicans, independents and, notably for Democrats, Latinos. People are clearly feeling the pinch, especially working-class folks. Our polling has shown that those making less than $50,000 a year are far less likely to say they are very interested in these elections, making them less likely to vote than those who are a bit better off.
So we have some crosscurrents in this election that aren’t typical for a midterm.
Typically, midterms are a referendum on the party in power and the sitting president. While that is the case, that’s only part of it. Abortion rights are a major issue and, for many,themajor issue they are voting on.
Democrats have tried to capitalize on that. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Democratic candidate who isn't running ads, for example, on abortion to draw a contrast with their Republican opponent. It’s just that in the past couple of weeks, more people have started to pay attention to the election, which is part of the typical ebb and flow of an election cycle.
And though Democrats are gaining in their enthusiasm closer to when all votes have to be in, Republicans appear to be gaining even more.
Is it still helpful to donate to candidates this close to Election Day?
"Is it still helpful to make campaign contributions for the midterms? At what point are monetary contributions no longer able to be mobilized by a campaign before the election?" — Julie
The short answer here is yes.
Campaigns will always take your money! And they use it certainly through Election Day and, believe it or not, afterward. Candidates often have to pay off debt to people like vendors whom they rented supplies from, the folks who built their stages for events and sign-makers, etc.
But in addition to the enormous expense of political advertising throughout the campaign, they'll also use money for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts not just on Election Day, though that’s important, but in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Early voting is well underway in lots of places.
Ask Domenico Montanaro your election questions
What do you want to know? NPR senior political editor Domenico Montanaro will answer as many questions as he can today.
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