A Look At The Upcoming Midterms
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
For more now on that big prize fight, tomorrow's midterm elections, Im joined NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.
MARA LIASSON: Hi, Robert.
SIEGEL: We just heard Ross Baker in Don Gonyea's story describing this back and forth between President Obama and House minority leader John Boehner, as what happens in at the weigh-in for a title fight. What do you make of the crosstalk between these two leaders?
LIASSON: Well, I think, you know, we're 24 hours before an election and both sides are pouncing on any little tidbit they can to make the other guy look bad. I do think that Republicans in general like to hold the president to the impossibly high standards that he set for himself. So whenever he says something remotely partisan, they say: Hey, you're supposed to be post-partisan - you're not allowed to say that.
But I actually think that this is not such a big deal. I do think it was a rare slip on the part of the president; it doesnt have a lot of consequences. But the president really needs Hispanics to turn out, that he was trying to do there. And Democrats and the White House are really looking forward to 2012, where they assume there will be more Hispanics in the electorate to turn out.
SIEGEL: One of last week's political kerfuffles involved Bill Clinton and his reported effort to get the Florida Democratic Senate candidate, Kendrick Meek, who's African-American, to step aside in order for Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor - or the current Florida governor, who's described himself to me as a Reagan conservative - to have him beat Republican Marco Rubio, who's Cuban American.
Why did Bill Clinton risk alienating African-Americans with that?
LIASSON: Because of Hispanics, actually. Because Marco Rubio - I think that Bill Clinton and Democrats thought that it was worth trying to save this Senate race. I dont think they thought they could swing it to Crist but it was worth a try. Because if Marco Rubio is the new senator, he becomes an instant national star. And politicians are always thinking several cycles ahead and Rubio is already being talked about as vice presidential candidate.
Republicans badly want to a way to compete with for the Hispanic vote. Rubio could help with that. And, as a matter fact, this class of freshmen Republicans - governors and senators - are going to be unusually diverse. They're going to be several Hispanics in them, in addition to an Indian American potential governor of South Carolina.
So it's all about what happens next time.
SIEGEL: Youve covered a lot of elections. I dont want to rub in...
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGEL: ...but youve covered a lot of elections for us.
LIASSON: I started when I was two.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGEL: What strikes you most about this cycle?
LIASSON: Well, I guess this cycle was interesting because the dynamic never changed, it just grew. It didnt matter how many attack ads were on and how much money was spent, this was a wave that kept on building. Likely voters in every poll have favored the Republicans and that has stayed completely static from beginning to end.
SIEGEL: And independent voters, who seem to be once again tossing the group thats in, out.
LIASSON: Thats the other thing that has really struck me about this election -how volatile things are, the huge pendulum swings among independents. And, of course, there are more and more independents, as the parties get more homogenous and Democrats move left and Republicans move more to the right.
But it looks like President Obama is going to be the third president in a row to lose a House of Congress. And thats why it's really important not just what the results of tomorrow's voting are, but how both the president and Republicans interpret the results.
Do Republicans say: Ooh, this is a mandate for our agenda now to cut taxes and shrink government and repeal Obamacare, or is it just a vote against the president? And does the president chalk this up to a bad economy and unlimited spending by conservative groups or not?
And it's possible that independents dont think the country is too left or too right. They just think it's not working.
SIEGEL: If, in fact, the Democrats have a very, very bad night tomorrow, does President Obama risk facing some kind of opposition to his re-nomination in a couple of years?
LIASSON: Well, history would tell us that he does. But when you really look out there and think who could challenge him, what group inside the Democratic Party would be the constituency for a challenge, you can't come up with one.
SIEGEL: Okay. Thank you, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you.
SIEGEL: Thats NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
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