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How Will Recent Politically Tinged Violence Affect The Midterm Elections?


To help put recent events in a political context, NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro is with us now. Hi, Domenico.


SHAPIRO: We heard a few people there saying the events of the last week made them more inspired to get out and exercise their right to vote. What are the chances that the opposite could also happen?

MONTANARO: I mean, sure, you know, the ugliness of politics and how that's affected whether people see politics as something that solves problems, you know, that's something that can really make people feel disaffected and stay home sometimes. You know, here's an example of how that's actually put into practice in a campaign. It's exactly why negative ads are run by superPACs and outside groups. You know, when these candidates are down in races, they blanket the airwaves with these things, and that can actually suppress the vote.

SHAPIRO: Candidates across the country are making their closing arguments right now. Have these events been shaping those arguments?

MONTANARO: You know, the fundamentals of this election have been clear for two years and have not really changed very much. You know, we talk a lot about some of these events and rightfully so, you know, and these - you know, people are fighting for the last headline. But when I talk to Democratic and Republican strategists today who are working with these campaigns, they said this - for Democrats, it's about finishing how you started. They spent the entire election talking about affordable health care pre-existing conditions, and they want to drive a truck through as what one strategist called the Republican tax cut scam that wants to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. On the other hand, Republicans are saying the message on pre-existing conditions, sure, it's effective, but they think it's going to be more about immigration and dysfunction. You know, they said if they make it about sanctuary cities and abolishing ICE, they think that's good for them, and it's a message that they've been pushing all along. It's not something that just popped up. Now, on dysfunction, they concede that people say they want a check and balance, but they are trying to argue is the check and balance you want that when it comes to Democrats.

SHAPIRO: Of course, President Trump is not on the ballot, but he is on the campaign trail and on a lot of people's minds. Does he seem to be a plus or a minus for the midterm elections for Republicans right now?

MONTANARO: Well, it depends on which election you're talking about, right? In the Senate, probably he is because the landscape in the Senate just favors Republicans so strongly, you know, in places like Indiana, West Virginia, Tennessee and Texas where Republicans really should do well, and they need that base to come out. But in places like Arizona and Nevada, it's not really clear that he is, and, you know - and Democrats really need their base out there, and they're happy to let President Trump talk and what they think is suppress vote among some of his base but also hurt with independents, you know. But the fact is Republicans are in a vice overall. Even in the House, they need Trump's base, but he turns off independents and women in the suburbs. And that really hurts them down ballot in those key, key House races.

SHAPIRO: I also want to ask you about young voters because traditionally the midterm voter has been a little bit older than the voter in a presidential year. But this year, we saw huge youth marches against gun violence. Do you think that we're going to see a different kind of turnout next week?

MONTANARO: Well, look; we're expecting to see record turnout, you know, something that could be the highest turnout in the last 50 years or so. So that could really fundamentally reshape what we're talking about here. At the same time, younger voters are still lagging behind some of those other groups, older, white voters in particular who still say that they're fired up, that they want to go vote. You know, they don't traditionally turn out in big numbers in midterms. You know, what kind - you know, what kind of effect does this discussion of civility have on them? I mean, on the one hand, many young voters in particular are disaffected with politics, but you see millennials kind of take matters into their own hands with, like, online fundraising for causes that are important to them. On the other, we saw, you know, young voters really get involved and animated speaking out on gun violence after Parkland. So, you know, do they turn out for that?

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.