October 10, 2022

We are now one month away from the midterm elections and predicting what’s going to happen is like predicting which way a butterfly will go in a tornado.

At this moment, most polls show Republicans taking over the House, while the Senate could go either way. (Politico’s Steven Shepard has a good breakdown of how the key Senate races are shaping up.)

But who knows? For example, even when a candidate is hit with an avalanche of bad stories (see: Herschel Walker), it somehow turns into an equally overwhelming avalanche of public support and donations.

The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher, Reid J. Epstein and Jonathan Weisman write, “The year has progressed like a political roller coaster. Republicans boasted that a typical wave was building in the spring, and Democrats then claimed the momentum after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade galvanized progressive and independent voters. Now the pendulum seems to have swung back.”

One Democratic strategist told the Times they wish the election had been a month ago. If the House is a lost cause then the Democrats’ big hope is that they can maintain power in the Senate. Right now, the polls suggest a 50-50 split when it’s all said and done.

It remains to be seen how the controversies surrounding Walker will play out among Georgia voters because there has been little or no polling since The Daily Beast reported Walker, a pro-life GOP candidate, once paid for a former girlfriend’s abortion and urged her to have another. However, as I mentioned, Walker has been piling up the donations and support among fellow Republicans. The Washington Post’s Michael Scherer and Annie Linskey report that Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Tom Cotton of Arkansas will travel to Georgia on Tuesday in a sign of support for Walker.

In a statement to the Post, Scott said, “The Democrats want to destroy this country, and they will destroy anyone who gets in their way. Today, it’s Herschel Walker, but tomorrow it’s the American people. I’m on Herschel’s team — they picked the wrong Georgian to mess with. I’m proud to stand with Herschel Walker and make sure Georgians know that he will always fight to protect them from the forces trying to destroy Georgia values.”

Showing such support for a flawed candidate is evidence of how important the Georgia race is in the battle to control the Senate. And the controversy might not matter. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote, “(Voters have) had their own imperfect lives, and they long ago lost any assumption that political leaders were more upstanding than they. We are in the post heroic era of American politics. What voters want is someone who sees the major issues as they do.”

However, to be clear, Noonan thinks Republicans are missing the point. She wrote, “It isn’t really about abortion or hypocrisy. It is about children born and the father says to the mother: You can raise it by yourself or you can abort it but I won’t help you raise it and act as a father. That is the story …”

There are other key races out there. Here are some stories to get you caught up as we hit the final stretch.

The Sunday shows

Several candidates appeared on the Sunday news shows. The most newsworthy might have been CBS’s “Face the Nation” interviewing the Arizona gubernatorial candidates: Republican Kari Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs. Lake talked about immigration and was pressed by moderator Major Garrett about abortion. Lake pushed a common but misleading assertion that Democrats support abortions “right up until birth” and said, “If you are in the hospital in labor, the abortionists are for giving you an abortion if you desire one.”

During a separate interview, Hobbs said, “I support leaving the decision between a woman and her doctor and leaving politicians entirely out of it. However, even in states like Colorado that have no gestational limit, doctors do not perform abortions on demand until the moment of birth. Late-term abortion is extremely rare, and if it’s being talked about, it’s because something has gone incredibly wrong in a pregnancy. A doctor’s not going to perform an abortion late in a pregnancy just because someone decided they want one. That is ridiculous, and she’s saying this to distract from her incredibly extreme position.”

Georgia Democratic nominee for governor Stacey Abrams appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and talked about a variety of issues, including abortion. Moderator Shannon Bream also asked her about saying “we won” in 2019 after Abrams lost the 2018 gubernatorial election to Brian Kemp, who she is running against again this year.

Abrams told Bream, “I acknowledged that Brian Kemp won — I acknowledged it repeatedly in that speech. I very clearly say I know I’m not the governor, but what I will not do is allow the lack of nuance in our conversations to dull and obfuscate the challenges faced by our citizens.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that her party needs new leadership. She said she would support Joe Biden’s bid for reelection, but pointed out she has voted against Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. She also wants to see more leadership from the middle of the country.

“That’s been important to me, is to reflect the middle of the country,” Slotkin said. “We’re here too.”

Who is on Twitter?

Much is being made about Elon Musk’s apparent eventual ownership of Twitter and what it could all mean. But credit to Sunday’s “Meet the Press” for diving into Twitter’s impact on the political landscape. The show noted that Twitter’s influence certainly jumped up a few notches during the presidency of Donald Trump, who tweeted 26,237 times while president.

Kristen Welker, who was moderator of Sunday’s “MTP,” said, “Although Twitter has played a dominant role in American politics, its reach is actually much smaller than you might think.”

Welker went on to explain that less than a quarter of Americans say they ever use Twitter. That’s a much smaller percentage than other platforms such as YouTube (81%) or Facebook (69%). And of Americans who actually use Twitter, data shows the top 25% of Twitter users produce 97% of all tweets. Data also shows those who lean left politically use Twitter way more than those who lean right. The gap is about 15 percentage points.

It will be interesting to see if those numbers change if the social media site is taken over by Musk, who has said he will reinstate Trump and relax content moderation rules — which, as Welker noted, will likely lead to much more disinformation.

Fauci on COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that, beginning Oct. 20, it will go from reporting daily COVID-19 cases and deaths to reporting them weekly. The CDC said the move will “allow for additional reporting flexibility, reduce the reporting burden on states and jurisdictions, and maximize surveillance resources.”

“CNN Newsroom” smartly had on Dr. Anthony Fauci — director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — to talk about the CDC’s decision and where we are with COVID-19. Fauci told host Pamela Brown that he didn’t think the move from daily to weekly reporting will “have any negative impact at all.”

Fauci said, “We have a pretty good feel for the cadence of how things are evolving. That doesn’t take away from the CDC’s concern, as my concern, I think there’s no space between us at all about the fact that we really have to pay attention to making sure we get as many people in there, updated vaccine, which is in a bivalent that is specifically directed towards the dominant isolate right now in our society. We’ve still got to do much, much better as we enter into the late fall and early winter. We only have 68% of our population vaccinated, and only one-half of those are up to date on their boosters. So we have a ways to go, particularly as we enter the winter, which will be complicated by the influenza season. So there’s no time, ma’am, to let down our guard right now, for certain.”

These CDC numbers still surprised me: The U.S. is averaging about 42,000 new cases each day and about 320 deaths per day. Those numbers continue to trend down, but are still significant. And they could jump up again.

Fauci said, “I don’t feel, certainly, that 300 to 400 deaths per day is an acceptable number. So as we get into the colder months, where any respiratory disease, COVID or anything else, always has the risk of an uptick as you enter into the late fall/winter months.”

Fauci pointed to Australia, which has a flu season directly opposite the U.S.

“They had a particularly bad flu season this year, which doesn’t necessarily guarantee we will have a bad one, but it is strongly suggestive that we very well may have a severe flu season,” Fauci said. “Again, another indication why we should get our flu vaccine and we should get the updated BA.5 bivalent COVID vaccine.’

Again, good work by CNN to continue to inform the public about a virus that has become an afterthought for many, but has not gone away.

Hurricane coverage

I wanted to take a few lines here to point out some more excellent post-storm coverage of Hurricane Ian.

The agony of sports

It’s tough being a Toronto sports fan. True, the NBA Raptors won an NBA title in 2019. But the beloved Maple Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967 and the Blue Jays, which haven’t won a World Series since 1993, were swept out of this year’s wild-card playoff after blowing an 8-1 lead on Saturday. So Global News did the man-on-the-street interviews after Saturday’s game and they were terrific.

Media tidbits

(Courtesy: NBC News)

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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