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The Washington Post’s Robert Costa On The State Of The Race(s)

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Robert Costa joins me in hour three today to review the Senate map:




HH: Joining me now on the phone from Washington, D.C, Robert Costa of the Washington Post. You can follow Robert on Twitter, and everyone who cares about politics does, @CostaReports, and of course over at the First, Bob, my condolences on your Nats. They didn’t go anywhere. I think you’ve become a complete Nationals guy, haven’t you?

RC: Well, I grew up in Philadelphia, so I have my heart always for the NL East, and I’ve become a Nationals fan of sorts. I think after they lost that 18 inning game, they really just seemed to be lagging, and disappointing here in D.C, which is still not really a baseball town, though.

HH: On the other hand, the Irish are flawless, and they, because Ohio State is being unjustly punished by SCC voters, it looks like my two teams that I follow, the Irish are much more likely to get to the first Final Four.

RC: I’m super excited for Notre Dame. I was out at the Stanford game this past weekend, and when Golson connected on that 4th quarter pass in the rain and in the cold, it was fantastic. And I think the Irish will beat North Carolina this weekend, and then comes the big game, Florida State in Florida.

HH: I am very ambivalent about the inking of the home and away deal with Ohio State, Robert. What do you think? I don’t like to see the Irish and the Buckeyes play.

RC: I’m fine with it. Urban Meyer once turned down the Notre Dame job, so I’d like to see Notre Dame take it to him a little bit. But I’m a little sad to see the Michigan rivalry end.

HH: That’s who I want the Irish to beat every year. That’s a great rivalry. What happened?

RC: It just all has to do with the Irish going into the ACC in every sport, and in an unofficial way in football, they’re playing a lot more ACC teams instead of the Big Ten.

HH: All right, now let’s get to politics. Yesterday on this show, Lindsey Graham would not say no when I asked him about 2016. Are you surprised by that?

RC: No, I read, I listened to the interview closely, and I think you’re seeing an interesting development. Lindsey Graham, John Bolton, Peter King, the Congressman from New York, all these hawks, kind of long shots, but they’re really concerned about the non-interventionist drift within some parts of the Republican Party, and they’re talking up 2016. And I think it shows where the heart of the party is in many ways on foreign policy, and why someone like Rand Paul is being forced to tack a little bit more to the right.

HH: It also shows a problem for Ted Cruz, because if Lindsey Graham runs, he’ll have to be considered a favorite son in South Carolina, which was I think crucial to the Cruz strategy of running the board early.

RC: That’s right, because Cruz would really have to bank on dong Iowa, forgetting a little bit about New Hampshire, and then going to South Carolina. And so and Iowa victory for Cruz could be helpful, but if the field is really crowded, and Cruz even does get a victory there, it’s probably a narrow victory. It’s in the 20s or the 30s, percentage-wise, and so I agree with you. Cruz needed a booming victory in South Carolina if he was going to run, because it’s going to take an independent type in New Hampshire, and it takes big money to win in Florida.

HH: Also on yesterday’s program, Bobby Jindal, who spent a lot of time talking about a lot of things, including CNN and the need for a conservative voice there. But mostly, we talked Defense. He put out a 28 page paper. He gave two speeches, one at AEI. Clearly, the governor of Louisiana is running for president, and clearly, he intends to be taken seriously as a hawk.

RC: He is, and Jindal’s doing all the right things. He’s casting himself as the Paul Ryan of this cycle, a lot of policy papers, a lot of speeches. He’s also a big rival for Chris Christie. Jindal wanted to be RGA chair. He wanted to be kind of the king maker this cycle. Christie pushed him aside. You see Jindal now helping out Rob Astorino, the New York gubernatorial candidate this week instead of Christie, who has somewhat of a détente with Democratic Governor Cuomo up there in New York. I think Jindal, though, has to show some kind of political courage. How does he get beyond this wonk persona? How does he make real strides in December, January, February, early next year?

HH: One thing I like, unlike the other ones, you call up Bobby Jindal and he shows up. I mean, he’ll go anywhere and answer any question, which is much admired.

RC: He better. He’s nowhere in the polls. He’d better be showing up on every radio show.

HH: Yup.

RC: On every television show, and with every reporter who calls. I do like that about him. He’s good with access. But one thing I’ve noticed, a lot of these governors, Christie and others, they become sometimes shrouded by these state troopers, aides. Once that starts to happen, you lose a little bit of our appeal with the press and the activists.

HH: And Rand Paul’s gone to ground in recent weeks, although he was talking to Ryan Lizza in an interesting piece that I debated with Lizza. He’s avoiding this show and other shows where he might get a lot of questions on foreign policy.

RC: He is. He issued that statement, he wants to “destroy” ISIS militarily. We all thought Paul was moving to the right a bit on foreign policy. But since then, he hasn’t been a voice out there. And here’s the question I have about Rand Paul. Was this moment with ISIS a real opportunity for him to make new ground in the party, to be that non-interventionist voice, or at least some kind of fresh perspective, the non-hawk? For him to avoid that moment, to not really step into the limelight and seize it, really says a lot of things about how he’ll handle 2016. He’s not, as much as he’s an independent voice in a lot of ways, and an interesting guy, he hasn’t really tried to become that person politically, yet.

HH: Let’s turn to 2014. The best news of the day, the week, maybe the month is a CNN poll today showing that Pat Roberts is one point ahead in Kansas. How relieved are Republicans, Robert Costa, to see their guy regaining some strength and some momentum?

RC: Roberts has turned the corner in some ways. He’s shaken up his campaign staff. I think Chris LaCivita, the Virginia-based strategist who’s flown out to Kansas to help him out has done a lot to get Roberts’ ground game going. I mean, I was talking to Kansas Republicans a few months ago, and they were telling me Roberts’ whole ground game was college kids who are about to go back to UK and other schools. And so that whole thing’s been revamped. And I think Roberts is doing a pretty solid job in riling up the base. Ted Cruz will be on a bus tour with him on Thursday. Tom Coburn will be with him on Friday. But it’s a little bit of a muddle message, because one moment, Bob Dole is campaigning alongside Roberts criticizing Ted Cruz, and a week later, Cruz is campaigning with Roberts. I’m not really sure where Roberts is ideologically. But at least he’s getting the base in some ways more excited than they were.

HH: Now speaking about Senate races, I wrote my last two checks of this cycle, my penultimate check for the benefit of the Steelers fans, that means second to last, went to Dan Sullivan. And then I maxed out to Cory Gardner last night, because he had such a great debate performance against Mark Udall. How do you count those two races, which are really key to, if Kansas slips, we need to win both of those if you’re a Republican, if Kansas slips, we’ve got to win both. What do you think about Dan Sullivan in Alaska, Cory Gardner in Colorado?

RC: I think Dan Sullivan’s by far the strongest candidate who could have emerged out of that crowded primary in Alaska. It’s good the GOP doesn’t have a Joe Miller up there causing problems with statements and that kind of thing. Sullivan has the full national party behind him, actually continues to surge and challenge Begich. I expect a lot of money. He’s very friendly with Rob Portman, vice-chair of the NRSC. I think Sullivan can close. The thing is, a lot of these far-flung precincts in Alaska, we’re not going to know those totals on election night. So that election, that result, could drag on for weeks. And I think when you look at, what was your other race?

HH: Colorado, Cory Gardner.

RC: Oh yeah, real quick, I think immigration’s huge there. It’s a state with 21% Hispanic population. You saw in the debate the other night Gardner’s tacking to the center on immigration. He’s embracing the Dream Act. He realizes that the stakes there are different, and he’s become more of a moderate in many ways than he has been in the House. And many conservatives may not like that, but it puts him in a position to beat Udall.

HH: He’s also got just more money than God flowing in as people like me and all of my audience go to One more segment with Robert Costa, America. We’ll run the rest of the board. But that sounded pretty optimistic for both Sullivan and Gardner.

— – – — –

HH: Robert, John Thune brought Governor Rounds into the studio a few weeks ago, and the complaint was no one was paying attention to [South Dakota], because everyone thinks it’s in the bag. But I saw a poll that just sliced it basically 40-30-30. You think that’s a pretty safe Republican seat up there?

RC: You mean in South Dakota?

HH: Oh, yeah, South Dakota. You’re right, South Dakota.

RC: Yeah, so I’ve actually been paying very close attention to South Dakota’s three-way race. I just got off the phone before you called me to talk with Larry Pressler. Now some people may forget Pressler, but Pressler was a three term Republican Senator in the 70s, 80s and 90s in South Dakota. He was a moderate. He’s famous for being part of that ABSCAM investigation, but he was the one Senator from that investigation who refused a bribe, so he got a lot of positive publicity back in those days. People know American Hustle, the movie. So anyway, Pressler’s running, and Rounds, the former governor, is really struggling right now, because you have this moderate Republican Senator now running as an independent in Larry Pressler. He’s gaining in the polls, and Rick Weiland, the Democrat, he’s struggling around 28%. And so this really is a toss-up, and national Democrats today announced they’re going to put $1 million behind the Democrat there. And they really believe that even if Pressler wins, he could even caucus with the Democrats. Pressler told me today he voted for Obama in ’08 and 2012, so Democrats are optimistic they actually have a pickup opportunity there, kind of surprising.

HH: That’s a big scoop, though. I would drop that mail all over South Dakota if Pressler voted for Obama in those two years. That’ll wake up a few Republicans. When’s that piece come out, Robert?

RC: The piece will come out tomorrow morning.

HH: That’s a big scoop. We will look for that piece. Now Montana, Daines is going to win. West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito, and I assume that Rounds will eventually get it together in South Dakota. The big three are Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina. I just, have you seen the ad that Guillory did down in Louisiana against Mary Landrieu, Robert Costa?

RC: Yeah, I think Landrieu’s, as much as she has a family name, this is a tough state. The President is unpopular there. And the ads are pretty tough on her. And she has residency questions. And she has an independent name in the state, but I think Landrieu still remains a pickup opportunity. I’m a little more nervous, if you’re a Republican, you’ve got to be nervous about North Carolina, because Tillis, as strong as he is in some of these debates, Kay Hagan’s really running hard against the Republican legislature there, and that is gaining traction in a lot of these polls.

HH: Robert, did you watch that debate last night? She was horrific.

RC: She’s a very low key presence in the United States Senate. She’s not much of an orator. But I’m not so sure that matters, debate performance, charisma. I’m not sure that matters, because it really seems to be either a referendum on Obama, that’s what Tillis wants, or it’s a referendum on the state legislature, that’s what Hagan wants.

HH: Now talk to me, you’re a Giants fan, right? Or are you Jets fan?

RC: I’m an Eagles fan.

HH: Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t follow professional sports. Okay, so you won’t know anything about separation, but it seems to me that Tom Cotton has established separation in Arkansas.

RC: I think so. I’m so cautious to rule out the Pryor family in Arkansas. When I talk to Arkansas Republicans and Democrats who really know this state, that Pryor family, David Pryor, Mark Pryor, it’s like the Landrieus. It’s like the Begichs even in Alaska. These families have roots there and a political reputation that carries weight regardless of the wave that may be coming against the Democrats. And I think Cotton also, as much as national conservatives are hot on Cotton, they think this guy is a future president, he is only a rookie Congressman running his first statewide race. I don’t think he’s been a perfect campaigner, especially on how he’s talked about the farm bill and agriculture. He’s been solid, but I think he’s a little bit overrated sometimes on the right in terms of his campaign skills.

HH: Now I just think over the last week, he got to five, to six points. That’s what I mean by separation as opposed to the low single digits. Lastly, we’ve got about three minutes here, there are a whole bunch of other races – New Hampshire, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, you know, on the Republican side, Perdue, I think, is going to win in Georgia. I think Mitch McConnell is ahead. There’s an outlier poll showing Grimes up, but it’s really an outlier. Of all those races, do you see any upsets?

RC: Yeah, I think Georgia could be an upset. I think Michelle Nunn, she has a family name as well, and Georgia’s demographics are trending away from the Republicans. I think Nunn’s actually run a pretty decent campaign regardless of that campaign memo that was leaked to National Review. You see Nunn’s been pretty solid, and David Perdue’s getting slammed on outsourcing. There’s, his past experience as a corporate executive, he admitted in an affidavit to outsourcing jobs. I’m not saying Perdue’s going to lose. I think Perdue’s poised to win. But if any upset’s going to happen, it’s going to be in a place like Georgia if the African-American turnout is higher than expected.

HH: I was hoping you were going to say Scott Brown. I was hoping you were going to say Scott Brown could pull it off.

RC: Scott Brown could come back. I’ll tell you this real quick, Scott Brown won on national security in 2010. I was with him in Boston on election night. He could win on national security again in 2014.

HH: Last quick question, Governor Gumby, Hickenlooper in Colorado, does he lose?

RC: Toss-up, hard to say. He is a pretty solid politician, but if the wind turns against him and Udall, who knows?

HH: How about Doug Ducey in Arizona? Does he beat Duval?

RC: I think so. I think he’s running a pretty solid campaign. Conservative are excited about him.

HH: Robert Costa of the Washington Post, thank you, Robert.

End of interview.


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