The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: The Next President of the United States

Not immediately knowing which candidate won the White House has long been a reality of a world changed by COVID-19. What campaigns, pundits, and pollsters failed to predict was the distance that would separate the results from the expectations. Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent at Politico, Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for NBC News, and Clare Malone, senior politics writer at FiveThirtyEight, analyze the incomplete election results and what Congress could look like when the dust settles. 

President Trump has consistently and falsely asserted that losing reelection would mean that the White House was stolen from him. Meanwhile, election officials across the country have been working diligently to maintain free and fair elections. This year, their jobs include responding to a pandemic and refuting conspiracy theories. Election officials from across the country describe how Election Day 2020 went and how things could improve for future elections. 

As Joe Biden gets closer to winning the electoral college, the Trump campaign is taking to the courts in an attempt to challenge the results. In the past few days, states like Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania have all seen lawsuits calling into question their process of counting ballots, though there’s no evidence supporting the president’s claims of voter fraud. While some of the lawsuits have already been dismissed, others are still in play. Toluse Olorunnipa, a White House reporter for the Washington Post, breaks down the Trump campaign’s recent legal action.

In the Trump era, political polarization has reached a level not seen since the Civil War. Though this polarization didn’t start with President Trump’s campaign and subsequent administration, it has brought the deepening divide to the surface–and to the ballot box–with voter turnout this week reaching record numbers. Lilliana Mason, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and author of “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity,”walks us through the widening political divide in the U.S. and what it means for how the country moves forward, regardless of who wins the 2020 election.

Amy’s closing thoughts:

The political profession. No other career as prosaic has been glamorized more. In movies and on TV, everyone who works for or as a politician is beautiful, smart, and ambitious. All are doing super important work that is changing the world. Even the interns are drafting amendments that protect our way of life.

In real life, of course, politics is messy. And, more important, boring. For every election night balloon drop victory party, there are a million days filled with the crushingly tedious work of voter contact and fundraising and town hall meetings filled with cranky and angry constituents.

But, as we learned this week, it is the people who do the non-glamorous work, those who spend almost every single day of their entire career in relative ambiguity, who help keep our democratic institutions steady. I’m talking about the elected officials, poll workers, and office staff, who ensured that this election – an election taking place in the middle of a health pandemic and with record turnout – was conducted as fairly, smoothly, and judiciously as possible. They are doing this work under great duress and stress. They continue to do their job even as the president of the United States – without any evidence – takes to the White House briefing room to question their integrity.

When the election is over, these folks aren’t going to get a sweet cable TV gig or their own podcast. Instead, they are going to go back to their offices and prepare for the next election.

For all of you who are cynical or anxious about the sturdiness of the guardrails protecting our democratic institutions, look no further than the local officials in charge of voting. They are not bowing to pressure from the president. They are not abandoning their posts for fear of political reprisal. They are doing their jobs. And, doing them well. 

At the end of the day, it is regular people who are responsible for our democracy. And, the regular people are saving it.”

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: Final Thoughts Before Election Day

The ongoing campaign cycle was met by a number of twists that couldn’t have been predicted. A consequential presidential race, the pandemic, an economic downturn, and the killing of George Floyd by police. As the election cycle comes to an end, Heather Long, Economics Correspondent at The Washington Post, Maya King, Politics Reporter at Politico and Clare Malone, Senior Politics Writer at FiveThirtyEight analyze the last year of politics and dissect what it could mean for Tuesday’s outcome.

A standard election cycle would’ve meant interacting with voters at conventions, town halls, and canvassing events. As the pandemic upended traditional forms of campaigning, we’ve spent the last few months engaging with students, teachers, small business owners, religious leaders, and individuals from across the U.S. They update us on how things have changed since we last spoke and what hopes, if any, they have riding on Election Day. 

The most recent national polls shows President Trump is trailing Vice President Joe Biden by almost nine points. Four years ago, pundits and politicians relied on polls that failed to account for counties that should’ve served as warning signs for Democrats. This time around there are fewer undecided and third-party voters who could swing us towards a surprise. Dave Wasserman, House Editor for The Cook Political Report, describes his reporting on key bellwether counties that could determine the outcome of the election. 

President Trump has spent the last few months maligning the voting process and attempting to cast doubt on the outcome of the election. He’s made a number of misleading comments regarding absentee voting and has incorrectly stated that the process of counting ballots should end on November 3rd. Grace Panetta, Senior Politics Reporter Covering Elections and Voting for Business Insider, describes what we can expect on election night and beyond. 

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: What Early Voting Patterns Tell Us About Wisconsin

This week marked the second and final debate between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. What has felt like a never-ending election cycle is taking place against the backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, and a groundswell for racial justice and police reform. With less than two weeks until Election Day, Joel Payne, Democratic strategist and Host of Here Comes the Payne, and Patrick Ruffini, Republican Party pollster and political strategist, reflect on the rest of the race. 

It’s been six months since the $2 trillion CARES Act was signed into law. The bill provided much-needed aid to states, businesses, and individuals who were deprived of traditional means of income as a result of the pandemic. The relief the CARES Act provided has since dried up and millions have fallen into poverty as a result. Emily Cochrane, a congressional reporter at The New York Times, shares the latest from the ongoing stimulus talks between Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin and what could happen if a deal doesn’t come together before Election Day.

Turnout is up in Wisconsin where voters will play a pivotal role in deciding who will become the next president of the United States. As some Wisconsin neighborhoods have already surpassed turnout levels from 2016, Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin shares how the level of enthusiasm compares to four years ago. Plus, Craig Gilbert of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes trends in early voting and what’s happened to pockets of support for President Trump since 2016.

This election cycle special attention is being paid to growing voting blocs that have the power to move the needle towards or away from a second term for Donald Trump. Since 2016, millions of Latino voters have become eligible to vote, making young Latino voters a powerful political force. Takeaway host Tanzina Vega joins Amy to discuss what A Votar series and what she’s observed from the conversations she’s had with this group ahead of Election Day.

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: What’s Next for Amy Coney Barrett’s SCOTUS Nomination?

On Saturday, President Trump nominated 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. If confirmed, conservative Judge Barrett would become the youngest member serving on the court.

Senate Republicans will scramble to confirm Judge Barrett ahead of Election Day, while Democrats argue that Judge Barrett’s nomination could hurt the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to start hearings on October 12, just a few weeks before the general election. 

POLITICO White House Reporter Gabby Orr reacts to the announcement and describes how Judge Barrett’s nomination and pending confirmation will impact the rest of the race. 

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: How Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death will Affect the Battle for the White House

After serving 27 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday from complications associated with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Justice Ginsburg was the second woman to be appointed to the highest court in the land. Early in her career as a lawyer, she was a champion for gender equality and in the time since has been elevated to a feminist icon.

Clara Spera, Ginsburg’s granddaughter said her grandmother dictated the following statement before her death: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

While the race for the White House had already morphed into a turbulent, hyper-partisan event there’s no doubt that Ginsburg’s death underscores how consequential the November 3rd election will be.  

In a statement issued on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Trump’s nominee “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” That statement exists in direct opposition to his stance on Barack Obama’s 2016 nomination of Merrick Garland. 

Professor Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, and Sahil Kapur, national political reporter at NBC News, discuss Ginsburg’s legacy and how her death could change the trajectory of the election cycle. 

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: How North Carolina’s Electoral Process is Unfolding

While the bedrock of democracy is free and fair elections, the President has been sowing seeds of distrust throughout the course of the campaign. He’s used his platform to spread conspiracy theories about the integrity of absentee ballots to his millions of followers.

The consequences of those lies can be seen in a recent Monmouth University poll that found almost 40 percent of Americans don’t believe that the elections will be conducted fairly and accurately. A majority of Americans say that they think the Trump campaign will try to cheat if necessary to win in November, while 39 percent say the same of the Biden campaign.

Aside from Barack Obama in 2008, North Carolina hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976, but polls show President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are neck and neck there. A contentious senate race is also on the ballot in the state. 

North Carolina began sending out absentee ballots on September 4th. The more than 700,000 mail ballots that have been requested has shone the national spotlight on the Tar Heel State. 

Chair of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Damon CircostaMichael Bitzer, a professor of Political Science at Catawba College, and Rusty Jacobs, politics reporter at WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, walk us through the state’s electoral process.

Many credit Barack Obama’s win in North Carolina to strong turnout from African American voters. Exit polls that year showed African Americans making up almost a quarter of the electorate and they gave Obama 95 percent of the vote. Congresswoman Alma Adams of North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District and Professor Kerry Haynie, Political Science and African & African American Studies at Duke University, describe how the Biden/Harris ticket is working to convince Black voters to turnout. 

As part of our continuing series on how the pandemic has changed campaigns, we checked in with Chase Gaines, Coalition Director North Carolina GOP. He describes what it’s like to organize at this moment and what he’s heard from voters while knocking doors.

These conversations are part of a series called Every Vote Counts.

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: The Role of Political Disinformation in the Race for the White House

Since May, protests have unfolded to denounce the way police interact with Black Americans. Most recently, the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed father, has grabbed national headlines. Blake was shot in the back seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The violent event has resulted in many taking to the street and demanding answers to why this keeps happening. 

Maya King, political reporting fellow at POLITICO, and Katie Glueck, national politics reporter for The New York Times unpack how questions surrounding the role of law enforcement could alter November’s election.

NextGen America is a political group that engages young voters to support progressive causes and candidates. Before the start of the pandemic, they interacted with students in-person on college campuses through voter registration drives and casual conversations about voting. Jared DeLoof, State Director NextGen America explains how they’ve adapted to the new reality.

The idea that disinformation and conspiracy theories thrive on the internet is widely known and has been part of the mainstream conversation since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Despite attempts to remove bad actors and regulate social media networks, conspiracy theories are still making their way to the forefront of our politics in 2020. 

Ben Collins, covers disinformation, extremism, and the internet for NBC, and Cindy Otis, vice president of analysis at the Alethea Group and author of “True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News” describe the methodology behind these nefarious actors and why they’re committed to their cause.

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: In Pursuit of a Coronavirus Vaccine

While many countries have curbed their total number of coronavirus cases, the US has recorded more than four and a half million, and more than 160,000 deaths. Inadequate national leadership has caused one of the easiest and simplest solutions to curbing the spread of the disease, mask wearing, to become the latest front in the culture wars 

The White House has spread not only conflicting messages about the severity of the virus but also conspiracy theories about the science and the solutions to stopping the pandemic. 

With no certainty to the end of the pandemic, many are relying on a vaccine as the only way back to the way things were but even a vaccine comes with its own set of issues. Finding a way to distribute hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine in addition to convincing Americans that it is safe and effective could be an uphill battle. Communicating transparently is especially important with communities of color who have been disproportionately hurt by the coronavirus.  


Umair Irfan, Staff Writer at Vox

Carolyn Johnson, Science Reporter at The Washington Post

Dr. Jesse Goodman, Professor at Georgetown University and the Former Chief Scientist at the Food and Drug Administration

Gary A. Puckrein, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Minority Quality Forum

The Takeaway

Politics with Amy Walter: The Path to November

This week, President Trump renewed his commitment to questioning the integrity of our election system and the Senate left town on Thursday without reaching an agreement on a new stimulus bill, leaving millions of unemployed Americans in economic limbo. At the same time, the U.S. surpassed 150,000 deaths caused by the coronavirus as confirmed cases in many states continue to climb.

With less than 100 days until the general election, Jane Coaston, a senior politics reporter at Vox, and Tim Alberta, Chief Political Correspondent for Politico, share how voters are processing this moment and their options for November.

Joni Ernst is a Republican Senator from Iowa whose seat was considered relatively safe until recently. Today, she’s fighting off a challenge from Democrat Theresa Greenfield, an Iowan who like Ernst has farm-girl roots. Ernst describes how campaigning has shifted as a result of COVID-19 and what she thinks of the president’s response to the pandemic.

You can listen to Amy’s interview with Theresa Greenfield here.

Check out our ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Check out our local leader series here.

Things That Go Boom

S3 E6 (The Wrong Apocalypse) – Inner Decay

Disinformation and misinformation have been blurring the line between fantasy and reality since the start of communication itself. But over the last decade, they’ve posed an increasing threat to democracy in the United States, with the 2016 presidential election becoming a major flashpoint in Americans’ understanding of the consequences of fake news. The false information flooding the internet and spreading like wildfire on social media pose risks not just to national and election security, but even to our health and safety.

With its bots, troll farms, and vested interest in certain election outcomes, Russia has become America’s public disinformation enemy. But experts say that the power of foreign actors to sow discord rests, first and foremost, right here at home, and the solution may be different than you think.

GUESTS: Mike Mazarr, Senior Political Scientist at RAND Corporation; Cindy Otis, Author, Former CIA Analyst, and disinformation investigations manager; Camille Stewart, Head of Security Policy for Google Play and Android; Russell Jeung, Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University


True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News, Cindy Otis.

Vote and Die: Covering Voter Suppression during the Coronavirus Pandemic, Nieman Foundation.

Combating Disinformation and Foreign Interference in Democracies: Lessons From Europe, Margaret L. Taylor.