PBS NewsHour

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On the ground in swing states Florida, Michigan and Texas

With Election Day in less than a week, how is the final campaign sprint playing out across the country -- especially in key battleground states? Judy Woodruff talks to Tom Hudson of WLRN Public Radio in Florida, Alex Samuels of The Texas Tribune and Zoe Clark of NPR member station Michigan Radio, about what issues are resonating with voters and the surge in early ballots cast.

AIRED: October 28, 2020 | 0:09:05
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, we get a sense of how this final

election sprint is playing across the country in some critical presidential

battleground states with Tom Hudson of WLRN Public Radio and Television in Florida,

Alex Samuels of The Texas Tribune, and Zoe Clark of NPR member station Michigan Radio.

It's so good to see all of you.

I should say battleground states, all of which President Trump won in 2016.

So, Tom Hudson -- I'm sorry.

Alex Samuels, I'm going to come to you first.

Can we -- are we really talking about Texas being

competitive right now? What does it look like in the Lone Star State?

ALEX SAMUELS, The Texas Tribune: Yes, so there's

definitely chatter of Texas being competitive right now.

I think there's a lot of enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle, when we look at

early voting numbers and who's going to cast their ballot early, and then

poll after poll just shows a close race at the top of the ticket, with either Joe Biden ahead

or President Donald Trump winning, whether that be by single digits or within the margin of error.

So, I think there's a lot of excitement that we haven't seen in years prior at

the top of the ticket, and hope, at least for Democrats, that the state will flip.

And Cook Political Report today moved the state to a toss-up. So, of course, that

has everyone anxious for Tuesday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Remarkable for a state that's been red for

so many presidential -- the past presidential elections.

Michigan, Zoe Clark, what does it look like there? President Trump won

it closely. Both candidates competing hard for this state.

ZOE CLARK, Michigan Radio: Absolutely, which, similarly to Texas is where Michigan sort of

was in 2016, sort of shockwaves that, after six presidential election cycles, the state went red,

and so now really sort of the heart of Michigan,

right, and folks saying, is this a blue state still, or is it a little more purple?

And we are seeing candidates crisscrossing. We had the president in Michigan yesterday.

The vice president is here today. Joe Biden will be in Michigan on Saturday

and just announced hours ago president, former President Barack Obama will be joining Biden

in Michigan, apparently their first joint appearance here in Michigan on Saturday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, that got a lot of attention that they chose Michigan as the place

to show up together in these very last hours before the election.

So, Tom Hudson, what about Florida? Florida, Florida,

Florida. Both campaigns would love to have it. Fair to say President Trump needs it.

TOM HUDSON, WLRN: Absolutely, President Trump needs it.

The road back to the White House for the president leads directly through

his adopted home state here in Florida. It's very difficult for President Trump to see his

way to an Electoral College victory without the 29 Electoral College votes that Florida has to offer.

Now, former Vice President Joe Biden has multiple routes there that may or may not

include Florida. That's something what worth watching, certainly, as we move into November 3,

the way Florida tips. If to Trump, that becomes certainly a more certain route for him. If not,

it becomes much more difficult for the president to win reelection.

And, listen, Judy, right, Florida is a 1 percent state in the best of years.

This year, these polls, less than 1 percent, when you consider the margin of error right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Interesting how much money has been poured in by Mike Bloomberg, among others. And, of

course, President -- former President Obama there campaigning for Joe Biden in the last few days.

Alex Samuels, I'm going to come back to you in Texas.

If the Democrats really have a shot, tell us what is driving the vote. What

are the factors that voters are saying is getting them out and to show up and cast their ballot?

ALEX SAMUELS: Yes.

So, on the Democratic side, especially at the top of the ticket, there's really just an

interest on getting President Trump out of office. That's a lot of the enthusiasm. And that's what

the state party is really pushing for reasons for Democrats to go out and get their vote early.

Of course, on the other side, it's to get -- for Republicans,

there's enthusiasm too. The president is getting a lot of his base out to the

polls. And people are -- Republicans are very excited to reelect President Trump.

What makes Texas more interesting, besides the presidential race, is that,

even if there is a close race between Joe Biden and President Trump,

if it is close enough, that could help down-ballot Democrats. Right now,

Democrats are looking at the Texas Statehouse, which they are nine seats away from flipping.

So, if the race is closer than it was in 2016,

when Trump won by 9 percentage points, if he only wins the state by four or five,

that could help down-ballot Democrats, and they could potentially flip the Statehouse too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And those Statehouse races so important in terms of redistricting,

reapportionment down the road, which, of course, affects the look of future

members of Congress, the congressional districts.

Zoe Clark, in Michigan, the pandemic has been surging in a number of states in your part of

the country. How much is that a factor? What are voters saying is driving them to vote?

ZOE CLARK: And the pandemic is a huge factor.

And the other factor of course, is our governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who has very much been sort of

the focus both of the pandemic. Countrywide, she has become sort of a national face of

Democratic governors who are taking on Donald Trump. And the president has taken her on.

You will remember, on Twitter, "that woman from Michigan."

So, the pandemic is absolutely something that is top of mind. And very much here in Michigan,

exactly like Alex said as well, it's this idea that it's really a vote for

or against Trump. That is where the enthusiasm is, either enthusiasm or the president or against.

And he's at the top of the ticket,

and same -- down-ballot here in Michigan is going to have a lot of cause and effect.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tom Hudson, down to Florida.

What do you sense is driving voters? Is it Donald Trump, and that's it, or what else?

TOM HUDSON: That's it, Judy. It's the top of the ticket and the only part of the ticket.

There is no statewide political office on the ballot in Florida here in 2020,

no governor's race, no U.S. senator race. There's a couple of statewide

referenda, a half-dozen of those referenda questions, which are interesting for Floridians.

But it is the president's race and it is the race for president that is consuming

almost all of the oxygen and the sunshine here in Florida. It is all about the top of the ticket.

And issues matter, certainly, health care, jobs. But it also is all about ideology. And you hear

this in the president characterizing former Vice President Biden as socialist or communist.

We have seen the former vice president and now really Democrats and others come out

over the past couple of weeks and begin to very intentionally engage on that mischaracterization

and push back very hard, unlike ways that we did not see earlier in this campaign.

JUDY WOODRUFF:

In the little bit of time we have left, I want to ask each one of you about early voting.

I was just looking at the pictures of long lines there in Florida.

Alex Samuels, what about Texas? What are you looking at? I see the numbers are huge.

ALEX SAMUELS: Yes.

So, as of today, roughly 48 percent of the state's registered population

has already cast their ballot, either by mail or in person. So, Texas, I believe,

has already surpassed the total early voting turnout from any other presidential election.

And that's with three days left of early voting to go in the state.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Zoe Clark, what about in Michigan?

ZOE CLARK: Sure.

Well, we can begin to see how many absentee ballots have been turned in. This is the

first presidential race in Michigan where a no-reason absentee ballot is allowed.

We have seen record numbers, both in terms of requests of ballots already

returned. We are likely looking for historic turnout here in Michigan in election 2020.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in just a few seconds, Tom Hudson, what does that look like in Florida?

TOM HUDSON: Much the same, Judy.

Forty-five percent of registered voters already have cast ballots in early in

person voting and vote-by-mail. Early in person voting has already set records.

It's expected to continue through Sunday, and then, of course, on Election Day on November 3.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just a remarkable election in so many ways, and these three states,

so -- so much interest in what's going to happen in your states.

In Florida, Tom Hudson, in Michigan, Zoe Clark, and, in Texas, Alex Samuels, thank you, all.

ALEX SAMUELS: Thank you so much, Judy.

ZOE CLARK: Thank you.

TOM HUDSON: Thank you.