Congressional Corner With Tim Vercellotti | WAMC

Congressional Corner With Tim Vercellotti

Aug 21, 2020

What is next for Senator Elizabeth Warren?

In today’s Congressional Corner, Tim Vercellotti of the Western New England University poll and professor of political science wraps up his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

Alan Chartock: Here we are in the Congressional Corner with Tim Vercellotti, Director of the Western New England University Poll, Professor of Political Science, and a guy who knows so much about politics. I guess the first question I want to ask you is, Senator Warren, a progressive candidate, if there ever was one didn't get to be vice president and you didn't get to be president? What's in her future? You think?

Tim Vercellotti: That's a great question. Yeah. A couple different paths. If you read what pundits are saying and what members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party would like, there are a couple possibilities. Some wonder whether she would find a seat in the cabinet if Joe Biden wins the presidency, and in particular, whether she would be his pick for Secretary of the Treasury, which would be a very interesting scenario in terms of How Senator Warren deals with in his received on Wall Street.

They don't like they don't like what you're saying. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And they would be quite wary of her and this would be a significant bully pulpit for Senator Warren to pursue issues that have really been at the core of her academic and political interests most of her career. There are others who would like to see her advance in the Democratic leadership in the Senate. She's currently vice chair of the Democratic Conference. And that was a leadership position created for her when it was clear that she was developing an important following in the progressive wing of the party. There are some who would like to see her challenged Chuck Schumer. In particular, if the democrats win a majority and become Majority Leader,

What are the chances of that happening? Of the Senate going democratic?

Oh, well, I certainly possible right now the split when you count Democrats and independents who caucus with the Democrats, they have 47 seats. The Republicans have 53, the democrats would need to flip three, protect everything in the event of a Biden win, flip for and protect everything in the event of a Trump win. However, Doug Jones from Alabama, who won his seat for the democrats in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions is running again. And it's pretty widely accepted that he won't hang on to that seat. So if they've got to pick up a minimum of four, maybe five, but wow, they're really in the driver's seat right now in a couple of states. In California, former astronaut Mark Kelly, well ahead of my or excuse me, Arizona, Mark Kelly, well ahead we have Martha McSalley, Colorado John Hickenlooper, the former Governor, giving Cory Gardner the incumbent who could run for his money. North Carolina. Tom Tillis is the Republican incumbent. And we've got a democratic attorney, Cal Cunningham award veteran. Currently polling ahead of Tillis in North Carolina. We've got Susan Collins in Maine, currently trailing Sara Gideon, the Democratic nominee for that seat by a lot or by little.

It depends on the poll three, four or five points. It's been a while since there's been a poll where Susan Collins has been ahead so this could be a solid lead. So there you've got four seats right there. And now we're seeing polling showing democrats competitive in states where we weren't quite expecting it. Iowa. For example, Joni Ernst is struggling in Iowa to hold on to her seat as a Republican, Georgia. We're seeing Jon Ossoff, the Democratic challenger pulling close to David Perdue. And then this one is pretty remarkable. South Carolina, Jamie Harrison, the Democratic nominee is within a point or two of Lindsey Graham. That would be an astonishing upset

That would be some night. Tim Vercellotti, tell me about voting by mail. I've just finished my ballot, my wife has finished her ballot. Does this complicate the life of a pollster?

No. In fact, you'd be you might be surprised to know that it actually makes our lives easier because when we poll in places where there's early voting or voting by mail, we asked whether people have cast a vote yet and if yes, for whom they voted, and that saves us from calculating whether they’re are likely voter or not, we can put them in the bank. We know they’re a voter. So the more folks who've already voted when you're doing a poll, it makes your estimates a bit more accurate in terms of forecasting where the race is at that point. So no, I think that's fine. It's interesting to see how vote by mail is working here in Massachusetts right now. At this point in time with the primary, fewer than three weeks out, we really are seeing the window narrow a bit in terms of requesting ballots, technically, people have to August 26 to request ballots. But the state has said just in to avoid any delays with the mail. When you send in your request, give that a week. When you're getting the ballot back, give that a week when you're sending the ballot in, give it a week. So you really want to get those requests in three weeks out. There is no postmark provision for the primary. The ballot has to be received by your town or city by 8pm, the close of polls on September 1, so people have to be very careful about that. Now there are drop boxes being set up so you could drop off that mail ballot, if it's within a week of the primary and you're worried about it getting there in time. But this requires a lot of public education and for people to really stay on top of things to get those mail ballots in on time.

Comparing this year with other years, Tim Vercellotti, is this one of those years that as opposed to sort of dreams for

Yes and no. It's fun to have exciting races, suspense, uncertain outcomes, and an excited electorate that means when you're screening people for the likelihood that they'll vote, you're going to get more participation in your polls. And so that part is delightful. When races are close though, when you got to take into account margin of error, you're sweating it out even though polls are snapshots, you know, after the election, you're going to be held account to account for what your final estimate was. And so you sweat it out sometimes. A blow outs easy. It's these close races where you're just sitting there on knife's edge on election night completely separate from who you might want to see win, just wanting, hoping your estimates were in the ballpark.

Well, but very quickly, if in fact, there is a blowout in Massachusetts, I think there will be, I think Trump is going down, he's going down big, will that affect the way in which other races are decided?

I've been thinking about this in the general. Most of our dramatic races here in Massachusetts are in the primary. There are some interesting ballot questions in the general election rank choice voting, the right to repair law. But in terms of statewide races, I don't see a whole lot of suspense. Whoever wins the Senate Democratic primary on September 1, I think is going to have a fairly easy time in November. So, in this particular cycle, I'm not looking for a lot of suspense in Massachusetts, barring some really bizarre political events happening and in this cycle, who knows? But generally speaking, I think the drama really will be in our primary.

Indeed, and that's coming up on the very first day of September. Is that correct?

That is correct. Yes.

Tim Vercellotti is Director of the Western New England University poll, professor of Political Science, and the go to guy when you want to know anything about Massachusetts at all. And so we go a lot, Tim Vercellotti. Thanks so much for being with us.

Oh, thank you.