Politics with Amy Walter: Democrats Gain Edge in Quest to Overtake the Senate

October 16, 2020

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After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18th and nomination of Amy Coney Barrett just a week later on September 26th, there’s been a lot of speculation about the political implications of a Supreme Court fight just days before Election Day.

Democrats have seen a boon in fundraising with Jaime Harrison, the Democrat running against Republican Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, pulling in millions in the days after Ginsburg’s death. Graham himself, as well as several other vulnerable Republican senators, are hoping that the confirmation of a conservative to the court will help boost GOP enthusiasm and turnout.

As the hearing wrapped up on Thursday, it was clear that Barrett had made it through the process unscathed. A vote is expected on October 22nd in the Judiciary Committee and by the full Senate at the end of the month. We spoke about this with Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for NBC News, and Jessica Taylor of The Cook Political Report. 

Also on the show, a look at the political landscape in Texas going into the 2020 election. For years now, Democrats have been predicting they can turn this red state blue. But the last time a Democratic presidential candidate actually won the state was in 1976. 

However, Texas is changing. A diverse electorate, combined with a backlash to Trump in traditionally Republican suburbs has given Democrats serious political traction. The latest polls show President Trump leading Joe Biden by an average of just two points. We got an overview of what’s happening in Texas from Abby Livingston, D.C. Bureau Chief at the Texas Tribune.

There’s also a Senate race in the state this year. In 2018, a Texas Senate race was the center of the political universe. Then, Democratic Representative Beto O’Rourke raised millions of dollars and gained national attention for his race against Senator Ted Cruz. O’Rourke came up short, but his impressive showing gave him enough momentum and fame to mount a presidential run—albeit a short-lived run. Two years later, another Republican Senator, John Cornyn is up for re-election in Texas.

We spoke to his opponent, MJ Hegar, the Democratic Senate candidate and U.S. Air Force veteran, about her race against the three-term incumbent. Her campaign brought in $13.5 million in the third quarter and she’s been outspending Cornyn in TV ads over the past few weeks. But even though the race is tightening, polls show Cornyn is still ahead by over seven percentage points. 

We also took a look at the Latino vote in Texas with Jason Casellas, an associate professor of political science at the University of Houston. According to recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Latino population in Texas grew by two million over the last decade, and it’s on track to become the state’s largest demographic group in 2021.