Political Insights from David Wasserman

By: David Wasserman, House Editor, The Cook Political Report

This year's inaugural Advocacy Summit takes place October 25-26 in Baltimore, MD and will bring insight into the latest trends and threats to our industry. Our Vice President of Destination Products Management, Jim McCaul, had the opportunity to interview Amy Walter, National Editor for The Cook Politcal Report before the Summit.

You have a long and established career in the political arena. Do you remember what got you interested in politics in the first place? 

Believe it or not, I was flipping through the channels one day when I was 11 years old, and I came across C-SPAN. I found the floor debates in the House weirdly captivating, and asked my parents for a copy of the Almanac of American Politics and the Cook Political Report. Needless to say, they found this quite odd, and refused. As a contributor to both, I like to think I had the last laugh.

We hear so much about political polarization. Are there issues or matters that the American general public agree on that can be used as a unifying tool? 

Generally, you don't hear too much about the issues people agree on because they don't take a long time to address, whereas we seem to be locked into a permanent struggle over wedge social issues like immigration and healthcare. But if you look hard enough, there's more common ground than you'd suspect. For instance, majorities of both parties' voters support more infrastructure spending and legal protections for keeping "Dreamers" in the country. The devil is in the details, however.

What are the motivating factors that drive people to vote on a particular issue? 

I don't think most people are "single issue" voters, to be honest. The question that best predicts the outcome of presidential elections, in my opinion, is "Who cares more about people like me?" For all their differences, Barack Obama and Donald Trump both did better jobs than their opponents of convincing average people that they were on their side, economically. If Democrats want to win in 2020, they're going to have to convince voters that this president threatens their ability to make ends meet, not just make the case he's morally bankrupt.

What motivates politicians to take a stand on a particular issue? 

Increasingly, primary elections. Before any candidate ever gets to the November general election, first they must secure the nomination of their party. And primaries are dominated by narrow groups of highly ideological voters who are grossly unrepresentative of the rest of the electorate. In this era, departing from your party line on a major issue amounts to self-sabotage in the next primary. That's why you'll see a bit more independent thinking in the Senate than the House: Senate elections are six years apart, compared to two years in the House.

What does the math look like for the 2018 midterm elections? Do the democrats have enough momentum to win back the House or Senate? 

The last few years have come to be defined by anomalous political outcomes. In 2016, Donald Trump won the White House while losing the popular vote. In 2018, there's a chance Democrats could win back control of the House and simultaneously lose Senate seats. The reason is political geography: there are 23 House Republicans sitting in districts Hillary Clinton won, and Democrats need 24. In the Senate, Democrats are defending 25 of the 34 seats up for election, including 10 in states Donald Trump carried.

What is a political trend or issue that isn’t being talked about enough in the media that people should be paying attention to? 

I'm not sure enough people appreciate how vastly different the youngest voters think and behave relative to their generational predecessors. They dislike President Trump, but they share his distrust of established politicians and institutions and don't identify as members of either party. They tend to get their news from social media rather than daily newspapers and, for the most part, are growing up in places (both online and on the map) where they're not exposed to differing points of view. That's a long-term recipe for more chaos and upheaval.

One last fun question: Where is your favorite place to travel and why? 

Anywhere I can ski! Political analysis has allowed me to explore so much of the country, and international travel is a passion of mine too. In the past year, I've loved visiting Morocco, Banff (Alberta), Montreal, Miami, Denver, Northern Idaho and the coast of Maine. I'd have to say my favorite international city is Montreal: it's got amazing food and culture and great nearby skiing, and as a fiddle player I love traditional Quebecois music. It's also only an hour and a half flight from DC!

About David Wasserman:

David Wasserman is the U.S. House editor and quantitative election analyst for the non-partisan Cook Political Report. Founded in 1984, The Cook Political Report provides analyses of presidential, Senate, House, and gubernatorial races. The New York Times called the Cook Political Report “a newsletter that both parties regard as authoritative.”

Wasserman analyzes the current political environment in lively and entertaining presentations that he can tailor to his audiences’ specific interests or locales. His data-driven forecasting looks at both national and local trends (if requested, he can even do a district-by-district outlook), the relationship between consumer brand loyalty and voting, and what the future holds for American elections.