Sep 30, 2022 - Podcasts

Florida starts hurricane recovery efforts

Hurricane Ian continues its path of destruction up the East Coast. It’s expected to make landfall in South Carolina this afternoon. And in Florida, a massive clean-up and recovery has begun.

  • Plus: January 6, election deniers and the midterms.
  • And: Lizzo plays a historic flute.

Guests: Jessica Taylor, The Cook Political Report Senate and Governors Editor, and Axios' Margaret Talev.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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Ways to help with disaster relief:


NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, September 30.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re covering today: Florida starts its hurricane recovery efforts.

And: January 6, election deniers, and the midterms. Our Friday politics wrap is today’s one big thing.

NIALA: Hurricane Ian continues its path of destruction up the East Coast. It’s expected to make landfall in South Carolina this afternoon.

And in Florida, a massive clean-up and recovery has begun.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida's history. The numbers of still are still unclear, but we're hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”

NIALA: That was President Joe Biden yesterday at FEMA headquarters in Washington.

Yesterday, the White House declared nine Florida counties major disaster areas - that frees up significant federal funding to state and local governments, and allows individuals to apply for FEMA assistance.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said yesterday truckloads of food and water will soon be in the affected areas to aid those in need.

For those who’d like to help there are various ways to contribute – we’ll put all that info in our show notes.

NIALA: We’re back in a moment with more on the week in Politics.

January 6, election deniers and the midterms

NIALA: Hurricane Ian even had its effects in Washington this week where the January 6th committee postponed their ninth public hearing. But in a closed door session yesterday, Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, met with the committee for a voluntary interview after months of the committee trying to speak with Thomas about her role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. Axios’ managing editor for politics Talev and the Cook Political Report’s Jessica Taylor are here to talk about that and more. Jessica, Margaret, welcome.

MARGARET TALEV: Thank you Niala.

JESSICA TAYLOR: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: Margaret, what do we know about this meeting between the January 6th committee and Jenny Thomas? It wasn't public.

MARGARET: It was not, but Benny Thomas, who's the chairman of the panel, came out and talked with reporters and said two things that I think are probably the most important. One is that she was at least somewhat cooperative, in this closed door interview. The other is that she is continuing to maintain, without evidence that the 2020 election was stolen. And I think that's important. It goes to her state of mind. It goes to where this investigation is going.

NIALA: Jessica, do we know what effect the January 6th select committee hearings have had on congressional races in particular, the midterms, how voters have responded to it?

JESSICA: Count me in the skeptical camp that at first that it was going to really sway things. You know, in the spring and when they sort of started these, the economy was still sputtering, inflation was still rising gas prices were still high. And then it does feel like this past summer there was a bit of a sea change add in the Dobbs decision on abortion nullifying Roe and these were getting a lot of viewership. And I think it was a way that Trump was reinserted in the race. He'd already been hovering there and very involved in candidates that he was backing in different things. But again, midterm elections are supposed to be a referendum on the current president. We have never had a former president that is still this involved and so I think it is having an impact. But I think we will just have incredibly high turnout across both parties for the midterms.

NIALA: Jessica, what does, from the standpoint of the Cook political report, what is it looking like in terms of control of the Senate and the House overall? What's the prognosis at the moment?

JESSICA: Okay, so what we have seen in the House, which my colleague David Wasserman covers, is that, you know, this could have been a pickup, for Republicans of over 30 seats when it was looking like a red wave. Now it could just be more of a red trickle. Of course, they only need a few seats to flip control, and that is very much within the feasibility. So I think if one thing is going to happen, we still believe that the house is going to flip control to Republicans. But if that's a narrow majority, then Kevin McCarthy, the would be speaker could have a time on his hands trying to wrangle all of these different factions. So, you know, we see it that it was possible Republicans could pick up 20 seats, we are saying somewhere between 10, 10 and 20 at this point. On the Senate, I see it as a coin flip really at this point, which at the beginning of, in the spring, for instance, I put at least a 60 to 65% chance that Republicans were going to flip control. But we've seen some of these races tighten. We've seen others move off the map. One that we moved a rating on last week was Arizona Senate moved from toss up to lean Democrat after Mitch McConnell's, Super PAC Senate Leadership Fund has essentially pulled all of their funding from there. And I'm seeing so many of these races in Senate and in governors in Michigan and Pennsylvania where the nominee is not on television. I mean, we're less than six weeks at this point. That just tells you how cash strap they are and how much they have fallen behind Democrats that were able to bank their money, make early ad reservations and candidates get a lower ad rate than Superpacs do. So candidates are the ones that their money goes further.

NIALA: In a moment, we're back with more on this week in politics

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today, I’m Niala Boodhoo. Axios’ Margaret Talev and the Cook Political Report’s Jessica Taylor are here unpacking the week in politics for us. Margaret, we know that some races are tightening, we had a scoop yesterday about the New Hampshire Senate race?

MARGARET: Yeah, New Hampshire is just one case in point, but it's an important one because Senator Maggie Hassan, that's the Democratic incumbent, um, has been, uh, it projected in polls projected in conventional wisdom to be in a very strong position to hang onto that seat. She's facing a republican Challenger, Don Baldock, who was sort of, uh, Trumpian in therefore considered more extreme and and much harder to overtake. Uh, hasn't, but Hassan’s own campaign manager telling donors and supporters in a sort of alarming, alarmist email, uh, just within the last couple of days, that she may be in much more trouble than the polling has suggested. That Bullock may actually be in a much better position to bring the fight, maybe even to defeat her. Hassan's campaign director Aaron Jacobs says, “I wanna be clear with you about where things stand and correct some of the narratives we've seen about this race that, to be frank, don't reflect the reality we're seeing on the ground here in New Hampshire.” And that follows, uh, nationwide, a fair amount of fretting by democratic pollsters and candidates right now that the old ghost of, bad polling or overly enthusiastic polling or polling that under measures non-college voters or polling that under measures Trump voters is gonna come back to haunt Democrats. But, the truth is we won't know until election day how far off the polls were, but there is a level of angst that recent polling that suggests Democrats have been in a much stronger position might just reflect modeling errors in the polling and not the sentiment on the ground.

NIALA: Jessica we've been talking so much about Congress. We have not talked about governor's races, which is also a key part of this vote in November. What are you all seeing there.

JESSICA: Republicans have better shots in some of these Western states than they do in the Midwest. Um, sort of, is this the, is this the new path because they're very bullish on, um, New Mexico where they have a former weatherman, Mark Ronchetti running there. We still have that one rated leans democrat, but the most surprising race to me in all of the governor's map is in Oregon. Republicans have not won the governorship in Oregon since, um, 1982, 40 years. And because there is a three way race with three women, which makes it interesting too. And you have a well funded incumbent who, whose name is Betsy Johnson. She was a state, democratic state legislator left to run as an independent. She's getting, she's out fundraising and getting higher donations from even traditionally Republican donors. I mean, the winner could end up getting 35% of the vote in this race. It's really fascinating.

NIALA: Jessica Taylor is the Senate and governor's editor for the Cook Political Report. I wanna thank Margaret Talev, Axios’ Managing Editor for Politics. Thanks, you both have a great weekend.

MARGARET: Thanks, Niala.

JESSICA: Thank you.

Lizzo plays a historic flute

[Lizzo flute]

NIALA: It’s been a long week - especially for all you folks in Florida. That’s why I didn’t want it to end without sharing my favorite moment from Washington - Lizzo playing a crystal flute gifted to James Madison at the Library of Congress. It turns out it’s one of 1,700 flutes at the library - the world’s largest collection. The priceless flute was saved by Dolly Madison from The White House during the War of 1812.

NIALA: That’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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