Oct 28, 2022 - Podcasts

State of Play: Changing minds before election day

President Biden was in Syracuse, New York, on Thursday to tout his party’s economic accomplishments — and to send a warning about what he says Republican control of Congress could mean by comparison. It’s part of Democrats’ final dash before Election Day. Meanwhile, over 15 million ballots have already been cast in early voting around the country.

  • Plus, states gear up to spend billions on broadband access.
  • And, Afro Latinos are playing a bigger role in baseball.

Guest: Axios' Mike Allen, Emma Hurt, Margaret Harding McGill and Keldy Ortiz.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Emily Peck, Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn 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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EMILY PEAK: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, October 28th.

I’m Emily Peck, in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re covering today: states gear up to spend billions on broadband access. Plus, Afro Latinos are playing a bigger role in baseball. But first, can any minds be changed before election day? Our Friday politics State of Play… is today’s One Big Thing.

EMILY: President Biden was in Syracuse, New York yesterday to tout his party’s economic accomplishments – and to send a warning about what he says Republican control of Congress would mean by comparison. It’s part of Democrats’ final dash before election day.

Meanwhile over 15 million ballots have already been cast in early voting around the country.

Here with our Friday politics State of Play is Axios’ co-founder Mike Allen and reporter for Axios Atlanta, Emma Hurt. Welcome to you both!

EMMA HURT: Hey Emily. Thanks for having me.


EMILY: Mike, we saw a few high profile debates this week. Did we learn anything?

MIKE: Yes. And of course all the conversation is about that Pennsylvania debate. John Fetterman, the Lieutenant Governor, Democrat, running against Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, who had such a rough debate. We knew he was recovering from a stroke back in May. And they had the accommodation of closed captioning that both the candidates could see. But there was no indication that was particularly helpful. And we had Democrats that night saying to our political reporters, how did they possibly let him go out? How did the campaign think that having stumbling answers, this uncertainty, how could that be better than the hit that you would take from saying, “no, I won't debate.” And the ‘why it matters’ of that arguably the closest Senate race in the country. A flip a coin Senate race, like so many races moving maybe a little bit in Republican directions, but as close as a true tossup as you're gonna get.

EMMA: And you know, there's another really close Senate race too down here in Georgia, and it's been a bit wild this week because we had another allegation by another woman who says she was an ex-girlfriend of Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee, that he pressured her to get an abortion, paid for it, and even drove her to the clinic. But, on the trail we are seeing Herschel Walker refuse to let that bring him down. He calls it a lie as he did with the first allegation. And polls show that indeed, since that first allegation three weeks ago, the race is still tied. I mean, I was at a Herschel Walker event yesterday where I spoke to one of his supporters, Rich Gorkes, and this doesn't sway him at all.

RICH GORKES: He could be totally telling the truth a hundred percent and she's a liar. So, you know, it's a judgment call.

EMMA: And I've heard that from many Republican supporters. Again, though, in such a tight race, it's those, you know, less than 5% of undecided voters and people who haven't yet voted.

EMILY: Mike, what do we know about which issues voters care about most right now?

MIKE: Yeah. Our Axios visualist colleague and Stef Kight have had this amazing midterms dashboard that lets you see in real time what people are searching for in specific states. So it's a proxy for what do people care about? What are people talking about? Not what do reporters ask them, but what do they talk about it on their own. And look at this chart of what people are most interested in: jobs, taxes, firearms, wages, Ukraine. That does not sound like a super democratic slate of issues. These races are all very, very, very close and tight, but you'd rather be Republicans than Democrats at this moment. And that's a big part because of these topics, what people are talking about. I think one of the most fascinating changes this week has been, the fact that the Republican Lee Zeldin seems to be making a real run at New York Governor Kathy Hochul. Nobody could have seen that coming. But look at this graphic that I saw on CNN that really tells you that story. This was a Quinnipiac poll about the most urgent issue facing New Yorkers. Crime, 28%, inflation, 20%, abortion, 6%.

EMILY: Mike, what are you watching for over the next week and a half?

MIKE: First, if you're a Republican, that should keep you on your toes. We're hearing from both sides. There's a lot of movement in the electorate. Two voter groups that you're gonna hear a lot about that Axios has had great coverage of, but college educated women, hispanic voters. Where they go is gonna tell a huge story about this election. And Emma, I wonder what you think of this scenario, does this sound plausible? People I've talked to in both parties say that it could very well happen that the Georgia US Senate race goes to a runoff. That could mean that we're not gonna know on election night who controls the Senate.

EMMA: That is the worst fear of both parties here on the ground because all anybody wants to do is just know for sure the night of. But as we know, this has happened before. George is the only state in the country with this kind of general election runoff structure, and so those are the things people are talking to me about now. If they'll agree to talk about a runoff, because most people don't wanna jinx it and even discuss the possibility.

EMILY: Mike Allen is the co-founder of Axios, and Emma Hurt is a reporter for Axios Atlanta. Thanks again for coming.

EMMA: Thanks, Emily.

MIKE: Emma, thanks for your reporting. Emily, have the best weekend.

EMILY: In a moment, the big push for nationwide broadband internet.


States gear up to spend billions on broadband access

EMILY: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Emily Peck in for Niala Boodhoo.

Before the pandemic, about half of US states had a broadband internet office working to build out high speed infrastructure. Now, every state has one and many are looking to hire.That's because states are getting ready for an influx of infrastructure cash, more than $40 billion to make sure every American has access to high speed internet service. Axios’ Tech Policy Reporter Margaret Harding McGill has been covering this story and is here with the big picture.

Margaret, we're seeing more job postings for broadband office directors. What exactly does this job entail?

MARGARET HARDING MCGILL: So these broadband office directors are going to have to figure out how to make state plans for overseeing hundreds of millions in funding from multiple state and federal broadband programs. So they're basically in charge of making sure that this money is used to connect every person in their state to high speed internet service.

EMILY: So how has access to broadband changed in the past few years? Are there still pockets of the country where folks can't get online or they can't get high speed access? What's going on there?

MARGARET: There are two, I think, big issues when it comes to broadband access. One is, literally are there connections to be had? And there are still some very rural areas that just are so hard to build out to that it's impossible without federal funding. And then the other piece of it is affordability. Where there are wires going by your house, but you can't afford to pay for the service. And there are parts of the infrastructure funding that can be used for that as well.

EMILY: What should we expect to see happen going forward?

MARGARET: There's going to be new maps that come out that explain all the different areas where broadband is and isn't. And then the states are gonna be pouring over those maps to make sure that no area that doesn't have broadband is left out. And then after that, they start applying for funding. And then the states themselves will be in charge of what companies get the money to build in those areas. So it's gonna be a lengthy process, but we're getting closer to the start gate.

EMILY: It seems so unbelievable to me that in 2022 there are people in this country that can't get high speed internet access.

MARGARET: There are plenty of places where you just, even if you have service, it's really old and really slow and you have no options. So, the whole goal of this infrastructure package is to make sure that every single American has access to the internet, which has become vital in the pandemic for school, for work, for basically every function of daily life. And states are kind of making sure that they have the pieces in place that they don't waste any of this money.

EMILY: Margaret Harding McGill covers tech policy for Axios from DC. Thanks for joining us, Margaret.

MARGARET: Thank you Emily.

Afro Latinos are playing a bigger role in baseball

EMILY: Game 1 of the World Series between the Phillies and the Astros is tonight. And for the first time in 72 years, the roster is expected to have no non-Hispanic Black American players. As Axios’ Race and Justice Reporter Keldy Ortiz tells us, Afro Latino players are on the rise.

KELDY ORTIZ: As Major League Baseball is looking less like Jackie Robertson. It's becoming more like Roberto Clemente. This year's World Series will feature several Afro Latinos, and yet reports don't clearly show they exist. Afro-Latino players have long existed since little Negro Leagues and some are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A report shows that on opening day, 7.2% of players are black or African American. While that same report shows Latinos make up around 28.5% as to how many of those Latinos are Afro-Latinos, it's not really known.

EMILY: That’s Axios’ Keldy Ortiz.

And that’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird, and Robin Linn. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief.

I’m Emily Peck. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and Niala will be back with you here on Monday.

EMILY: The Last Archive is a show about the history of truth -- or the lack thereof. It's about how we know what we know, and why it seems, these days, as if we can't agree on anything at all. Harvard historian Jill Lepore tells stories about common knowledge, from high school juries ruling on the truthfulness of political ads, to the cloud scientist who predicted the future of weather. Listen to The Last Archive wherever you get your podcasts.

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