Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed renowned Republican political consultant Ward Baker of Baker Group Strategies in the studio to weigh in on key races in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.
Leahy: One week until Election Day. In studio, the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report, Aaron Gulbransen.
(Darth Vader theme plays)
And in the studio, a good friend, Ward Baker. That was actually your theme song before it was Darth Vader’s theme song. I’m told. I’m told… I don’t know if it’s true.
Gulbransen: I didn’t know he went back that far with John Williams.
Leahy: (Laughs) Ward, you’ve been working for a long time with a lot of Senate campaigns, and didn’t you work with the Republican Senate Campaign Committee for a period of time?
Baker: I did.
Leahy: Did you run it?
Baker: Yes, 2014 and 2016. Yeah.
Leahy: And so right now I’m looking at RealClearPolitics and their projections in the senate are three GOP pickups; Nevada’s Laxalt picking up, Masters they’ve got picking up Arizona, and Herschel Walker gathering steam in Georgia.
Baker: If you read the AJC you’d think that Stacey Abrams and Warnock are going to win.
Leahy: AJC, the translation for nonpolitical types, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was once a newspaper.
Leahy: Now it’s a Democratic newsletter.
Baker: It used to have a conservative column and then a Democratic column. They did away with that, unfortunately. We have people like you that are out there telling the truth. We don’t have that in Georgia. But I believe Walker will win. But it’s going to go to a runoff, in my opinion.
Leahy: Oh, you think it will go to a runoff?
Baker: I do. There was an article this morning and yesterday saying it won’t, but I believe that it will. This one will be four weeks. Two years ago was nine weeks.
In fact, Warnock came out with an ad, I believe last night, that said, hey, if you don’t want to see my ads during Thanksgiving, go ahead and vote for me now.
Leahy: Well, that’s not a bad argument. (Laughs)
Baker: It’s a good argument. But here’s what we need to remember about Warnock. He can say everything he wants to say, but he’s the most liberal senator in the last two years. And I believe it’s the interview that gets you hired, not your résumé. And people are worried about the future.
They are worried about what’s going on. And oftentimes when you see these polls, there are many people that don’t want to tell a stranger on the phone who they’re going to vote for. And so I believe that Walker is probably doing a point better than what we’ve seen. It goes to a runoff and I believe Walker wins.
Gulbransen: Assuming it goes to a runoff, how much you think gets spent on that?
Baker: Great question. I think it’s probably around $125 to $150 million. And in the runoff, I would think is sort of the waterline of it.
Leahy: That’s a lot of money.
Baker: That’s Tennessee Star money.
That’s a monthly advertising budget for The Tennessee Star. They’re in, like, 74 different places now and so soon he’ll be in Puerto Rico. I hear he’s going to Ukraine.
Gulbransen: What did I do walking away from that money pot there, to put it in perspective …
Baker: He wouldn’t give you the jet.
Gulbransen: There is that. Only Michael gets to ride that. But to put it in perspective, we had presidential campaigns that were run on $100 million in the not-too-distant past.
Baker: It’s always growing. And obviously, the digital complex has made it grow more. And so I think more and more people will want to get involved. Republicans are catching up with the digital landscape of donors, but we have a long way to go.
And so oftentimes Republicans sort of catch up with the puck and then they stop. And we have to keep growing our small-dollar network, but we’re doing better.
Leahy: So you would agree, I guess, with RealClearPolitics that there will at least be a three-seat pickup in the Senate.
Baker: So I do. I’m not sure how they break. I think a lot of it is how the top of the ticket does and some of these other, how the governors do. I think Kari Lake and Blake Masters are a fit in Arizona and I think Lake is doing great.
Leahy: She’s running for governor, of course – a former TV anchor. Have you seen a better political communicator than Kari Lake?
Baker: No. Sometimes people fit the time and they have it. And so many people we talked about it before the primary with Kari Lake, Michael, that if she was going to win the primary, I felt like people would really be able to see what was going on on the ground.
And oftentimes people just judge what’s going on TV. When you’re on the ground and you see it, there’s a different feeling of what’s going on. And so the DGA and a lot of other people thought they would be able to beat her.
Leahy: Translate “DGA.”
Baker: Democrat Governors Association.
Leahy: Democrat Governors Association. See, Aaron does this all the time too, because he’s such a political expert.
Baker: And so they thought this would be an easy race.
Leahy: They did.
Baker: They tried to just keep [Katie Hobbs’] head down. It’s been the wrong thing, and Lake has just taken it to her.
Leahy: I’m going to say something unkind about Katie Hobbs. You ready?
Baker: Go ahead. There are a lot of things to say.
Leahy: I think she’s Fetterman without the stroke.
Baker: Well, the Pennsylvania voters watched The Addams Family and thought that’s who they should nominate.
Leahy: Yes, really.
Baker: But I feel confident that we will win Pennsylvania. I mainly believe that debates don’t matter. I do believe this debate mattered.
Leahy: Well, because he demonstrated that he could not articulate.
Gulbransen: I made the point earlier in the show that if I were a Democrat strategist, I would have kept him out of the debate, and that it pretty much killed him.
Leahy: So the question’s always debate or don’t debate.
Leahy: And I would say that in Arizona’s gubernatorial race Arizona has a long tradition the Clean Elections Commission of hosting debate s…
Baker: Since ’72.
Leahy: Yes. For statewide office. The governor’s race, they have a superintendent of instruction. Statewide general.
Baker: Statewide radio and networks since ’72 have broadcasted that. That’s very unusual. But Katie Hobbs is refusing to debate Kari Lake.
Baker: First time in 40 years.
Leahy: And you don’t see any benefit to Katie Hobbs from dodging that debate other than she doesn’t want to display her left-wing lunacy?
Baker: If I was Katie Hobbs, I would have done it just to try to be reasonable. But when you’re hiding and then Lake is able to just keep going and going and being on and getting more TV, and then it makes a lot of voters that might be questionable of Lake think, well, why wouldn’t Hobbs stand up to her? At least I know where Lake is.
And right now, people want to know where you stand and how you’re going to vote. And voters are tired of being lied to. So you may not always agree with them, but if they know how you’re going to vote, they will vote for you.
Leahy: So you would agree with me that Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor in Arizona, made a strategic error in not debating Kari Lake at least once?
Baker: Right. And I believe. in my opinion, in Pennsylvania, you have Philly and Pittsburgh and you have four Alabamas in between. So you got to run up the score in the Alabama region. And I believe that it was probably in Fetterman’s best interest not to debate.
And when he did debate, you saw a jump of Oz. It is so difficult to win Pennsylvania. Pat Toomey has run the best campaign I’ve ever seen in my lifetime when he ran in 2016. He does. Town halls.
And as you are seeing, Town halls are coming back into fashion when they sort of went away. And if you look at the race he did, he was able to win, but he won by just a couple of points.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “John Fetterman” by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. Photo “Herschel Walker” by Herschel Walker. Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Katie Hobbs. Background Photo “Election Day” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.