Hugh Hewitt: 'US voters will swing to whichever simple narrative they like best'
The "closing argument" is a cliché of campaign season. But there is truth at its core. Many US voters tune in just for the last few days before Election Day. They look up from lives pressed by the needs of families and friends, aging parents, struggling students and high-school football to ask: for whom should I vote? Candidates and campaigns have to make closing appeals to those newly opened ears.
Really attentive voters chose long ago, of course, because almost every race is between vastly different candidates. Take the Arizona Senate race. There is hardly a starker choice than the one between Republican Martha McSally, a retired air force colonel and first female fighter pilot to fly in combat for the United States, and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, the hard-left, anti-war, stay-at-home-mother-insulting, condescending radical who has spent nearly six years in Congress pretending to be a moderate. The campaigns have been locked in political combat for months.
But still, some Arizona voters will have missed the candidates' biographies and a thousand TV and social media ads. Their choice will depend not on either candidates' personal qualities but on the national political environment.
So, too, it will be for thousands of voters in key Senate races in Indiana and Florida. In the Hoosier state (Indiana), Republican Mike Braun looks to be ahead of incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly, partly thanks to the latter's opposition to Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In Florida, Rick Scott seems to be a whisper behind Democrat Bill Nelson. "Late deciders" may make the difference in both races.
There are many tight races where the "Oh, there's an election?" vote will decide the outcome, and not just in the Senate but also in the House and many state houses, as well. So how are the parties trying to persuade those voters?
Democrats are arguing the following: Donald Trump is a dangerous demagogue who daily sows division and hate. He is wrongly trying to marginalise the free press by resorting to a term straight out of Stalinism: "enemy of the people." He needs a major check imposed on his recklessness and conflicts of interest. Perhaps impeachment should be on the table. His administration needs oversight. We Democrats will protect what is left of Obamacare, while saving social security and Medicare. Vote Democrat for a divided government to save a divided country.
Meanwhile, Republicans are closing this way: don't you like 4pc gross domestic product growth and near-full employment? Do you think it's a coincidence that the market has dropped as businesses prepare for the possibility of Nancy Pelosi returning to the speakership? Our military - especially our navy - is being rebuilt after being hollowed out under president Barack Obama. Our 'red lines' are visible again. We have renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, got clarity on China and realigned the Middle East into an effective anti-Iran coalition.
Thanks to deregulation, your children finally will have the jobs of the future here waiting for them. You may not like Trump, but his wrecking-ball politics was the only way to smash the sclerotic superstructure of blue-bubble elites inside the Beltway, Manhattan, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. He's a very big bull in a very big china shop, but he's your bull. And if you don't like him, 2020 is when you fire him, not now. Vote Republican to keep the economy humming.
Those are the arguments in two paragraphs. The awful events from the Florida mail-bomb suspect to the slaughter in Pittsburgh have draped this election in fear and almost inexpressible sorrow.
Another turn or two could come right through to the close of the last poll in Hawaii. But above are the closing arguments, earnestly believed by their respective camps. Anyone who says they know which will prevail is lying or delusional.
Hugh Hewitt hosts a nationally syndicated US radio show and is a professor of law at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law.