This is a rush transcript from Journal Editorial Report," November 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," three days to go until the midterm elections and some key races remain too close to call. From the battle for control of the Senate to incumbent governors fighting for their political lives, a look at the factors that could determine the outcome.
Democrats have dusted off the War on Women playbook, but is it falling flat this time around?
And move over Koch Brothers. One liberal environmentalist is spending tens of millions on the midterms. So will it pay off when voters head to the polls on Tuesday?
Welcome to this special edition of the "Journal Editorial Report" as we count down to the midterm elections. And with just three days to go some closely watched races remain too close to call, making a Republican wave far from certain.
But GOP pollster, Whit Ayers, is starting to see some movement. He joins me now from Washington.
Whit, great to see you again.
WHIT AYERS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Paul, good to be with you.
GIGOT: So, what do you see here in the last week as these -- as these races move to a climax?
AYERS: Well, we've known for a long time that the broader environment was very conducive for Republican victories. But we haven't seen much hard evidence of that in the polling up until now. But the last week or 10 days or so, we started to see some shifting. And that's not unusual. When waves come in, they tend to come in late. We did Bill Frist's Senate race in 1994 against Jim Sasser. A week before the election, he was only ahead by four points. But by Thursday, he was up by seven. By Saturday, he was up by nine. And he eventually won the race by 14 percentage points. So, we need to be watching the polls all weekend long.
GIGOT: But as I look at the polls, you're seeing I think 10 Senate seats that are still really close, 12 or 13 governors' races that are within the margin of error or very close to that. Can you recall a year when there were so many big races that were this close?
AYERS: In a lot of these wave years, Paul, there are a number of races that get decided by only one or two percentage points.
AYERS: But they all tend to fall the same way. That occurred way back in 1980 when Reagan was elected and it occurred in '86 when the Democrats made a run back, occurred in '94, 2006, 2010. So, it's -- a wave is a whole lot of races get won by double digits it's that a whole lot of close races fall the same way.
GIGOT: As I see this race coming to an end, you're seeing Republican the going back to the ObamaCare issue, running a lot of ads in a lot of seats on ObamaCare, believe it or not. Now, is this in your view a smart strategy? Because as I see it just about every anti-ObamaCare vote is already a Republican vote. What's the purpose here?
AYERS: The purpose here is to remind people, particularly Independents who may be still deciding what they think about ObamaCare, about the negative consequences for their health care and their costs. ObamaCare remains one of the top-three issues in these critical Senate battleground states, along with the economy and national security and ISIS. So, it is a safe strategy and it's a smart strategy.
GIGOT: But is it a strategy -- you're saying you want to get Independents. Is it persuasion strategy or is this just a base turnout issue, we're trying to remind Republicans who say, oh, I don't care, I don't want to vote, you better get out, if you want to do something about this law?
AYERS: It's a combination of a base strategy to remind them and a persuasion strategy for the Independents who are up for grabs. Keep in mind that ObamaCare is a proxy for Obama.
AYERS: What people think about Obama they tend to think about ObamaCare so it's a way to reinforce their disapproval of the job the president has been doing.
GIGOT: And do you agree that the president is really the number-one issue here, number-one motivator, certainly for Republican voters?
AYERS: There's no question about that, Paul. The disgust with the administration, with an overall sense of incompetence of being in over their heads is the dominant issue, as it frequently is in the sixth year -
GIGOT: The sixth.
AYERS: -- of a presidential term.
GIGOT: Republicans know all about that from 2006. They were on the other side of this debate.
AYERS: That's right.
GIGOT: You mentioned national security. And we haven't seen that come -- come center stage in an election maybe since, well, certainly from the hawkish side of the ledger since 2004, that is, working for Republicans or those candidate who want to be more aggressive in providing for American security abroad. You've got the Islamic -- the threat from Islamic state, and you've had the Ebola mishandling, and Vladimir Putin on the march. Has that really been an issue that has helped some of the Republican candidates? I know Scott Brown has used it in New Hampshire and Thom Tillis in New Hampshire. What have you seen?
AYERS: Sure, we've seen that very much that there's such disquiet about the state of the world, and particularly the administration's ability to handle these unexpected events that we're seeing national security pop up in a number of races and it's usually to the Republicans' advantage.
GIGOT: So, what races are you looking at here in -- as you go to Tuesday, how would you advise viewers to look, which races, as the bellwethers in terms of the Senate?
AYERS: There are five critical Senate races that are all in states that are completely in the eastern time zone. So, we're going to get a pretty good indication early. Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New Hampshire, if the Republicans only win one of those -- and they're pretty well assured to win West Virginia -- then they can still take control of the Senate but it's going to be a long night. If Republicans win three or four of those five, it's going to be a great night for the GOP.
GIGOT: OK. Now, I know you know Georgia very well and that's one of the races, which is held by a Republican now who is retiring, Saxby Chambliss, so you have David Perdue, the Republican businessman, running against Michelle Nunn, the daughter of Sam Nunn, the former Democratic Senator there. You know that state well. How do you see that going? Because Democrats have been pounding David Perdue for his comments about outsourcing jobs?
AYERS: It's a very close race right now. Michelle Nunn was ahead a couple of weeks ago but it's part of Republican candidates starting to do better. David Perdue has started to pull ahead. The critical question is whether either candidate can get over the 50 percent mark. If not, they go into a runoff that doesn't occur until January 6th.
GIGOT: What do you expect? Do you think that will go to a runoff?
AYERS: The bet now would be that it goes to a runoff. But if you look at the states where Democrats have been leading, like North Carolina and New Hampshire, the lead is narrowing.
AYERS: If you look at states where Republicans have been leading, the lead is growing. The Arkansas poll just came out this week showing Tom Cotton ahead of Mark Pryor by 13 points among very likely voters. So that's why I think a wave may be building.
GIGOT: Thanks for putting down the marker. We'll check you on it and see how it goes.
Coming up next, with Republicans just six seats shy of a takeover, all eyes are on the battle for control of the U.S. Senate. Our panel takes a closer look at how some key races are shaping up in the campaign's final weekend, when we come back.