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Analysts on the Candidates and Jobs

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - October 21, 2010

JEFFREY BROWN: And we take a look now at the economy and how it's playing as an election issue across the country with four reporters for public media.

Julie Philipp is news director of WXXI Public Television in Rochester, N.Y., and host of "Need to Know Rochester." Gene Grant is host of "New Mexico in Focus," a weekly political roundtable on KNME Public Television in Albuquerque, N.M. Cathy Lewis is host of "HearSay With Cathy Lewis" on WHRV Public Radio in Hampton Roads, Va. And John Myers is the Sacramento bureau chief for KQED Public Radio.

Let's start with the economic picture and then we will bring in the politics. Gene Grant, you start. How about a snapshot of the economy there? Things any better than when we last talked?

GENE GRANT, reporter, KNME: A little bit. A little bit. The snapshot is a bit of a mixed bag, but we're holding steady on the unemployment rate. We're at 8.3 percent for the last reporting period of August, and up just a little bit from 8.2 percent, not a big deal. We're adding jobs in some sectors. Some sectors are actually starting to get -- climbing a little bit.

We're hemorrhaging some other jobs still, but it's just not as bad. Bankruptcies are a little bit up. Foreclosures are holding steady. So, we're holding tight here. It's actually not so bad as it could have been.

JEFFREY BROWN: OK. Julie Philipp in Rochester, what do you see?

JULIE PHILIPP, reporter, WXXI: Well, in a word, static. The region is not really falling behind, but it's not moving forward really at all either.

All of the job sectors, there's nothing to get excited about -- excited about. Really, it's sort of a similar picture to what you just heard. What we are seeing, though, however, is, governments are broke, nearly all of them looking at some pretty significant deficits.

You're seeing high poverty rates still. And also we're starting to see the homeless shelters starting to turn people away at the door. So, we are seeing some signs of strain, even though the statistics show us holding fairly flat.

JEFFREY BROWN: And Cathy Lewis, Hampton Roads, you have of course got the big military installations, which always play a big role there.

CATHY LEWIS, reporter, WHRV: Well, indeed. One in every two of our dollars is generated by the defense community.

And we had what has just been a shocking bombshell in August with the announcement of the closure of the Joint Forces Command. The economists at Old Dominion University anticipate that that will be a ripple effect of 6,000 to 10,000 jobs, good jobs that average $60,000 to $80,000 a year, and possibly up to a billion-dollar hit in the local economy. So, we anticipate some real challenges around that.

JEFFREY BROWN: And John Myers in Sacramento, big state, a lot of campaign stuff we will get to there, but what about the economy?

JOHN MYERS, reporter, KQED: Well, slow recovery is what we're being told by the economists. We're going to get new unemployment data tomorrow, but the August numbers weren't good, 12.4 percent, one of the highest in the country.

But even beyond that, we got a new statewide poll last night that I think shows how concerned people are about the economy -- 62 percent of the people surveyed said they are worried about paying their rent or their mortgage in the near future. And I think that really does speak to the concern, the fear among Californians about this economy.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so let's to connect all these dots to the campaign that we are in the midst of here.

Gene Grant, I will start with you again. How does all this play out? Pick a race or two specifically to tell us how what you just told us about the economy plays into the race.

GENE GRANT: Well, the obvious one for us out here is the gubernatorial race. We have an open seat. Our governor, Richardson, is term-limited out. And so his lieutenant governor is running against Susana Martinez. She's the Republican candidate.

She's the DA from Dona Ana County, which is the southern part of our state and borders Mexico. And it's interesting. Immigration was the word at the beginning of the general election. No one's even talking about it. It's all about jobs and all about economy and all about putting food on the table.

We have just had some very high-profile cases where children's services were cut. Governor Richardson is out of his discretionary monies that he got from the federal government. He used the last little bit to shore up.

But we have got some real problems headed our way. We have got a tough next spring. A lot of things are pointing towards a huge difficulty when the stimulus money runs out. Our Medicaid nut is growing hugely, 21,000 new members probably by the exact same time that money is going to run out.

So, this has become the issue in this race. And it's really very interesting. You're not hearing much on details, except the typical waste, fraud and abuse, about how to chop down a $230 million deficit that we're having in our Legislature in our budget here.

And so the issue is going to be how do you put public-sector folks -- we have hemorrhaged 4,100 public-sector jobs, government jobs, out in the last 12 months. Who do you absorb -- how do you absorb those folks? In the free market? We're not getting there yet. Government jobs are not going to be coming back for any time soon. So this is the issue in this gubernatorial race is jobs, jobs, jobs.

JEFFREY BROWN: OK. And, Julie Philipp, you have got a number of key House races up there, right?

JULIE PHILIPP: We have a lot of races. And, really, for voters, the economy is the only issue.

In the polls we have done, the interviews we have gone out and talked to people on the streets, all they want to talk about is the economy, jobs, taxes. And right now, in New York state, in addition to some congressional races, there's about three that are either likely or could go from Democrat to Republican that are being watched very closely in those congressional races.

But we also have -- every statewide office, from the governor on down, is up for grabs this year, as well as every seat in the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly. So, there are a lot of campaigns, and all of them are talking about the economy. There's very little else in the discussions.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, Cathy Lewis, two years ago, I was down there visiting with you in the midst of a race that was seen as a real bellwether for turning a red state blue. And President Obama was elected on states like yours. What's happening now?

CATHY LEWIS: Well, exactly so. And one of the candidates that many would argue rode in on those coattails was Democratic incumbent Glenn Nye, who was elected in 2008. He's fighting to retain his seat in a largely Republican 2nd District. That's the race that everybody's watching even across the country.

There were six Republicans lined up almost immediately after he was elected to run for that spot. In the end, one spun off as an independent. He was the former chair -- in fact, you interviewed him back in the day -- of the Virginia Beach Republican Party. He's now spun off as an independent candidate. His name is Kenny Golden.

And then the Republican candidate wound up being Scott Rigell, a car dealer from here in Hampton Roads. The interesting piece where the economy has come into play a bit in this campaign has to do with this idea of deficit spending and the stimulus program, Glenn Nye saying to Scott Rigell: "Wait a minute. You're a car dealer. You benefited from 'cash for clunkers.'"

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