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Shields and Brooks on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - October 5, 2012

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, good to have you with us.

Let's -- we will talk about the jobs report in a minute.

But, Mark, what about that Missouri Senate race?

MARK SHIELDS: It's -- it's a remarkable race.

Roy Blunt, the Republican colleague of Claire McCaskill, has broken ranks and endorsed Congressman Akin, and so did Kit Bond, the former governor and senator. And so did Jim Talent, whom Claire McCaskill defeated, former senator, in 2006.

So Republicans had expected to do a lot better, Judy, this year than they are doing right now, according to most estimates. The seats that they took for granted, Dick Lugar's in Indiana, Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party candidate, is now behind centrist Democrat Joe Donnelly.

In Maine, where Olympia Snowe was going to walk to reelection, that, the Republicans are trailing badly against Angus King, who is going to organize with the Democrats.

So, all of a sudden, Republicans are looking, well, maybe we have got to figure out a way to help Congressman Akin, even though we don't want to get close to him, because we could face a loss of seats.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you make of it?

DAVID BROOKS: Even in Arizona, Jeff Flake...

MARK SHIELDS: Jeff Flake, that's right.

DAVID BROOKS: Connecticut is close, though the Republican is doing a little better there.

So, yes, it's coming very close. It will be interesting to see the polls starting around Sunday, when the post-debate polls -- because whether or not Romney was able to turn it around against Obama, there is some expectations that he may have helped some down-ticket Republicans. And so we will see.

It is kind of amazing Akin is hanging in there, given the record, and, you know, within five, and that could get a little closer.

It's sort of a lesson. If you just want to be Machiavellian about it, the whole party was desperate for him to get out. He stuck it out. He is still hanging in there. If he had left, his career would be over. Now he has some chance of being a senator.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, everybody was writing him off not very long ago, weren't they?

DAVID BROOKS: Absolutely.

MARK SHIELDS: No, they were.

Now, there is a libertarian who is getting 9 percent. So that -- but what is interesting, Jennifer Duffy, the Senate expert at The Cook Political Report, pointed out that the Democrats won three Senate seats, including Missouri, Montana and Virginia in 2006, their great year, with 4.8 million votes cast, by 66,000 total.

So, I mean, and all three are contested again. Tim Kaine is running in Virginia to succeed Jim Webb. And Jon Tester is running for reelection in Montana. So races that were considered pretty good shots for the Republicans now all of a sudden are in play.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's talk about that jobs report, David. Unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent, 114,000 jobs. What does that mean for the campaign?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, obviously, the line that Romney has been using all these months of 8 percent, he can't use that line anymore.

I'm frankly a little skeptical that it makes a huge difference. There was a bad jobs number, actually a falsely bad jobs number a month ago. Now it's been revised upwards. And I didn't notice it had any big effect.

I'm generally a believer that people feel the economy around them much more than they pay attention to the numbers that are on TV or in the paper once a month. But what's interesting is that the perception of the economy among Americans has actually been going upward in the last six weeks.

So, in some ways, the people are ahead of the numbers. And so we have seen the steady progress. But they see it around them more than they read about it. And so I do think there is sort of an upward trend that people are feeling. I'm not sure any individual job number has a big impact on the race.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think it has much of an effect?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Diane Swonk said that, statistically, it's not significant.

I think, politically, it is significant in this sense, that the -- after -- 48 hours after the debate, the Democrats and President Obama needed good news. And remember the stimulus promise to keep unemployment below 8 percent? Stimulus worked. OK?

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