EDIT Hey there, gotta go. Sorry if I didn't get a chance to answer your question; the time flew by. I still need to vote and then attend several election night prep meetings before the results start coming in...Make sure to check out our Election Night coverage here [http://elections.npr.org/]; we'll be on the air from 8 pm to 1 am. I'll also be tweeting at http://www.twitter.com/charlieNPR. Thanks again.

I joined NPR in May 2013 after serving 5 years as POLITICO’s national politics editor. Prior to that I covered state legislatures and urban politics for Governing magazine, elections at Congressional Quarterly and also edited three editions of The Almanac of American Politics, the political junkie’s bible. I had a brief stint as a lawyer but was bored to tears and quickly returned to journalism. Here's a piece I wrote this morning about some key places to watch today [http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2014/11/04/361378127/7-places-to-watch-on-election-day] My proof: [https://twitter.com/charlieNPR/status/529691839541280768]

Comments: 78 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

gtere889 karma

where do you get YOUR political news? (other than NPR)

cmahtesian19 karma

I get my news from a variety of different sources -- newspapers/blogs/mags/RSS feed. I think it's important to graze pretty widely. I find Twitter essential for flagging emerging trends/storylines and provides a good lens, as long as you understand that it isnt in any way representative of what the general public is thinking

Pyroechidna19 karma

Do you think that Sam Brownback's experience in Kansas could be a bellwether for the national GOP if they pass their full agenda?

cmahtesian9 karma

I dont see that race as a bellwether; more like an outlier. There are too many factors unique to Kansas there.

sctfr7 karma

Is "split governance" actually healthy? (Having one party control the executive and another the legislative?)

cmahtesian5 karma

I think you'd find a difference of opinion on this question. We've got a long history of it at both the state and national levels so clearly voters have a comfort level with it. Does it lead to better governance? I expect you could argue it both ways pretty persuasively.

nkleszcz7 karma

Is there a political story that blindsided you this season?

cmahtesian9 karma

Ebola? The rise of ISIS? I think those were issues that no one could have foreseen at the beginning of the election cycle. In terms of races, I certainly didnt envision that Republicans might lose a Senate seat in Kansas

JollyRancherReminder6 karma

I live in an area where none of the races are predicted to be close. Why should I as an individual get out and vote? It makes sense for you to encourage me to do so, because you know others will be reading your response, and therefore it can make a difference of more than a single vote. But as an individual, my specific vote really only makes a difference in the unlikely event that an issue on my ballot is decided by a single vote.

A related follow-up: do you think required voting is a good thing, and is there a realistic chance it could ever happen in the U.S.?

cmahtesian12 karma

I feel for you. There are a handful of states that are just flat out boring this year, with no statewide races of note and no real action on the ballot. I'm kinda old school when it comes to civics. I come from a family of immigrants who loved this country, put flags on the front lawn, went to war to protect our values and way of life. I think voting is a responsibility, an honor and really not that much to ask given the fortune we have to live here.

HasFactsVotingYES5 karma

If Republicans gain control of the Senate and retain control of the House, how do you think that would affect the current political climate? What will it take to make Congress functional again?

cmahtesian9 karma

I fear a return to congressional functionality is a long way away. The problem? The political order in DC is now organized along battle lines, and the machinery of political war will be very difficult to dismantle.

HasFactsVotingYES5 karma

Charlie, I've often seen discussions on reddit amongst Americans wanting to switch from the two-party system to an alternative system with 3+ parties and a voting procedure where the voter ranks his/her preferences. I was wondering what your take is on that system (or some variation) and do you think it's possible that the US would ever switch?

cmahtesian9 karma

Great question. THere's one very big obstacle to a viable multi-party system. The system is rigged by the two major parties. Election law across the 50 states is stacked against third parties and makes it difficult for them to get a toehold. This explains, for example, why it's close to impossible for a third party candidate to run a viable presidential campaign

3rdIQ5 karma

Provided the GOP does win the Senate... what accomplishments/progress can we expect to see during the next two years?

cmahtesian12 karma

I think that's contingent on how both parties interpret the election results. The GOP understands that it's got a presidential race coming up in 2016, and just as important, a Senate election cycle where the math puts them on the defensive. SO there is some impetus for productive governance. Likewise, the President will need to think through what he wants his last two yrs in office to look like, and what exactly he wants to accomplish

raggail3 karma

The NC senate race is now the most expensive senate race in history. Do you think this will cause candidates to require even more money to be successful, or will the NC race cause some sort of election reform (either in the state or nation)?

cmahtesian1 karma

Alas, I dont expect the NC race to spark any kind of reform -- in part because the experience there is not that uncommon. Florida, for example, is also among the states dealing with the nightmare of a $100 million race this year. Even before this year's election successful candidacies required large sums of money

Shannyb53 karma

Do you think polling is accurate? I mean who is home on a Wednesday morning answering a land line?

cmahtesian3 karma

Ha! The business of polling is in a transformative era, in part for the kind of reasons you lay out. It's always a good idea to view polls with a healthy degree of skepticism but, having said that, there are some excellent pollsters who follow best practices and do pretty well given the challenges of this moment in time

bravesirobin2 karma

Hi Charlie,

Is there a specific race occurring today that you think will likely be the bellwether for the entire election season? Maybe even the Presidential race in 2016?

cmahtesian3 karma

Hi, the closest race I can think of that matches your question is the NH-01 House race btw Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Frank Giunta. It's New Hampshire, so we get a peek under the hood of the first-in-the-nation primary state. It's also a competitive, pretty evenly balanced congressional district (a rarity these days). In terms of Senate bellwethers, I look to the purple states of NC and Colorado

BatCoon2 karma

What is the best way to figure out whom I should vote for?

cmahtesian5 karma

Best way? Read your local newspaper closely and study the positions of the candidates -- and make note of which candidates arent taking positions

SRD_Grafter3 karma

Is not taking position a red flag? If so, why? I ask as I see a number of local candidates not taking them, instead they only offer statements of wanting to do a good job and which party they are in.

cmahtesian7 karma

Avoiding taking a position on a tough issue is a commonplace practice for politicians at every level. It should be a red flag, but it's also worth your time to think through the forces that are leading pols to behave that way. Often it will lead you to a deeper understanding of an issue.

camtns1 karma

Hi Charlie, thanks for joining today. With Congress likely for another term of gridlock, how probable do you think it is State legislatures will be flexing their muscle? Do you think state legislatures are hitting below their weight currently, or are we just not paying close enough attention?

cmahtesian1 karma

This is a really important point. One thing I've noticed this election cycle is that moneyed interests on both sides are beginning to recognize that in an era of congressional gridlock, the state capitals are going to be the important policymaking arenas. And so we've seen lots more resources devoted to state legislative and gubernatorial elections. A good example might be in the area of energy/environment/climate change

potato_car1 karma

As we vote in the most expensive midterm elections in American history, do you foresee the American public ever caring about campaign finance again?

According to this story in the New York Times ,Court rulings and Congressional dependence/complicity have opened the floodgates for massive amounts of untraceable money to influence elections. The presumed Republican Congressional majority will likely side with the Roberts Court and stand firm on the precedent established in Citizens United. Unfortunately, every election cycle that passes means more undisclosed out-of-state money influencing local elections and spending patterns appear to only be trending upward.

In short, is there hope for Americans even wanting a representative democracy that is beholden to voters instead of donors?

cmahtesian3 karma

I wish people would care more about campaign finance, but I'm not optimistic. It consistently ranks at the bottom (if it ranks at all) in terms of what voters care about and I see nothing out there that suggests that's about to change soon

Thinkyt1 karma

Brit here, and whilst I don't think of myself as an egoistic git, I'll ask a question which makes me seem like one:

How will these elections affect me as a Brit first, Europe/Nato next and the world third?

cmahtesian1 karma

Political anorak? I dont imagine a midterm election like this will have a dramatic impact overseas -- certainly not like the impact a presidential election would have. Much depends on who, exactly, gets elected. Are the new Republicans of a more isolationist bent? More hawkish? The election to watch will be in 2016, when the prez primaries are likely to flush out the spectrum of foreign policy/nat security thinking on the right and left

HMRevenueAndCustard1 karma

Non midterm related question. But you have an Armenian surname and I'm gonna take a guess and say you might have some heritage in you. How seriously is the 'Armenian Genocide Recognition' issue being thrown by US politicians?

cmahtesian3 karma

The last name is a dead giveaway, isn't it? I haven't seen the issue of Armenian Genocide recognition play a material role in any congressional races this year.

CakeMixAllFrosting1 karma


cmahtesian3 karma

To be honest, I didnt know him. But I've heard wonderful things about him, loved his work and it's a great loss for public radio and our listeners.

mickonabike1 karma

Do you think the media(indirectly or directly) covers a candidate at all based on whether they'll be likely to generate more newsworthy stories in the upcoming congressional session? Is a 'boring' candidate less likely to receive coverage if they're up a against a candidate that might already have a several news items about them?

cmahtesian1 karma

Coverage decisions in general aren't made based on how boring/not boring a candidate is, although that can certainly play a role.

majidrazvi1 karma

Where do you see the state of American politics in the mid-21st century? I'm keeping this intentionally vague so that you can respond along whatever dimension you feel appropriate, but for instance:

  • campaign funding/anonymous donation/etc.
  • political discourse/advertising/etc.
  • emergence of a plausible third party, and/or the fracturing/reshaping of the existing parties

(I appreciate that any answer will be substantially speculative.)

cmahtesian3 karma

That's a pretty broad question and I'm already scrambling to keep up with answers. Let me take a shot at the third bullet point. The growing pressures/tensions within our political system suggest that the two party system will look dramatically different in the future. either in the way the major parties evolve or in what shape they take. But there's still one big problem standing in the way -- election law is rigged to advance the interests of the two major parties and until that changes, a plausible third party just can't emerge as a force

minifocusizer1 karma

Which congressional seats are important for the majority/minority parties today?

cmahtesian1 karma

In general, the universe of competitive House seats is relatively small this year. Republicans seems poised to make gains so they are looking to expand their majority -- under the right conditions, you might see the GOP expand its majority to its biggest numbers since the late 1940s -- while House Democrats are hoping to save some of their most endangered incumbents

comandobee1 karma

Hello! I am someone approaching the eligible age to vote but have little political knowledge relevant to the current day. How would you recommend that I introduce myself to the world of politics?

cmahtesian2 karma

Welcome to the club! It's terrific that you're beginning to engage even before you're eligible to vote. Study the candidates, go to some political events, volunteer on a campaign, intern for a politician, read widely and read things that challenge the way you think.

nickyg140 karma

did you vote today? #IVoted

cmahtesian1 karma

Not yet.