On Today’s Show

Sanders campaign workers reach a deal on wages, listen to part of Buttigieg’s country music radio interview that never aired, people are already projecting electoral maps for 2020, Booker goes on Seth Myers, and Biden is starting to see just a tad less cable media coverage.


Show Transcript

Note: This is the speaking script for the show, so the audio as delivered will differ very slightly from the below. This script also does not include audio clips from third-party sources, or advertisements, which may appear at various points in the show.

Sanders campaign workers reach a deal on wages

First up today, one of the stories I haven’t mentioned yet on the show has been a simmering problem in which field organizers working for the Sanders campaign receive an effective wage that is not great.

Those organizers have reported routinely working 60-hour weeks, while getting paid a fixed salary—meaning no overtime. For field organizers, that salary was $36,000 dollars a year. So, doing the math, that’s about $11 dollars and 50 cents an hour. Yeah. Oh, and technically their work week under the contract was listed as being five days, but routinely workers found themselves actually doing six days, at ten hours a day, which was a whole other issue.

So that meant Sanders field organizers were earning LESS than the $15 dollar minimum wage he supports as a candidate. So the union—and yes, the Sanders campaign is unionized—started negotiations with management. The intent of that negotiation was largely to raise the pay, not reduce the amount of work. They also wanted an acknowledgement that the work-week really was six days, rather than pretending it wasn’t. But they’re looking for 50 hours over six days, in other words roughly 8-hour days instead of ten-hour days.

While this story is just breaking as I read this in the recording booth, it looks like a settlement has been reached. This comes from Washington Post reporter Sean Sullivan. He writes on Twitter:

“NEWS: Unionized workers on [the Sanders] campaign have reached a deal with management to raise pay.
The specifics:
-Field [organizers] pay will go from $36 [thousand dollars] to $42 [thousand dollars] a year, with continued 100 percent coverage of health-care premiums.
-Workweek goes from five days to six.
Another important detail: Workweek for field organizers capped at 50 hours. Union members had said in an earlier draft proposal that those employees were working 60 hours a week.
At 50 hours and 42 [thousand dollars], the equivalent hourly rate to the annual salary is more than $15 [dollars] per hour.”

That math does check out. At that new salary, and at 50 hours a week, the wage is just over $16 dollars an hour. So let’s hear it for collective bargaining in campaigns.

Buttigieg’s country music radio interview that never aired

On Friday, country music broadcaster Blair Garner revealed that his interview with Mayor Pete Buttigieg would not be on the air, but instead could be downloaded online from his personal SoundCloud page. Um. What?

So here’s the story. Buttigieg’s team reached out to Garner and offered time with the candidate for a sit-down interview. Garner, who hosts a popular country music radio show, accepted. The interview is about 20 minutes long, and starts with an anecdote about the time Buttigieg failed to recognize Brad Paisley backstage at a morning TV show, thinking Brad said his name was “Fred.” It’s funny, and it’s clear that Buttigieg really does have at least some affinity for country music. Let’s listen to a clip here, and note that Garner speaks first:


Okay, so that interview never aired. I got that clip from SoundCloud. Garner’s show is distributed by Cumulus Media, which said it didn’t want a political interview on its air, because of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule. We’ll get to the details of that in a moment, but let me read first from an article in the Washington Post by Emily Yahr. Here she quotes a statement from Cumulus.

"Cumulus Nashville's programming managers made the decision not to air Blair Garner's pre-recorded interview with Mayor Pete Buttigieg because of the large number of political candidates currently in this race,” the statement read. “The decision was made by local programming management based solely on concerns related to the application of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule. The effects of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule are widely understood and considered whenever these types of issues arise.”

Yeah. The Equal Time Rule. It IS well understood. The gist of that is that, if you air an unbiased interview for news purposes, you DO NOT need to provide equal time to anybody else. Kate Riga of Talking Points Memo spoke with Andrew Schwartzman of Georgetown’s Institute for Public Representation, who pointed out that the rule would not apply in this case, and even if it did, every other candidate would have to apply within seven days in order to appear on a country music radio show. Reading from Talking Points Memo here, and this is a quote from Schwartzman.

““In practice, here’s the bottom line — it is highly unlikely that any candidate that wished to could successfully obtain time under equal opportunity…just to request the time is a process that is complicated and probably not worth it,” he said. “And anyway, this interview is almost certainly exempt.”
He continued: “This is much more likely to be about Cumulus not wanting to be seen as promoting a candidate who may not be particularly consonant with the proclivities of country station listeners since he is — how should we put this — gay.”

Incidentally, Garner, the host, is also gay, and married. He and his husband have twins. And his show does just fine, so I’m not sure what to make of all this mess. Anyway, if you’re curious, the full interview on SoundCloud is in the show notes, as are links to several stories about the interview that never aired but now draws national attention.

People are already projecting electoral maps for 2020

On Twitter, I saw something that seemed just a tad early—but interesting nonetheless. Dave Levinthal, a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, attended a press briefing today and then posted slides from it.

Reading from Levinthal’s tweet:

“This is how Democratic super PAC [Priorities USA] sees the Election 2020 electoral college map at this moment, per a slide in a press briefing today.”

And then he shows a slide bearing the title IF ELECTION WERE HELD TODAY, with the US states colored red and blue, along with some key figures: 278 electoral college votes for Democrats and 260 for Republicans. It also includes the note: “We win by leading in [Pennsylvania], though we lose [Maine’s second district’s] electoral votes.”

What they’re referring to there, by the way, is that Maine is NOT a winner-take all state—it allocates some of its electoral college votes to the state popular vote winner, and then the rest based on who won the vote in each Congressional district. Nebraska has a similar system. They’re saying that Maine’s second district would go red, but its first would go blue, as would its popular vote overall.

Okay, but that’s not all. In the second image posted by Levinthal, he writes:

“This, meanwhile, is how Democratic super PAC [Priorities USA] sees the presidential race breaking if persons of color vote in fewer numbers than projected. In other words: Trump wins.”

That map predicts a reduction in voter turnout of just two percent among people of color, and the ONLY state it actually flips is Pennsylvania. But flipping just one big state, well, that’s the ballgame.

In the final map, we see where Priorities USA thinks the race is right now—what it calls the “baseline” electoral map. This map includes toss-up states and various leaning states. That’s a whole story by itself, but essentially it reveals that large chunks of the country do fall into either a toss-up or leaning status. That, obviously, should change as we get deeper into the election and actually, you know, HAVE A CANDIDATE.

While it’s very, very early days, this is the kind of thing strategists are looking at right now. In this specific example, a slight change in turnout among people of color could swing the election. I think it’s WAY EARLY to take these maps seriously given that we don’t have a Democratic ticket yet, but still, it’s an interesting exercise to flip states around and see how the map changes.

This is also yet another great time to plug the website Electoral Vote Map, which lets you do precisely that—you can fiddle around with flipping states and see how that affects the overall election outcome. Links to all that in the show notes.

Booker goes on Seth Myers

Last night, Senator Cory Booker went on Late Night with Seth Myers. They talked about civility, and also about how to work with a Republican Senate. I mentioned the Senate thing in yesterday’s show, in the context of Booker’s plan to change immigration policy using executive orders that don’t require approval by the Senate.

But I want to play the clip about the other topic—civility—that came up first. This starts with a line that I’ve heard from Booker before, about a felony, but it’s still both a pretty decent “dad joke” and a good jumping-off point for a real discussion. So listen in:


Okay, so after that, it’s interesting that Booker didn’t bring up his immigration plan—instead, he essentially argued that he has had success as a sitting Senator passing bipartisan legislation. So that’s the ideal, obviously—the idea that bipartisanship can work. And it can, to some extent. But it’s nice to know that Booker has a Plan B—executive orders—just in case.

Biden is starting to see just a tad less cable media coverage

Last up today, Dhrumil Mehta at FiveThirtyEight has been tracking cable TV news coverage of the various primary candidates since this whole thing began. And in that time, there has been a distinct pattern, which is that Joe Biden completely dominates cable coverage. Well, earlier this month that started to change a little.

Looking at data for the week of July 14th, Mehta points out that Biden dropped from his previous week by 11 percentage points. Meanwhile, Sanders gained a little over 13 points, Warren gained just under 5, and everybody else moved relatively little.

So, having said that, Biden still had the lion’s share of cable media attention at 39.6 percent during that week. In second place you had Sanders at 25, then Harris at 20, then Warren at 18. So we’re looking now at a field where that top-four group, who were also The Final Draw on CNN, are not just the polling leaders, but they’re also the most covered by the media, BY FAR.

Check out the last link in the show notes if you’re curious about where your favorite candidate is in this ranking, and how that has changed lately.


Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. I just want to take a moment today to thank everyone who has gone on Apple Podcasts and left reviews—they really help me, and they help the show, and I appreciate your time. Meanwhile, after the show today, guess who’s making Bingo cards? That’s right, we are just one week away from the next debate, and we gotta get that sweet sweet Bingo. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.