Midterms: Key issues and races to watch as the parties vie for control of Congress

Lee Carter, president and partner at maslansky + partners, joins Yahoo Finance Live to assess voter enthusiasm ahead of the midterm elections, primary and secondary issues motivating Americans, and the outlook for Democrats and Republicans in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Maslansky and Partners president and partner Lee Carter. Lee, always nice to get some time with you. Take us through how you're preparing for the big day tomorrow.

LEE CARTER: So what I try to look at is a couple of things. One, I want to look at the polling averages in the different states because nothing is straightforward. And the second I'm looking at is voter enthusiasm because that's ultimately going to be what's going to dictate whether people turn out and vote.

And the other thing that I'm looking at is the shifting priorities of issues. Number one, we know inflation and economy is on everybody's minds. But we've seen some shifts in what's secondary, whether it's the future of the economy, education, healthcare, crime, abortion. Those have all sort of flipped over the last couple of weeks.

So when you look at what's coming up, these secondary issues, crime and abortion, I think, are going to be really, really important. If it's crime, I think the Republicans are going to have a bigger day than most people are expecting. If it's abortion, then I think the Democrats are going to have a much better day than a lot of people are expecting as well.

BRAD SMITH: What are the key races that you're watching and in which states?

LEE CARTER: OK, so the one race that I think is most important to watch right now is Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, to me, is going to dictate so much of what happens. And it's not really a race based on issues. This race is very, very sort of an outlier race, in many ways. The governor's race in Pennsylvania, you've got a wildly unpopular Republican candidate who is, many people are saying, as an election denier. He was involved in the January 6, so he does not poll very well. That could be a real drag on Dr. Oz.

Dr. Oz and Fetterman are looking sort of right neck and neck. But if Dr. Oz doesn't pull out Pennsylvania, it's going to be really hard, I think, for the Senate to get where they need to go. Also looking really closely at Georgia, another strange race, which really isn't about the issues as much as it is about can people vote for Herschel Walker, despite all of the controversy that he's been through?

And then after that, I'm looking at Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Oregon. There's other places as well. But I think those two races are the primary ones that I'm focused on.

BRIAN SOZZI: Lee, in our world of finance investing, investors seem to think, well, if the Republicans just steamroll tomorrow, nothing gets done in the last few years of the Biden presidency. Is that right? Is that the right way to think about it?

LEE CARTER: I think so. I think gridlock, you've seen, has been pretty good for the markets. I think people are predicting that at least that's the direction we're going to go. And when we've talked to Republicans who are running, when they say, what are you going to do, and they say the first two years, what we're going to do from between now and 2024 is just stop Biden's agenda.

So the plan is really just to put forward gridlock. That's all they want to do. They want to stop what's moving forward. And then hopefully they're going to try to take things in 2024. But I'm not sure that's the best strategy because if Republicans win both the Republican-- I mean, if they both win the House and the Senate, in 2024, the economy is going to hang on them.

BRAD SMITH: And so that's a larger question, too, even if we think out to the general election, barring-- or I guess, post-midterm elections, where do we actually see progress move forward? If the parties' decision-making and who they're putting in front of voters as well as consistently to say, OK, let's block this other agenda, where do we actually see results start to come forward and move forward?

LEE CARTER: It's going to have to be a transcendent leader, which we don't see all that often. But right now, 9 in 10 Americans say, I blame both parties. We're tired of the non-compromise, block each other, reject at all costs. That's not where most Americans fall. 60% of Americans really identify more as independents, as either side. And they blame politics for the way things are.

So I don't know where the answer is. We're seeing a lot of outside candidates right now, especially in the Republican Party, a lot of outside candidates who are non-typical try to run and hopefully be able to make some progress or change. I think that's why they're popular. But I'm not sure if politics benefits anybody who does anything but doesn't compromise.

BRAD SMITH: All right, Maslansky and Partners president Lee Carter, thanks so much for joining us here-- in studio, I might add-- but ahead of a big midterm election year. Appreciate the time.

LEE CARTER: Thank you so much.