Primary Day: A Reporter’s Eye View

Meet the journalists covering today's big races

It’s a mini “Super Tuesday” for the nation’s top half today with midterm primaries being held in seven northern states: Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Pundits, prognosticators, and nervous politicians will be watching closely to see which waves are about to strike come November—Anti-incumbency? Pro-establishment?—and which candidates will be riding them.

CJR assistant editor Joel Meares has been chatting with reporters from these states over the past month, discussing the ups and downs of the races, the job the media has been doing in covering them, and the natures of the candidates and electorates involved. For a primary day primer, take a look at some of these conversations:

With The Washington Post’s chief Maryland reporter John Wagner

“If the Republican wins in Maryland then it’s going to be a big night for Republicans in the country.”
John Wagner joined to The Washington Post to cover Maryland politics in 2004. It was the second year of Republican governor Bob Ehrlich’s term, a post he lost in a bitter campaign with Martin O’Malley in 2006. This November, the pair face off again in the Maryland governor’s race, Ehrlich fighting to take back control of one of the nation’s bluest states. Wagner talks about the rematch gubernatorial race, Maryland senator Barbara Mikulski’s statewide appeal, and this today’s primary here.

New York
With Politico’s Maggie Haberman.

“One of the best things that has happened for Charlie Rangel is that his biggest enemy is the New York Post.”
Haberman covered New York politics for over a decade at the New York Post, with a three-and-a-half-year stint at rival, The Daily News. Five months ago, Haberman took political savvy to Politico in time for a midterm election that sees Governor Paterson stepping down, Chuck Schumer holding strong, and Charles Rangel at the center of a national storm. Click here to read what she has to say about the New York race.

New Hampshire
With political editor James Pindell

“It’s like a NASCAR race. You want to cut in front of the guy who’s surging up behind you before he can pass you; that’s what Palin did for Ayotte.”
Pindell is new to WMUR and it’s been a busy first week on the job with a newly competitive GOP senate primary—frontrunner Kelly Ayotte suddenly finds herself challenged by surging rival, Ovide Lamontagne. Pindell talks discusses that race, the state of local political coverage, New Hampshire’s “live free or die” ethos, and his passion the rocky politics of the Granite State here.

Rhode Island
With WRNI political analyst Scott Mackay

“Patrick Kennedy could have won but it would have been a brutal race.”
After twenty-five years at The Providence Journal, Rhode Island reporter Scott Mackay moved to the state’s NPR affiliate, WRNI, in 2009, to work as the station’s chief political analyst. With the traditionally blue state hosting its gubernatorial and congressional primaries today, Mackay talks about a potential Democratic gain in the governor’s race and the fall of the last Kennedy left standing. Click here to read his thoughts on the Rhode Island midterms.

With Milwaukee Journal Sentinel political reporters Lee Bergquist and Craig Gilbert

“If you’re writing for readers and about voters who care about politics, it makes your job interesting.”
It’s an exciting time in the Badger State—long-serving Democratic senator Russ Feingold is battling for his political life, and Democratic governor Jim Doyle is so spooked by the climate that he’s not even running for reelection. Lee Bergquist covers the governor’s race and Craig Gilbert is the Washington bureau chief. Click here to read their takes.

For other talks with state-based politicos, see our chat with Nevada’s Face to Face host Jon Ralston here and with Connecticut’s Christopher Keating, of The Hartford Courant, here.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.