Mere months remain before the country heads to the polls, or mails in ballots, to casts votes for President of the United States. As such, there are what seems like thousands of podcasts whose sole mission is to chronicle the 2020 presidential race. The media loves a so-called horserace in politics. Thankfully for audiophiles across this great land, these best presidential campaign podcasts break down whose neck is out front in this neck-and-neck contest.
Thus far, the election will be between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, with a few other independent candidates tossed in for good measure. Vurbl digs deep and finds those podcasts that just get it. By “it,” we mean the complexities of a presidential campaign that has only exponentially become more challenging to comprehend as the electoral college becomes more important than the overall popular vote. Now, more than ever, it is nice to have experts cover this election like a sporting match with its ebbs and flows and commentary about which states will play pivotal roles in determining who will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January of 2021.
1. Podcast: The NPR Politics Podcast
National Public Radio keenly knows that things move fast in presidential politics and therefore, having a podcast every day is the best way to keep their listeners on the cutting edge of what happens. More importantly, the network’s political experts, i.e. reporters, come at listeners every afternoon and report on the news and, better yet, explain how it all happened. In politics, as is the case in most aspects of life, the news does not occur in a vacuum.
Hosts: White House correspondent Tamara Keith, political correspondent Scott Detrow, political correspondent Asma Khalid, and congressional correspondent Susan Davis. They’re joined by a rotating cast of well-versed reporters from the network who are dialed in on a myriad of issues that are central to each day’s reports.
The Guests: Runs the gamut, depending on the expertise required to discuss the day’s events.
Why you have to listen: NPR has a vast horde of reporters and editors with a collective level of experience that goes into the hundreds of years. Their digging into the news of the day comes from a point of palpable passion for politics, and it shows during every moment.
Listen to The NPR Politics Podcast
2. Podcast: Political Gabfest
Political Gabfest, besides having a fantastic title, is exactly what it appears it would be. Just a bunch of well-versed folks talking the day’s events and how they will impact the 2020 election. The wildly popular weekly show is from Slate.
Host: David Plotz is the editor at large at Business Insider, while Emily Bazelon serves as a staff writer at The New York Times, and John Dickerson is a 60 Minutes correspondent who also hosts his own podcasts, Whistlestop and On Her Trail. The terrific trio join forces each week to bring the presidential campaign to a listening population in a manner that finds “sharp political analysis meets informal and irreverent discussion.”
The Guests: Have included economist Gene Sperling, epidemiologist Amesh Adalja, and A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America authors and Washington Post writers Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig.
Why you have to listen: One can see why it’s been voted “Favorite Political Podcast” by Apple Podcasts listeners due to the entertaining and electric chemistry of the hosts, coupled with their astute guests. Late-night host and political satirist Stephen Colbert has even said of Political Gabfest, “Everybody should listen to the Slate Political Gabfest.”
Listen to Political Gabfest
3. Podcast: Campaign HQ with David Plouff
When tuning in to a presidential election podcast, many listeners do not simply want a host and guests to address each issue and explain it through a lens worn by a Democrat or a Republican … or even a Libertarian. Who better to ignore the spin and deliver—or to bring “just the facts,” as Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet—than a former campaign manager.
Host: David Plouffe served as President Barack Obama’s campaign manager. The guy knows a thing or two about not only what goes on during a presidential campaign but also possesses the insight to dissect the day’s news in a manner that even political novices can make sense of. The key with Plouffe is that he cuts through the PR and delivers the core message of each candidate.
The Guests: As the former campaign chairman of a successful run for the White House, the Rolodex of Plouffe is immense, and he isn’t shy about tapping those colleagues and friends to enhance his show. He has guests from all walks of political life—from fellow campaign managers to campaigns’ state and local directors and even the field organizers who are working on the ground and have an ear closest to where the news occurs. Recent episodes featured Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost his bid to be Florida’s governor, Jim Messina, who is a political strategist, and Stefan Smith, who served as the online engager for former candidate Pete Buttigieg. The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson added his two cents to a recent discussion on that viral Mourning in America ad put out by Republicans seeking to end Trump’s run.
Why you have to listen: Each show not only reports on what was said or espoused by each candidate but where they are saying what. Location matters in business, and it is no different in politics. Why did Biden visit Ohio? Why did Trump choose Mississippi to announce “XYZ?” Those questions are answered by Plouffe and his guests. It also serves as a quite nice workout for the brain.
Listen to Campaign HQ with David Plouff
4. Podcast: The Electorette Podcast
A decidedly female perspective on politics is at the heart of the mission for The Electorette Podcast. It’s not just feminism through which this podcast projects its views on today’s headlines and political movements. It features the host interviewing a cornucopia of guests from all walks of life who share one common bond—their passion for voting rights, reproductive rights, equality, and climate change.
Host: Jennifer Taylor-Skinner was inspired to create her podcast after the election of 2016. As she states on her website, “What I do want to accomplish is further the sense of community and strength experienced during the Women’s Marches around the world, provide some solutions for getting out of this mess and to bring brilliant minds (lady minds) together, so that together we can move towards creating the open, welcoming democracy that we know America truly is.”
The Guests: They run the gamut from policymakers and authors to experts in the various fields that the podcast brings to the presidential campaign table. For example, Carol Anderson shared her insight on voter suppression that is as real in 2020 as it was in the past, and Needa Tanden joined to add her expertise on the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh.
Why you have to listen: Fresh on the heels of the 2016 election, what with its first female major-party candidate Hillary Clinton running for president, a podcast that looks at the female side of the electoral coin is a no-brainer. Between Taylor-Skinner’s informative delivery and command of the material and her avalanche of empowered and inspiring guests, The Electorette Podcast gets our vote.
Listen to The Electorette Podcast
5. Podcast: Inside Politics
If you are a fan of the CNN stalwart with its magic wall election breakdown host John King, then The Inside Politics Podcast is for you. Insanely charismatic, King took that magic wall of his and dissected it down to a roundtable of political geniuses who discuss the day’s political events. Given the approaching presidential election, King and his roundtable of excellence are just the ones you want to interpret the daily presidential soundbites into comprehensively understandable reality.
Host: John King has been with CNN since 1997. He was tapped to serve as their senior White House correspondent from 1999 to 2005. Since then, he has been moved up to chief national correspondent. His existence on the news network, when it comes to politics, is ever-present.
The Guests: A riveting roundtable of well-sourced reporters from publications as esteemed as The New York Times, The Washington Post, AP, Huffington Post, and Politico. Also, of course, a bevy of brilliant minds from the CNN political bullpen.
Why you have to listen: Because this is a host, in King, who is so ingrained in national politics that he keenly knows the makeup of every single district in the country and the way that they vote or how the trends are moving, affecting whether those districts go blue, red or are firmly purple. There’s no one like him in the biz.
6. Podcast: Presidential
This presidential podcast is one of the best, due to its deep roots. That’s right, Presidential not only looks at the current election but documents how previous presidents reached the highest office in the land, as well as their responses to crises and how each utilized the role of commander in chief in varying manners. Nothing gives you a sense of how the future can be shaped like looking back into the past.
Host: Lillian Cunningham is a Washington Post reporter, who also hosts their Moonrise and Constitutional podcasts for the publication. She scored a 2017 Webby Award for the best documentary podcast in 2017, and the Moonrise podcast was named one of the best podcasts of 2019 by Apple Podcasts. She has also won two Emmy Awards for her video interview series.
The Guests: A slew of Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers, such as David McCullough and living legend Doris Kearns Goodwin, plus the icon of political journalism, Washington Post stalwart Bob Woodward (of All the President’s Men fame).
Why you have to listen: This Washington Post-produced podcast is as informative as it is enlightening and entertaining. Learning the social and political climates that produced all 45 of our presidents is a heady task, one Cunningham and her team handle with grace and panache.
Listen to Presidential
7. Podcast: The Ticket: Politics from The Atlantic
That’s The Ticket! This broadcast from The Atlantic is as wholly informed as one would think it could be coming from that esteemed publication. The host hits the road each week, spanning this great nation, to discover and report on the issues that matter to Americans most as they head to the polls in November. The guest list is nothing to sneeze at either!
Host: Isaac Dovere is a lead political correspondent for The Atlantic and a former Chief Washington Correspondent for Politico.
The Guests: Run the gamut from presidential candidate Andrew Yang to potential VP pick for Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams. Also appearing was the former governor of California and movie superstar, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Why you have to listen: Because there is a whole lot going on here, and Dovere manages it all like that old balancing plates act on The Ed Sullivan Show. By having the host frequently out in the field, he is firmly putting his finger on the political pulse of America. Toss in those well-rounded guests, and The Ticket gets political junkies going every time.
Listen to The Ticket: Politics from The Atlantic
8. Podcast: The Michael Steele Podcast
The former Republican National Committee Chairman and Maryland Lt. Governor leads the podcast named for him. Each week he oversees a “barbershop style” discussion about the items that matter to that day and time as we as a nation ramp-up to another presidential election.
Host: Michael Steele, with his resume, certainly has the credentials to carry on some insightful conversations that center on the presidential campaign, as well as the stories that are grabbing headlines. A lifetime of work in politics has fostered an individual who is capable of seeing both sides of the political coin—judging by his continual work as a political analyst on MSNBC, a left-leaning network.
The Guests: The sentiment should probably be, who hasn’t been on Steele’s show? Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin frequently stops by, as does Elie Mystal, The Nation’s Justice Correspondent. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are regulars, such as California rep Eric Swalwell and cabinet members…such as Susan Rice, former Ambassador to the U.N. and former U.S. National Security Advisor. Don’t be surprised if an episode features Steve Schmidt, a former senior advisor to President George W. Bush.
Why you have to listen: Seeking solutions is not just a political slogan, it is exactly what listeners get every single week with Steele on his self-monikered show.
Listen to The Michael Steele Podcast
9. Podcast: FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast
FiveThirtyEight is a website that has been in the analyzing and prediction politics business since its founding in March 2008. Their track record is uncanny, and therefore, when it was announced that they would produce a podcast, FiveThirtyEight: Politics Podcast, instantly it became must-listen political ear candy.
Host: Nate Silver is the editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight (and founder), as well as a revered statistician and writer who dissects and predicts baseball and elections. He also serves as a special correspondent for ABC News.
The Guests: A whos-who of insiders and experts that Silver has an uncanny rapport with as the guests’ expertise is customized for not only the topics at hand but the wider political and societal scope of the issues. Stand-outs include former Bureau of Labor Statistics Erica Groshen, who shed light on the skyrocketing unemployment numbers, and Professor Crystal Watson of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who chimed in on when it would be safe for the U.S. to open back up after the Coronavirus.
Why you have to listen: Prediction perfection, or practically close to it. 538 as a publication is seen by many in the business as the authority on polling and interpreting that polling in a concise and intelligent manner. The podcast mirrors the site and is filled to the brim with information that is easily digested and processed in a manner that couldn’t make politics more approachable.
Listen to Five Thirty Eight Politics Podcast
10. Podcast: With Friends Like These
Americans are more divided than ever, so much so that our response to an international pandemic seems to fall along a fault line that is purely political. The purpose of With Friends Like These is to encourage a civil discourse between opposing sides of the American socio-political landscape. It focuses on “what divides us and what doesn’t.” One could argue it is one of the more important of our best presidential podcasts as its entire modus operandi is American unity—at a time where we could use it the most. A more muted tone is reserved for discussion that hopes to foster the sentiment that there is more that unites us than splits us. Both sides of an issue are tackled in a manner where listening is the key to finding common ground.
Host: Ana Marie Cox is a culture critic and founding editor of political blog Wonkette. She recently served as the Senior Political Correspondent for MTV News and was featured as an interviewer in The New York Times Magazine.
The Guests: Recently featured souls include Dan Drezner, author of Toddler in Chief, Lincoln Group Founder Rick Wilson, plus Ed Schupman, manager of the Native Knowledge 360 Initiative, and Robert Jay Lifton, a psychiatrist, and author whose work focuses on the psychological causes of political violence.
Why you have to listen: Balance, that’s the key to With Friends Like These. It is a podcast that is attempting to foster civility in our discourse, something that has been sorely lacking in recent elections.
Listen to With Friends Like These
11. Podcast: The Daily
The New York Times podcast covers presidential elections with the type of professionalism that has inhabited their pages since they debuted in 1851. What else is nice about this particular presidential campaign podcast is it is brief enough to start and finish on your commute or if you only have a mere 20 minutes during your day. Twenty minutes and lots to learn. For that reason, and so much more, it is one of the most popular political podcasts in America, garnering a million listeners a day.
Host: Michael Barbaro is well respected in his field, and People even named him to their 17 sexiest newsmen alive! In 2018, he received the DuPont-Columbia University Award, one of the most prestigious awards one can earn in his field.
The Guests: Fellow New York Times journalists that come from all corners of the professional expertise spectrum.
Why you have to listen: They always say that being first is everything. That can also apply to The Daily from The New York Times. Not only is each podcast episode 20 minutes, but it is also ready to go for the world at 6 a.m. every weekday.
Listen to The Daily
12. Podcast: Left, Right & Center
The revered KCRW, the public radio station located in Santa Monica, California, has produced a presidential podcast that paints itself as the patron saint of the podcast political middle. On Left, Right & Center, listeners get just that. They analyze issues and national attention demands from the point of view of every single spoke on the political wheel.
Host: Josh Barro, who promises to be the “center,” aka the soul who stands between his left-leaning and right-rallying guests, brings years of expertise to the mic. He is a business columnist for New York magazine, who also had his work published in The New York Times, Business Insider, and Bloomberg. Joining him is Rich Lowry, editor and former national political reporter for the National Review.
The Guests: They include economist Jason Furman, cognitive scientist Hugo Mercier, Dr. Ashish Jha of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News.
Why you have to listen: In this world that has broken American down to blue, red, and purple, who better to include in the best presidential podcasts than one that inherently addresses that in its moniker? Barro and his band of brilliant guests frame the road to the White House in such a manner that the ultimate result emerges, and that is the truth.
Listen to Left, Right & Center
2. It’s Biden
The countdown has begun for the 2020 presidential election. These 12 best presidential campaign podcasts hope to enlighten and inspire each and every single American to vote in November and go into that voting booth with as much well-researched information as humanly possible.
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