Special Coverage: Election Night 2018
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
From NPR News this is Election Night Live.
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CHANG: Polls are now closed in half of the states, and we are watching the results roll in. I'm Ailsa Chang.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And I'm Michel Martin. Voters are engaged. In some states they've cast early ballots in record numbers. In many polling places today, they've waited in long lines to vote. But are they turning out to support President Donald Trump's methods and political agenda or to check them?
CHANG: Another big question tonight - will the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans? And if so, by how many seats? They need to turn at least 23 red districts blue.
MARTIN: One state in play this year - Pennsylvania, where re-drawn House districts are expected to put a dent in the GOP's numbers.
CHANG: We're also watching the heated race for Georgia governor. Republican Brian Kemp is running against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who, if she wins, would become the first African-American woman elected governor in the country.
MARTIN: Plus, our eyes are on how the Senate toss-up races land.
CHANG: Stay with us. And with us now is NPR's congressional correspondent Scott Detrow, who has been following all the results as they are coming in tonight. We are going to be going to Scott throughout today. What do you know so far, Scott?
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Well, let's start with the House because that's the biggest story tonight, and it looks like Democrats are on the verge of flipping their first Republican-held seat. This is in Virginia, in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where Democrat Jennifer Wexton has a large lead over Barbara Comstock, the incumbent Republican. This is the exact type of district Democrats need to carry to win back control of the House - one of those 25 districts...
DETROW: ...That Hillary Clinton won in 2016 but that sent a Republican to Congress.
CHANG: We're especially looking for early indications, like these suburban districts, that could end up being wrested from Republicans to Democrats.
CHANG: These are exactly those types of districts you're talking about, here in Virginia.
DETROW: They tend to be the suburbs, high income, high education. And a neighboring district is a pretty close race right now, and that's where Republican incumbent Dave Brat is narrowly leading Democrat Abigail Spanberger. One more key race to talk about that's been pretty interesting is in Kentucky, in the Lexington area, where Republican Andy Barr is actually trailing very narrowly by about a point - Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, who is one of the Democrats who really went viral, raised a ton of money online with ads showing her service. She was a veteran. She was a fighter pilot. You know, this is the exact type of candidate Democrats really pushed forward to have in a lot of races - women, first-time candidates with military backgrounds. This is a district that Republicans should be winning by large margins...
DETROW: ...But the Democrat's in the lead.
CHANG: I just want to zoom out a little bit, Scott. If you could just give us a quick picture of the two maps facing Democrats this year. I mean, one chamber looks really good for them - the House. And then we have the Senate, where Democrats maybe have a very narrow path to retaking the Senate, but Republicans are expected to keep the majority.
DETROW: They are. And that's because, while the entire House of Representatives is up, only a third of the Senate is up. And this happened to be a year where far more Democrats were running for re-election than Republicans. And those Democrats were not only just running for re-election, they were running for a re-election by and large in places where Donald Trump won in 2016 and remains popular.
CHANG: So what is the narrow path for Democrats. If they were to retake the Senate, what are the states that are in play that have to be flipping to Democrats for that to happen?
DETROW: Well, first they need to not lose any seats or only lose one or two of these seats where they're playing defense. Right now they're ahead narrowly in Florida, where Democrat Bill Nelson is up, but they're behind by large margins in Indiana, where Democrat Joe Donnelly is trailing. So they need to play defense. And they need to win - depending on how many seats they lose, they need to pick up Republican-held seats in Arizona, Nevada and then - much longer shots - Tennessee or Texas.
CHANG: OK. All right. And I understand that we have Steve Israel, former Democratic congressman from New York, on the line with us. Michel?
STEVE ISRAEL: Good evening. How are you guys?
MARTIN: Congressman, we're great. Thank you so much for joining us. This is Michel Martin.
ISRAEL: Sure. Hi, Michel. How are you?
MARTIN: I'm very well. I'm better now that I'm talking to you. And just for the benefit of our listeners, we're going to speak to you now. You're a former Democratic congressman from New York. You're also the former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And you have had the experience of trying to get Democrats in office. So the first question I wanted to ask for you - do you think that the Democrats played it right? I mean, they tried to nationalize this race. They tried to be competitive everywhere. Was that the right decision?
ISRAEL: Well, the Democrats absolutely played it right. And here are the strategic imperatives that they made early on in this cycle and carried through. One was they had this melodrama about having this national template of a message. They actually rejected that. They nationalized Trump, but they said to their local candidates, don't talk about one national message, talk about what counts in your district. So they allowed - in 70 competitive districts, they allowed their local candidates to enunciate local messaging.
And that was important. The second thing that they did was they helped guide their candidates to front-load money against the onslaught of Republican superPAC funds. I chaired the D-Triple-C. One-quarter of the gray hairs on my head sprung up when Republican superPACs, in the very last two weeks of a cycle, just came in with tsunamis of money and wiped our candidates off their feet. What the Democrats did is they made sure that their candidates were able to front-load those funds so that that superPAC Republican money at the end just wasn't effective, and that explains the momentum that we're seeing even now.
MARTIN: Can I ask you about the Republican strategy of making Nancy Pelosi a major figure in this election race. I mean, in lots of races around the country there were ads featuring, you know, Candidate X or Candidate D with Nancy Pelosi and really making her the - one of the - basically one of the opponents in this race in the same way that, I think you would argue, the Democrats nationalized Donald Trump as an opponent in this race. I think Republicans are trying to put Nancy Pelosi on the ballot. How do you think that that has played?
ISRAEL: I think it was a mistake. And it's not that many candidates did that. It's not that many Republican candidates did it. It's that every Republican candidate in a competitive district showed those images of Nancy Pelosi and talked about those horrific San Francisco Nancy Pelosi values. And here's what we learned from lots of polling data that I saw. Voters just weren't making their judgments based on Nancy Pelosi. They were making their judgments based on Donald Trump.
Now, why is that? Every midterm election in the history of this country is a referendum on the president and the president's party. There have only been three instances since the Civil War where a president didn't lose seats in the midterm election. So these are fundamentally - it's not about Pelosi. It's not about one speaker or another speaker or minority leader. These midterm elections are fundamentally a referendum on the president, and this line of attack that Nancy Pelosi was going to be speaker of the House just fell short. I saw all these polls where it was the last concern that voters had in terms of motivating the decisions.
MARTIN: Congressman, lots to talk about here. My colleague Mara Liasson would like to ask you a question.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Congressman Israel.
ISRAEL: Sure. Hey, Mara.
LIASSON: Hi, how are you doing?
ISRAEL: I'm well.
LIASSON: I wanted to get back to money for a minute, and I wanted you to talk about this green wave - at least that's what Republicans are calling it - where, I think for the first time that I can think of, individual Democratic candidates, challengers actually outraised their Republican opponents - something like 50 of them. Why did that happen and do you think that's going to be a permanent feature, something that will happen in the next couple of cycles too?
ISRAEL: I don't know that it's going to be a permanent feature, but it clearly was an overriding feature in this midterm election. Look, Democrats began this cycle by recruiting really good candidates. And there was this intense energy gathering - I mean, energy like I've never seen before in a midterm election, all propelled by President Trump and his verbiage and his policies. The recruiting generated energy. The energy generated money. And I will tell you, when I chaired the D-Triple-C, you know, towards the end of the cycle, we were like trying to turn over couch cushions trying to find spare nickels for our candidates.
As you know, Mara, in this case - in the case of this midterm, the money was just pouring in, and it was pouring in at the grassroots level. It was pouring in in online donations. That, I think, is going to be one of the key stories, one of the key takeaways from this midterm election, that for the first time since Citizens United, Democrats and their candidates were able to offset that Republican superPAC money by grassroots fundraising, low-donor fundraising, online fundraising. Those superPACs tried to save the Republican majority in the House at the end. But at that point, it was just too late.
MARTIN: Congressman, can I ask you to stand by for a minute because Scott Detrow...
MARTIN: ...Has some more calls for us. And then after that - that we might have some more questions for you. So can I ask you to stand by? Scott Detrow is our congressional correspondent. He's going to tell us more about what we know.
DETROW: Sure, a lot of these are races that the outcome is what we expected, but still worth talking about them. In Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley has won her race - again, as expected. But she becomes the first African-American woman to represent the state in the House of Representatives.
Democrats are hoping for a lot more firsts like that one tonight as the night goes on. We also have several Senate races that have been called shortly after the polls closed. Following Democrats all going back to continue to represent their seats in Connecticut. Chris Murphy's winning according to the Associated Press, Democrat Tom Carper in Delaware, Ben Cardin in Maryland, Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. And in Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse is going to win his race. Again, this is all according to Associated Press projections.
CHANG: And none of those are surprises of course.
DETROW: No, which - the key to that is the fact that they were called so quickly after the polls closed.
DETROW: This is as expected. We also have - here's an outlier. In Massachusetts, Republican - Republican Governor Charlie Baker is winning a second term. He is an incredibly popular Republican governor. He has really put a lot of distance between himself and President Trump. And in a year where, first of all, Republicans were often - often punished by their party for separating themselves from Trump - and two Republicans may be losing a lot tonight - Baker did the opposite. But because it's Massachusetts, it's working out for him well.
CHANG: I wanted to...
MARTIN: Can I just ask...
CHANG: Oh, sure.
MARTIN: Can I just ask the congressman one more question...
MARTIN: ...Because the Ayanna Pressley race raises this for me, for a lot of people. There were - Democrats got some surprises during primary season. There were a lot of people who came out of seemingly nowhere. Although, they would argue that they really weren't coming out of nowhere. They were actually coming out of different areas of expertise, like community organizing and so forth - who surprised some of the Democratic incumbents.
So now the question, Congressman, becomes, like, who is their leader? Is Nancy Pelosi their leader? Some of the people ran with the argument that they were going to ask for a change. There were some incumbents who said that it was time for the current congressional leadership, the current Democratic leadership to step off. What's your sense of it, Congressman?
ISRAEL: Well, I would say two things. First of all, when you look at the macro-feel, the path for Democrats to the majority doesn't go through bright-blue districts. We've won all the bright-blue districts we can win. There are no more on the board for us to take. The path actually goes through more purple districts.
I mean, the fact that we've just flipped Virginia 10; we flipped a Republican district in Florida; we may flip this district in Lexington, Ky.; we may actually flip a Virginia district with - currently represented by Dave Brat. Those districts are not blue districts. They are purple districts.
The new Democratic majority - assuming my party wins the majority, and I believe they will - is actually going to shift not to the left-of-center, but to the right-of-center. The expansion in the Democratic caucus will be in more moderate districts, and that caucus is going to have to govern - in order to get re-elected, we'll have to govern in a way that appeals to crossover swing voters in those purple districts.
Now, the question becomes, who is best equipped to lead them? Look, a lot of people kind of have a sense - you know, a lot of members of Congress have a sense of a particular leader's - perceived weaknesses that that leader has. But they're not quite sure who's going to replace that person. And so, for example, in the year of the woman, why would the Democrats jettison a woman from leadership? Nancy Pelosi has raised virtually all of the major money that has come to House Democrats. She's traveled all over the country.
I think at the end of the day, House Democrats are going to want to stay with her for two reasons. Number one, because she's performed well. She delivered the majority. But secondly, because she can usher in that next generation. She can help groom that next generation to take the party into the future. So I think Pelosi is actually going to prevail in this leadership race.
MARTIN: Our colleague Tamara Keith has a question for you, Congressman.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: I have another Pelosi question for you, which is, she has, in a couple of instances, described herself as a transitional leader. What do you take that to mean?
ISRAEL: I think she is indicating to her caucus that she doesn't plan to hold the gavel forever, that she understands that there needs to be a replenishment in the leadership of the Democratic Party and that she wants to help lead that - you know, that process. She wants to help create a path for the next generation of Democrats.
But the thing is, you need some time to do that. I mean, you've got to find the right people, the people who can keep the caucus together, who can negotiate with the White House, negotiate with Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, who are able to bring the resources that Democrats need. You can't just cut that off and find a new person. What I think she wants to do is make sure that she's guiding the caucus to new leadership in the near future.
CHANG: Scott Detrow, it looked like you are seeing something come in. We've got about 20 seconds for you to update us.
DETROW: Just to put some context to what he was talking about before, the other district the Democrats seemed to be in a good shape to possibly flip is an open seat in Miami. Democrat Donna Shalala with - with a lead of several points there, with more than 60 percent of precincts reporting.
CHANG: All right. You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Ailsa Chang and joining us now is Jesse Hunt. He is the national press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Welcome.
JESSE HUNT: Thanks for having me.
CHANG: So how does the night look for Republicans in the House, you think so far?
HUNT: Right now, it's shaping up just about the way we expected, extremely tight in several areas. The battlefield isn't all that unique to what we were expecting coming into the night. We're seeing some races go in the Democrats' category. Those races were frankly low-hanging fruit. Those are districts that Hillary Clinton, in one case down in Florida, won by nearly 20. Democrats had to spend several million dollars in order to pick that seat up there. That's exactly what we were hoping for.
Now, turning the - kind of the page a little bit, looking at some of the most competitive areas, Kentucky 6 was the first race to have polls close tonight. Right now, it's extremely competitive. Based on the data that we're seeing, Amy McGrath, the Democrat did not perform as well in the city of Lexington in early vote that she needed to in order to be successful. I think that's why you're seeing it - state - as tight as it is right now. The same thing could be said down in Virginia 7 in the Dave Brat race...
HUNT: ...Going against Abigail Spanberger. Right now...
CHANG: I want to talk...
HUNT: ...It's extremely competitive.
CHANG: Yeah, I want to talk to you about districts like Brat's district. I mean, Republicans really need to hang onto seats in these more affluent, suburban districts in order to retain the majority in the House.
But let me ask you this. I mean, President Trump has been very determined in these last several weeks to really pound home this message against illegal immigration, about the caravan, sending troops to the border, talking about ending birthright citizenship. Did that rhetoric complicate the challenge facing Republicans in the House?
HUNT: We saw immigration emerge as a key issue among both Republican and Independent voters across the battleground districts that we were focused on. Democrat - the Democratic agenda of abolishing ICE, of sanctuary cities, does not appeal to mainstream voters whatsoever.
CHANG: Right, but I'm talking about...
HUNT: I think what we're...
CHANG: ...Suburban districts where you're trying to appeal - you're trying to appeal to Independent or moderate women voters. Does that rhetoric play well in those areas?
HUNT: Absolutely. When you're - when it comes to talking about abolishing ICE and sanctuary cities...
CHANG: Oh, no, no. I mean, President Trump's rhetoric about the caravan, about ending birthright citizenship, about sending troops to the border - that kind of stuff.
HUNT: That - I - voters do care about safe and secure communities. Ultimately, they look at border security as being an issue of national security. And voters want to make sure that people, particularly Independent voters as well, are attuned to the concerns about what's happening at the - at the border. That is an absolute fact that we're seeing among, again, Independent and Republican voters.
CHANG: I'm going to turn to money. You know, we've been seeing this as maybe the most expensive midterm election cycle in history. The vast bulk of the spending has been by Democratic candidates. As someone from the NRCC, I mean, why do you think Democrats were able to spend so much more money than Republicans this cycle?
HUNT: Without question, Democrats had significant levels of enthusiasm from day one. Starting in 2017, in the early months, we saw some of the protests, the town halls. Those same people that were showing up at town halls were very much motivated to contribute whatever money they had to some of these Democratic candidates.
That's something that Republicans, including our organization, had to contend with all cycle. And it's something I think Republicans are going to have to contend with going forward. We need to have an answer for it.
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CHANG: All right. You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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CHANG: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Ailsa Chang.
MARTIN: And I'm Michel Martin. It is still early. Here's what we're watching so far. Democrats are closing in on flipping a Republican-held seat in Virginia. The magic number for them to take control of the House - 23. Florida's polls have closed, and there are two big races there - one for the Senate. It's between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and the state's current governor, Rick Scott - and the other race, the contest to succeed Scott, it's between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis, who has been endorsed by President Trump.
So we're going to go back to Scott Detrow, NPR congressional correspondent, to tell us how's Florida looking right now and whatever else you want to tell us.
DETROW: I know this is going to be really surprising to you because we're talking about the state of Florida, but both of these statewide races are incredibly close.
MARTIN: (Laughter). Oh.
DETROW: It's - in the governor's race, Republican Ron DeSantis at 50 percent, Andrew Gillum, the Democrat, at 49 percent. And in the Senate race, it is just about exactly the same. It is 50/50 between Democrat Bill Nelson, the incumbent and the incumbent governor, Rick Scott, who's running for Senate.
So two races, incredibly close statewide - pretty much how Florida has gone for decades whether it's a presidential race, whether it's a statewide race.
In Miami, two districts worth keeping an eye on that Democrats haved focused their attention on trying to flip. And that is an open seat currently held - an open seat where the Democrat running is Donna Shalala, the former Bill Clinton administration Cabinet secretary. She is up 52 percent to 46 percent for the Republican, Maria Elvira Salazar. That's with about 75 percent reporting.
A nearby district just south of Miami, Republican Carlos Curbelo is the incumbent. He has faced fierce challenge all year from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. And it is 51-49 for Mucarsel-Powell right now.
MARTIN: Do you have any sense of whether the recent hurricane, extreme weather there has affected the race? I mean, it just - it's just so hard to know. What is your sense of it?
DETROW: It's hard to tell. I do know that Miles Parks, a reporter who's been focusing on voting all along, has focused on the fact that the state really did put a lot of resources into making sure that people in areas that saw a lot of devastation were able to cast their ballot.
There was a lot of early voting in Florida. We saw a big turnout for early voting in Florida. I'm not sure exactly how this ended up shaking out, but I do know that they had about a couple of weeks to work on this and try to make sure that absentee ballot was extended - vote - early voting was extended.
MARTIN: And I have just one more question for you, and again, I apologize if I'm asking you to - to go out of your wheelhouse. There was a lot of attention about whether displaced Puerto Ricans were going to show up in this election - I mean, people who had moved to Florida, had family in Florida, who just found the conditions in Puerto Rico untenable.
There was outreach effort directed at them, and there were also efforts directed at encouraging them not to participate. And so I just wanted to ask if we have any sense of how this particular constituency is - is - is - what they're doing in this year.
DETROW: I have not seen the breakdown of numbers or exit polls in terms of how turnout was and what the breakdown is for voting. But you're absolutely right. Democrats paid a lot of attention trying to - to - to get in touch with these Puerto Ricans and trying to mobilize them and get them to the polls in Florida.
Interestingly, Pennsylvania was the No. 2 state where a lot of people from Puerto Rico relocated to. In both of those states, the DNC, the DCCC which is the the the arm of running House races, worked really hard to get in touch with those voters.
MARTIN: So it will be something interesting to watch. We're going to go now to Tom Cole. He's a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, and he serves in the leadership as the deputy majority whip. Congressman Cole, thank you so much for joining us.
TOM COLE: Hey. Great to be with you.
MARTIN: Well, how's your night going so far?
COLE: Well, pretty good here in Oklahoma. I think all our members here will win, but obviously disappointed about my friend Barbara Comstock. And - but there's some good news from Virginia. Looks like Virginia 5 has gone Republican. A little good news in Florida - we thought there was a challenge in the open DeSantis seat. Looks like Mike Waltz has put that away.
So we certainly know we're going to lose seats. I think it's still an open question as to whether or not we can retain the majority.
MARTIN: The question that a lot of my colleagues have been asking throughout the evening and actually for the last couple of days is whether the president's message helped or hurt you in the last couple of weeks. What's your take on that?
COLE: In my view, it helps. Look, I think the people that were opposed to the president have been super charged up since literally the day after the election. We've seen that in a succession of, you know, closer special elections than we would have liked.
So I think they were going to be there. I think the real, you know, issue from the president's standpoint was to wake up his own supporters. And, look, you couldn't have asked him were campaign any harder or do anymore.
So, again, I think on ballots - I've talked to a lot of my colleagues today around the country, including people in very tough races - they think it was helpful. They don't think - if they lose, they don't think that's the reason why they lost.
MARTIN: Well, traditionally, though, presidents do work hard for their party in the midterms. So it's a question of, not how much he - how hard he worked, but how he worked. And I think that would be the question...
COLE: Well, actually, traditionally presidents...
MARTIN: ...Is whether his message was the right one.
COLE: I was going to say presidents don't always work all that hard at midterms. I can just tell you. They know they're likely to lose, and there are - a lot of them are risk-averse. And, look, I think if you actually looked at the schedules and compared President Obama, President Bush and President Trump, you'd find Trump has actually worked harder.
So, you know, you can argue one way or the other as to whether it's had impact, but I will tell you, most of the members I've talked to think it's been positive and been helpful to them. And, you know, I think the proof in the pudding will be what happens in the United States Senate tonight.
The House, we know, is very much at risk. That's traditional. You know, midterms are bad. If the president - even - even on a favorable map - and we certainly have that - manages to hold the Senate, pick up a couple of seats, that's the best of split decision. So I would suggest his involvement's been very valuable.
MARTIN: Congressman, I'm going to ask you to stand by for a minute. My colleague Scott Detrow has some calls for us, and then my colleague Tam Keith has a question for you. Can you stand by for...
MARTIN: Can you stay with us?
COLE: Yeah. I'd be honored, sure.
MARTIN: Scott Detrow.
DETROW: You might not like this update, but according to the Associated Press, Democrats have picked off their first Republican-held House district. They've now netted one seat. They need to net 20 seats - 23 seats to retake control of the House of Representatives.
This is that race in Miami we were just talking about, the open seat. Democrat Donna Shalala, she was the Health and Human Services secretary during Bill Clinton's administration. She will be going to Congress from Miami. And I think this is a good point to point out that, tonight, NPR is using the Associated Press's projections. Other networks may be calling races at different times. We're following the AP's lead. This is the first flipped seat according to AP projections.
MARTIN: And Tamara Keith has a question for you, Congressman.
KEITH: Yeah, Congressman, this is - this district in particular is one of many where the incumbent Republican retired rather than face re-election. The White House is telling me that, you know, if they - if Republicans lose the House, then one reason for that is all of these retirements. And they - they suggest that the president has - has no - it's not the president's fault that all these people are retiring. So what is your read on all of the retirements and how they're affecting tonight?
COLE: Well, I think - well, first of all, we would be better off with fewer open seats. There's no question about that. Second, though, I think you have to look at why people retired. Now, let's just take the seat in question, where actually we ran a lot stronger than we should have. That was the worst congressional seat held by a Republican for Donald Trump in the last election. But Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who's actually a very good friend of mine who's a retiring incumbent, had served in Congress 30 years and had, you know, been a committee chairman. There was no more prospect for that. At some point, they really (laughter) allow you to go home.
COLE: And people like, you know, let's say Bob Goodlatte, 26 years in Virginia, Lamar Alexander, 17 terms in Texas - both of those people have been chairman of two different committees - no further prospect. So those are the ones that are pretty natural.
So, again I think the president drew a bad hand in the House in terms of the number of people that were going to retire anyway, just like he drew a good hand in the United States Senate by virtue of the map. So, you know, that's just politics. Sometimes the draw works for you - worked against the president in the House. Sometimes, again, it's the other way around. And in the Senate, he got pretty lucky in terms of which seats were up for - in the midterm.
CHANG: Scott Detrow...
MARTIN: Scott Detrow has a couple of other calls for us, Congressman. If you - if you're ready it. You ready for it?
MARTIN: All right.
DETROW: Again, my apologies to the congressman (laughter), but this is the second flipped seat that the Associated Press is projecting. This is that seat in the Washington, D.C., suburbs in Virginia. According to the AP, Democrat Jennifer Wexton, a state senator in Virginia, has unseated Republican Representative Barbara Comstock.
This was a hard-fought district - TVs in D.C. just absolutely blanketed with ads. This is another one of those districts that sent a Republican to Congress in 2016 but voted for Hillary Clinton. Democrats need to run - if they run the table on those districts, they have control of the House. This is now two of those districts they've flipped.
CHANG: That brings up the question of all the women running this year. Representative Cole, I have a question for you. I mean, most of the women running this year are Democrats. Why - why do Republicans seem to have a harder time recruiting women as candidates?
COLE: Yeah, I don't know that we have a harder time. I just think that's a larger Democratic demographic. And, again, I think I'll give Speaker Pelosi some credit here. You see an historic achievement there on their side of the aisle - first woman speaker ever.
But, you know, obviously in this case, we didn't lose because we didn't have a woman candidate. We had a very accomplished woman candidate who'd been a state representative, who had won two terms in Congress. In fact, it was one of the best and hardest-working member. I think this is one of those ones, again, the district has been working against this.
Well, obviously in this case we didn't lose because we didn't have a woman candidate. We had a very accomplished woman candidate who had been a state representative, who had won two terms in Congress. In fact, he was one of the best and hardest-working member. I think this is one of those ones - again, the district has been working against us. Barbara ran 13 or 14 points ahead of President Trump in that district. And this is sadly - even though we had a very good incumbent who was very well-supported and ran a great race, this is the kind of one in an off-year when the wind's in your face instead of at your back, you're going to lose.
CHANG: Well, I just want to put my finger on something, you know, that's sort of the elephant in the room on this issue - is this is the year of #MeToo, and, you know, there have been allegations. A lot of women have been fired up by the allegations this year against numerous prominent men. President Trump himself has fended off many allegations against him. Do you think that anger, that anger that has built up across the country among women, has made it even harder for Republicans to recruit candidates? I mean, with respect to...
COLE: I don't know if it's - what? Why? I mean...
CHANG: Well, I'm talking about President Trump. He's said that - you know, particularly during the confirmation battle over Brett Kavanaugh - President Trump, I mean, he made some statements about, I could relate to that. It's really hard. I too have been a target of such allegations. You don't know what it's like sitting there in front of the TV until you're on the other side of those allegations. That kind of rhetoric, do you think it's made it harder to recruit women for Republicans?
COLE: I think the rhetoric in the Kavanaugh deal was over the top on both sides, but much more so on the Democratic side. Now, I quite frankly think the guy - what we're finding out, a number of these accusations - I'm certainly not talking about Dr. Ford - were certainly bogus, and the matter in which it was handled where people held information for eight weeks...
COLE: ...Didn't turn it over to investigators, the FBI.
COLE: So I think that's different, but...
CHANG: Thank you.
COLE: ...In terms of women...
CHANG: Well, if I could just - I'm so sorry, but we want to make sure we have enough time for Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who joins us on the phone now. Welcome.
MARK WARNER: Thank you so much.
CHANG: Well, it looks like it's a big night in Virginia. You're at Senator Tim Kaine's re-election night celebration event right now, I understand?
WARNER: Yes, it's been a great night. And Tim - nobody deserves to win more by a bigger margin. I've known Tim for 38 years. We went to law school together. There's no more decent a person. And I think in a lot of ways this was a reflection on Virginia voting on values. His opponent had a slogan that was like, take Virginia back, which - what does that mean? Taking back to where? - whereas Tim has been, I think, always a forward-looking, somebody who works very well bipartisan.
CHANG: Let me ask you this. I'm so sorry. I'm going to just kind of - because we have two minutes right now. And, you know, Democrats - there are a lot of projections saying that Democrats will retake the House. And I know, obviously, you're in the Senate, but I would like your views on this. If you see Democrats retake the House, do you think that they should be spending a lot of energy next year investigating President Trump?
WARNER: Well, I think we should let the Mueller investigation finish and let the facts get out and then make judgments from there. But I do hope we'll find ways to work together. On the other hand, I think what is driving a lot of this spout - and I see this from Democrats, Independents and Republicans as well - is this president is not - this notion of not acting presidential and being able to get by with it, this action of not being willing to bring our country together after the bombings and the tragedy in Pittsburgh, the kind of language he's used against his opponents - Democratic opponents - the last couple of years, not even his opponents. I've never heard that kind of language at a county supervisor level. And I think this kind of over-the-top approach - so I think there's a feeling that Congress needs to play its constitutional role of providing a check - let me finish, one moment - a check on an unfettered administration. And I think in the intel world, for example, he's appointed very good people, but when this White House continues to acknowledge some of those threats, like election security, you know, I think the country will be better served, regardless of who you support, if there is that constitutional...
CHANG: Nancy Pelosi has said that she might start - if she were to become the next speaker of the House come January - that she would start with making Trump hand over his tax returns. Is that - I mean, what would you say is your top three issues to be addressed?
WARNER: That would not be my top concern.
CHANG: Yeah? What would be your top?
WARNER: But let me just say, I also think that the fact that this person who has bragged about his wealth to get into this job is the first presidential candidate and now president in, what, 50, 60 years that's not abided by the same rules. I mean, the truth is we are a nation of rule of law and Donald Trump is not above the rule of law. I mean, as he tried to act last week, where he thought he could change the constitution with a stroke of his executive power pen, that's just not how our country operates. What I would hope we would focus on is an economic message that realizes the economy is changing, that's more future-focused, and not just...
CHANG: OK. Thanks very much senator.
MARTIN: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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MARTIN: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Michel Martin, and Mac Stipanovich is with us now. He's a GOP strategist.
Mr. Stipanovich, thank you so much for joining us.
MAC STIPANOVICH: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So given everything we know about the historical trends in the midterm, where the party that holds the White House traditionally loses seats and given how things are going so far, we know that it's still early in the evening, but how is that evening going from the Republican standpoint so far?
STIPANOVICH: Well, my perspective is basically the Florida perspective, of course, and it is - let's see, Democrats picked up one seat in Miami in the Congress so far. I don't think most of the others that were in play - I'll say there's only two or three others that are really in play - have been called yet. The governor's race and the Senate race could not be any tighter. I mean, they're within the recount margins, and there's very little vote left out. About half the precincts in Broward County - that's Fort Lauderdale area - are still out, and that's typically heavily Democrat. But right now Governor Scott, who is running for the Senate, is slightly ahead of incumbent Senator Bill Nelson. And Ron DeSantis, who was anointed as the Republican nominee for governor by President Trump, is slightly ahead of Andrew Gillum, the mayor of tallahassee.
STIPANOVICH: So as usual in Florida, it couldn't get any tighter.
MARTIN: So the president made this a referendum on his performance and his agenda in these last couple of days. How do you think that played?
STIPANOVICH: Well, it appears to be, at this point, played out much like 2016 did, where the Democrats went in leading on Election Day, (inaudible) super voters came out on Election Day and closed that margin and produced a narrow win for the president. That's where we're sitting right now in the governor and Senate race.
MARTIN: I'm asking you - I'm interested in the substance of his message, though. I know that a lot of Republicans running races around the country would have liked to have made this a referendum on the economy, and the president had a hard time sort of staying on that message and moved into other areas. Now, you heard - perhaps you heard from Congressman Tom Cole earlier today, he felt that the president, you know, worked hard and he felt it was an effective message. What do you think?
STIPANOVICH: I'm not sure how much the message actually mattered. I think that the people who are voting basically against Donald Trump would have voted against him almost no matter what the message was. And as every - as been proven time and time again, he can say anything he wants, talk about anything he likes and it will not change the idolatry of the Trump base toward him. So I (inaudible) all the emphasis on the caravan and all of the (inaudible) racist rhetoric hurt him? I'm not sure.
MARTIN: All right. Well, your line is deteriorating a little bit, so thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. That's Mac Stipanovich. He's a GOP strategist. Thanks so much for talking to us.
STIPANOVICH: All right. Thank you.
MARTIN: And this is Election Night Live from NPR News.
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CHANG: This is Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Ailsa Chang.
MARTIN: And I'm Michel Martin. Aside from the House races, we are also watching contests for the Senate. Three Democrats are already projected to win their races - Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Tim Kaine of Virginia.
No big surprises yet, but there could be plenty of surprises for the Senate in the night to come. Among the races we are watching closely are an open seat in Arizona. And in North Dakota, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp is in a tough race to defend her seat.
NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow has been watching the races, and he's got the latest for us. Scott, what do you got?
DETROW: Well, so far Democrats have picked up two Republican-held House seats. That gets them a little bit of the way that they need to go. They need to pick up 23 Republican seats total to win back control of the House of Representatives. They picked up a seat in Virginia and a seat in the Miami area in Florida.
And several key states that will play a big role in whether or not the Democrats get the seats they need closed about 40 minutes ago. Results are starting to come in in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Once we get a fuller picture there, that'll really give us a good indication of how the night is looking for the Democrats.
On the Republican side - on the Senate side, rather, things are looking good at the moment for Republicans. Two Democratic - incumbents, rather - two Democratic incumbents in states that President Trump won in 2016 are currently trailing. In Indiana, Joe Donnelly has 41 percent of the vote. His Republican opponent, Mike Braun, has 55 percent of the vote. That's with 44 percent of precincts reporting.
In Florida, Governor Rick Scott is ahead of incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. But it is incredibly close right now. It is a 50/50 race right now with Scott, with about a 30,000-vote lead. That's with about 80 percent of votes reporting. The governor's race in Florida, almost exactly the same. It's going neck and neck, 50/50 right now. Republican Ron DeSantis is ahead of Democrat Andrew Gillum.
CHANG: OK, I want to bring in now Kayleigh McEnany. She's the spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. Welcome.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY: Hi. Thanks for having me.
CHANG: So there's been a lot of talk tonight about how this whole election today could be a referendum on President Trump. We are beginning to see some House seats flip from Republican to Democrat. What should we make of this?
MCENANY: Well, so far, you know, according to The New York Times tracker that I've been looking at it, it's about two seats. Democrats still need to pick up quite a substantial number.
That being said, you know, we've been very clear at the RNC, as has the president, the average loss of House seats, going back to the Great Depression, for a president in his first midterm is 27 seats. So anything short of that, you know, I think that defies the historical odds. It likewise defies the historical odds to make gains in the Senate. That's only happened four times going back to, I believe it was 1932. It's happened four times in a first midterm for a new president. So I'm happy that we're poised to make gains there.
Of course, we want to maintain control of the House. And we're looking closely at these toss-up seats. We need to worry about two-thirds of them. It's going to be a tough night...
MCENANY: ...And a nail-biter.
CHANG: I mean, if the Republicans do hang onto their majority in the Senate, but they lose their majority in the House, we have a president who is facing high disapproval numbers. How will he lead with a divided Congress and an electorate that's not fully behind him?
MCENANY: Well, with - when he did, you know, maintain majorities of both House and the Senate - of course we hope that stays same. But should the House, which, you know, I think you look to the past as a guide what your future will look like. And the president did extend overtures to the Democrats on infrastructure. He said he wants to make that work. He, on immigration, said that he wants to pass legalization for DACA recipients. He put together that plan, as you'll probably recall, the four-part plan.
MCENANY: And among that, with that one prong that was deferential to the Democratic point of view. So...
CHANG: Well, I'm...
MCENANY: ...This is a president that does want compromise. And, you know, I hope he has a willing negotiating partner should Democrats take over.
CHANG: You mentioned infrastructure. I mean, that was touted as a possibility where both sides could work together these first two years in his administration, when Republicans controlled both chambers. Nothing was passed with respect to infrastructure. Congress actually spent a lot of time trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Why do you think they didn't make any other gains on infrastructure besides - was it - was it because they were distracted by the ACA?
MCENANY: Well, I don't think so. I mean, I think, yes, you're right to point out that - that health care was definitely the priority. Then came tax cuts. Then came the immigration plan, and then finally as we approached this final midterm year, infrastructure came online. And there were ideas and a plan put forward by the president. But as you know, it's very difficult to move forward any legislation for a party that's facing a midterm election.
But that offer is still open, and I think there is room for compromise there. And, you know, we hope to see that move forward if Democrats take back the House. And of course, this is conjecture because that's not the case at the moment.
CHANG: Is there room for compromise on the health care law and shoring it up, fixing things that need to be fixed? Do you think they can find common ground? Should this be a divided Congress come January?
MCENANY: I hope so. You know, we want to be realistic here. We don't want to prop up a broken system. A lot of these Obamacare exchanges only offer one plan. Several of them - some of them, no plans, I should say. And beyond that, you look at the fact that health care premiums have doubled since Obamacare was passed. That needs to come down.
But, yes, I do think that there is room to find common ground, for instance, on high drug prices. That's something both parties want to see change. We want it those costs come down for everyday Americans. And if there's a willing negotiating partner, absolutely, I think that there can be progress that's made.
CHANG: I want to go to the room that I'm sitting in right now with these wonderful congressional correspondents around me.
It was really interesting to listen to the conversation about health care this particular midterm election because, for the past eight years, Democrats have really been playing defense on the ACA. And this was probably the first election in a while where we were hearing Republicans play defense, insisting that they were not going to get rid of protections on, say, preexisting conditions. What do you make of that, Mara? Did you think it was a drastically different conversation on the ACA this time around?
LIASSON: Absolutely. I mean, Democrats have had the burden of defending an unpopular Obamacare for the last three cycles. And now, all of a sudden, Obamacare is popular, in particular the part that says insurers have to sell insurance that covers people's preexisting conditions - not just sell insurance to a person with a preexisting condition but not covered that condition, but actually cover it.
And all these Republicans who voted to get rid of the law, including that protection, are now turning around and saying, no, no, no, no. I really didn't mean that. And they've had a really hard time doing that.
CHANG: Scott Detrow, it looks like you have some results coming in.
DETROW: Yeah, we have a call in that Kentucky congressional race that had gotten so much attention. Republican incumbent Andy Barr is ultimately going to defeat Democratic challenger Amy McGrath according to the Associated Press.
This is a district that President Trump won by double digits in 2012. Barr, currently leading - 2016 rather - Barr currently leading 51 to 48 percent against McGrath.
McGrath was a candidate who went viral. She talked - she had ads talking about her experience as a fighter pilot. One of many, across the country, Democrats running as a first-time candidate, a woman, a veteran. She is not going to win, though. Andy Barr returns to Congress.
CHANG: OK, and just catch us up. What is the count so far? Democrats need 23 seats to flip in order to retake the House. Where are we?
DETROW: So far, Democrats have flipped two Republican-held seats...
DETROW: ...One in Virginia, one in Florida.
CHANG: All right.
MARTIN: We're going to go now to Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota. She's with us now. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.
AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you. It's great to be on.
MARTIN: And you've been - I'm sure you've been watching the results wherever you are. So far, the Democrats have picked up a couple of seats that they had hoped to get. But it's still sort of a tough slog in some of the key areas, like Florida and so forth. And how do you read it so far?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I'm just watching the Texas numbers, first of all, that are incredible. Beto O'Rourke is (inaudible). And we know we're leading in a number of Republican-held House seats. And as you know, so much of this is about the Midwest and the West. And most of the polls haven't even closed. Minnesota hasn't closed, and we have four hot House seats here, including two that we've led in in every poll that are Republican-held in the suburbs of Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
And so we're pretty positive here despite a little snow flurry. We've had a huge voter turnout and huge early voting. And so, as you know, Donald Trump really cleaned up in the Midwest. And right now, we've already taken over the Illinois governorship and have a number of hotly contested governors' races. So I think you're going to see a change - we just don't know how big - in the Midwest.
MARTIN: But we also see that there are some tough fights in states that Democrats were hoping to - to win. And there are candidates who were campaigning with the president in the last couple of days who seem to be holding on. And of course, we're not going to call any of those races that we aren't confident about so far.
MARTIN: But one of the reasons we're happy to speak with you is that there are a lot of people who felt that the Kavanaugh hearings, the hearings for the Supreme Court nominee, were a galvanizing moment for the Democrats. Many people, you know, as you saw - I'm sure your office was inundated with calls from people who - for whom this - that - it was more than a Supreme Court nomination. It became kind of a defining moment.
On the other hand, in the closing days of the campaign, it seemed that - that on the other side, it galvanized some sentiment, too. And I wanted to ask, how do you think that it all shakes out now as we come down to the closing moment?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, we will see at the end. But what I have seen in the exit polls is that the No. 1 issue for voters was health care and then also the second one - of course because of the president - appears to be immigration, with the economy at a third. And how about Kavanagh's hearing played out, I still don't know. I do think over time people started to realize actually he got on the Supreme Court, so this case was getting weaker as time went on that they were making. But obviously it affected rural areas more than it did in some of the suburban areas, where I think you're going to see it playing out where a majority of people actually didn't think he should get confirmed.
MARTIN: How - let's assume, just for the sake of conversation, that the polls are right and that the Republicans keep control of the Senate and that the Democrats take the House. What should your priorities as a party be?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think that, first of all, we have got to focus on the issue that will have allowed us to take over the House, and that is health care. That's doing some smart things when it comes to drug prices. I think the pharmaceutical companies think they own Washington. This election has shown that they don't and they can't going forward. That means things like Medicare negotiation for drug prices. That's a bill I lead in the Senate, and I'm very hopeful that they can pass that in the Democratic-controlled House. There's all kinds of other proposals. We're pushing out generics on that front. The second would be doing something to shore up premiums for people, and that means things like reinsurance and some other issues with health care, pushing out a public option. I think you're going to see an array of Democrats elected in the House, from liberal to moderate. And so that will be a major focus. And second would be infrastructure possibly. And a third would be immigration reform with - because you're going to have seen, if I'm right on this - given these federal work numbers, whether he wins or loses, I think you're going to see a real groundswell in the West pushing back against the president's position on this.
MARTIN: Do you have a sense that you will have someone to negotiate with? My colleague Ailsa Chang just pointed out when she was speaking to another one of your colleagues earlier that when the president had control of both - his party, rather - had both houses of Congress, there was no progress made on the infrastructure plan. So with a different dynamic do you think that there will be some movement there?
KLOBUCHAR: That's going to be on him. And I think given what we're seeing with the voters turning out in record numbers, I think they're tired of this rhetoric and the angry division. That doesn't mean we won't lose a few seats here and there, but I think the message will be clear that they want people to walk across the aisle and get things done.
CHANG: Well, I'm curious about spending fights. Senator Klobuchar, you were there in October 2013 when we saw a divided Congress, but it was kind of the flip version. It was a Republican-controlled House, a democratically controlled Senate. And we saw the government shut down. Do you think, if there is a divided Congress again, spending fights will become more acrimonious and government shutdown threats will become more viable?
KLOBUCHAR: I hope not. I think that the last government shutdown didn't go that well on the national level in the presidential race. And I think that what you've seen, oddly, in the Senate is from bipartisan agreement of moving forward on appropriations bills. In fact you've seen the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House kind of take on the administration when it comes to budgeting. That being said, you had that tax bill that added a trillion dollars of debt. And at some point that's going to come around and haunt the economy and haunt people who voted for it. So I think you will see more action from the House on trying to do something to close loopholes and make sure that we move forward in a fiscal way but still being smart about our spending priorities. The last thing I'd add is the Farm Bill. That's something else that's been hanging out there because of the discord with the Republicans in the House. And I think you'd also see action on that if the Democrats took over the House. And my colleague in Minnesota, Collin Peterson, would then be chairing the Ag Committee.
CHANG: All right.
MARTIN: That was Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. It's great to be on. We'll be up late night tonight here in Minnesota. Thank you.
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CHANG: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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CHANG: All right. We're going to bring in two of our wonderful colleagues here. Well, first of all let's go to NPR's Scott Detrow because you've been updating us all night long. Just wondering if you could catch us up on where we stand now with election results.
DETROW: Yeah, one call here is that New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez is going to win another term, according to the Associated Press. He is ahead of Republican Bob Hugin by just 1 percentage point right now, but the AP is calling that race based on the work they've been doing looking at exit polls. It's New Jersey. It's a Democrat. So ordinarily you would think that's a no-brainer. But Menendez had a really hard time running for re-election given the fact that he had faced a corruption trial. It was a mistrial, but that was obviously a lot of ammunition for Hugin to use, and Hugin put a lot of his own money into the race. Menendez is going to carry that state though. The Florida Senate race continues to be 50-50 with 85 percent of polls in. The governor's race looking about the same there. And, again, Democrats have picked up two House seats so far. The Democrat just went ahead in another suburban Virginia district. That's the district between Richmond and Washington, D.C., where Dave Brat is the incumbent Republican. Abigail Spanberger, the Democrat challenging him, just eked out to the slightest of slight leads with 94 percent of precincts reporting.
CHANG: OK, we're going to bring in now Domenico Montanaro, NPR lead political editor, and Mara Liasson again, NPR national political correspondent. You know, we've been talking a lot obviously about the House and Senate, the House and Senate all night long, but I want to spend a couple minutes talking about state legislatures because this could be a big night. I mean, right now Republicans control about two-thirds of state legislative chambers. Are we expecting Democrats to make some gains? We're two years from a new census. This could be a big moment, yeah, Domenico?
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Well, when it comes to state legislatures, Democrats are down about 1,000 seats compared to Republicans when it comes to state legislative seats across the country. And, you know, it's kind of hard for Republicans to make gains when they have that kind of advantage and Democrats are expected to slice into that pretty significantly. There are several chambers across the country that Democrats are expected to do well in. But I think it's important that we look at the swing states and whether or not Democrats can sort of pick up majorities or at least make big inroads in some of those places. But certainly the floor for Democrats are going to come up. They are expected to make some gains in these governors' seats. I, particularly in these governor's races, look at, you know, places in the Upper Midwest, like Michigan and Wisconsin, where you had two Tea Party - two governors who were swept in during the Tea Party wave and are vulnerable this time around. And remember they do control, as you note, redistricting - those two pieces of it, state legislatures and governors. And we have a census coming up. And this is the first election really where they can sort of try to have a base to take those over.
CHANG: And sort of the two - sorry, go ahead, Mara.
LIASSON: No, I was going to say. And in terms of 2020, I mean the census and redistricting is really important. And Democrats were shut out of that process in 2010. But in terms of the presidential race, Donald Trump won with Republican governors in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida. He won Pennsylvania even though there was a Democrat there, but having a governor of your own party in a big electoral state mattered.
CHANG: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This is Election Night Live from NPR News.
SHAPIRO: This is Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.
MARTIN: And I'm Michel Martin. Can Republicans hold onto their majorities in the House and Senate? That is the central question tonight with results coming in from 40 states, where the polls are now closed. Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to take back the House. And at this hour, they may be on their way. They have flipped three Republican-held seats so far, including Donna Shalala winning in Florida's 27th District.
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DONNA SHALALA: It does us no good to beat up immigrants, to narrow down who can come into this country because this country has been built and fought for in our wars by people whose parents and grandparents and who themselves came from other places.
SHAPIRO: And in Virginia's 10th District, Democrat Jennifer Wexton has defeated Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock.
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JENNIFER WEXTON: We don't have to live in a nation where people are stripped of their health care. We don't have to live in a nation where our kids go to schools that are crumbling. We don't have to live in a nation where children are torn away from their parents at the border.
WEXTON: And we don't have to live in a nation where people live in fear of being gunned down in synagogues, churches, workplaces, movie theaters or anywhere in their communities.
SHAPIRO: Democrat Jennifer Wexton in Virginia there. There are almost two dozen other competitive House races we are watching this hour in states including New York, Minnesota and Texas.
MARTIN: Also in Texas - one of the most closely watched Senate races where Republican Ted Cruz is defending his seat against Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke. The last polls just closed there in El Paso.
SHAPIRO: And in Senate races, Democrats, are bracing for a loss in North Dakota, where incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp is running against Republican Kevin Cramer. Two years ago, North Dakota went for President Trump by 36 points. Let's get some details on what we know so far from NPR's Kelsey Snell. Hi, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.
SHAPIRO: OK, so Republicans are three House seats towards the 23 that they need to pick up in order to take control of the House. What else can you tell us about the state of play right now?
SNELL: The most recent call that we have is that Bob Menendez in New Jersey, the Democrat there, was re-elected to the Senate. He was on trial in 2017 for corruption but not convicted. But that trial still hung over his head throughout the entirety of this race. There was some question about how well he would do. We're also watching Republican Andy Barr in Kentucky. He's - he won re-election there. And that has a lot of House Republicans that I've spoken to really excited because they say that these are the types of races that they needed to hold onto.
We're also looking for Democrats. They're really excited about that race there in Florida, Donna Shalala picking up a seat that was once held by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. And she - Ileana Ros-Lehtinen - was seen among Republicans as a force. She was somebody who was well-respected and who commanded just a lot of attention when it came particularly to immigration. The loss of her voice there is going to be a big change for them. And Jennifer Wexton, as we heard already, in Virginia is something that Democrats are just absolutely cheering.
SHAPIRO: It's interesting Donna Shalala taking the place of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen because Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was one of the Republicans who occasionally stood up to President Trump.
SHAPIRO: And a lot of those Republicans in Congress have retired, decided not to run again, are leaving. This seems like the Republican Party is shifting at this moment in time.
SNELL: Yeah, that's absolutely true. And I think one of the other - only other people who really decided to stand up to Trump and ran again is Carlos Curbelo, also in Florida. He is in a very, very tight race that we are watching very closely - is running against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is - she is very dynamic, also an immigrant, also speaks Spanish fluently and has been very, very appealing to the community there.
SHAPIRO: I know that in the House, we're also looking at Will Hurd in Texas, who is a Republican who has stood up to President Trump. It's a precarious place to be for Republicans right now.
SNELL: It's not only precarious. It's just one of those things that most Republicans don't want to do. Been speaking with, particularly in the House, Republicans who say that this is becoming more and more the party of Trump. We see that a little bit less in the Senate, where, you know, these senators have to appeal to a wider range of electorate in an entire state.
But in the House, conversation is really about whether or not you can support the president and how far each candidate will go to back his agenda. That is a good thing and a bad thing I guess if you're running in a lot of these really Republican districts - good in that it gets you re-elected in these (laughter) - in these heavily Republican places. But it might be difficult in 2020 when they have to defend the record that he establishes for them.
SHAPIRO: I want to bring in Congressman David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. He has been working to get out word about the Democrats' messaging in the House of Representatives. Congressman Cicilline, thanks for joining us.
DAVID CICILLINE: My pleasure.
SHAPIRO: At this early stage of the evening, how do things look to you?
CICILLINE: Things look good. I think it's going to be a long night for all of us. But I think what's really clear is that the Democratic agenda that we developed to really make the case to the American people that we're fighting for them and that we're committed to driving down health care costs, driving down the cost of prescription drugs, raising family incomes, particularly by rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure of our country and taking on the serious corruption in Washington and the - particularly corrupting influence of money in our political system and to get the government working for the people again - that that agenda is - it worked.
And, you know, there are candidates all across the country really focused on the issues that are important in people's lives and really stay very disciplined in making the case of what we're going to do if we're given the responsibilities of leadership again. And I think we've already flipped three seats, and...
SHAPIRO: We have heard you and your colleagues...
CICILLINE: We need 20 more.
SHAPIRO: ...Talk about those agenda items that are top of the list of Democratic House priorities - health care, infrastructure, government reform. But if Democrats don't take back the Senate and with a Republican still in the White House, are those priorities just symbolic?
CICILLINE: No, I don't think they're symbolic. First of all, I mean, we should remember those are the same priorities that the president claimed he was for. He spoke about driving down the cost of prescription drugs. He talked about a big infrastructure bill to rebuild the country. And he of course frequently says he's going to drain the swamp. The truth is he hasn't delivered on any of them. But if he's...
SHAPIRO: So are you just trying to point that out? Or are you actually...
CICILLINE: No, no, no.
SHAPIRO: ...Optimistic about passing legislation?
CICILLINE: No, no, I - I'm optimistic. I think if we take the president at his word and those really are his priorities and they are the priorities of the American people, that we ought to be able to move forward on all of them. It's going to require bipartisan cooperation if the Senate remains in Republican hands. But we have to deliver on those things, and I think we have every reason to expect we can. And I expect that we're going to be able to do it in a bipartisan way. Those are the urgent priorities of the American people. They should be bipartisan priorities. They haven't been priories of our Republican colleagues in their time that they've controlled the Congress. But we know they're the priorities of the president.
SHAPIRO: Do you...
CICILLINE: We know they're the priorities of the American people, and we're committed to getting them done.
SHAPIRO: Do you risk destroying any chance of bipartisan agreement if, as the Democrats have suggested they will, the Democratic Party goes hard in oversight, investigations and subpoenas into the Trump administration?
CICILLINE: No. Look; I think we can do both things. We can move forward on an agenda that is responsive to the needs and demands of the American people and at the same time fulfill our constitutional responsibilities to do oversight and to conduct investigations and be sure that we are shining a light on some of the corruption in the administration and some of the self-dealings. So I think we have both oversight responsibilities and a responsibility to address the urgent priorities that face the American people. And we can do both things.
MARTIN: Congressman, this is Michel Martin. Thanks so much for staying with us.
CICILLINE: Hi, Michel.
MARTIN: These - a number of these races were extremely hard-fought. They were nasty. The messaging was nasty. I think everybody would agree on that whether one would consider it warranted or not. How do you go forward from that? When you've had a lot of money poured into a lot of these races and both candidates were going hard on each other, how do you go forward?
CICILLINE: Well, I think that, you know, campaigns are always hard-fought. And I agree with you. Some of them got particularly ugly in this cycle. But I think, you know, in the end, there's a winner, and there's a loser. And the winners go to Congress, and they have a responsibility to get work done, to respond to the needs of the people they serve. And so the campaigns are over, you know, after tonight. And then it's our time to work together in a constructive way to address these important issues of driving down the costs of health care, making prescription drugs less expensive for our constituents, you know, creating 16 million good-paying jobs with a serious infrastructure bill and showing that we're going to reform government and get it to work for the people again.
So look; I think all of us have - you know, many of these candidates have run in other races before. We all know there's a campaign cycle. But the campaign ends tonight, and it is now our responsibility to work in a constructive way to get the things done that we know are important to the American people. And, you know, some of it will take some time because people - you know, after an election there's always some hurt feelings and bruised egos. But I think in the end, most people run for office because of a real desire to serve and to get things done for the people that they represent. And I have every confidence that's what's going to happen in this case.
MARTIN: Well, except that the X-factor here is - well, there are two X-factors here. One is President Trump, and the other X-factor is the fact that a lot of people would like to take his place in two years. You've got a number of people on the Democratic side who are very interested in taking the president's place. And I think one might argue that the president really hasn't stopped campaigning since 2016.
So the question then becomes - a lot of the people on your side, on the Democratic side, really do want that hard challenge. They really do want people continually challenging the president. And you've got other people who feel that that's not productive. Where do you come out on that?
CICILLINE: No, I think - look; I think it's important that the American people see that once Democrats took control of the House, we were able to get things done that improved their lives. And I think that, you know, whether you're running for president or running for re-election in two years, you'll - everyone will benefit you - if you actually can demonstrate you've got things done that matter to people, that you reduce the costs of health care, that you created good paying jobs and raised family incomes and that you took on the corrupting influence of money in our political system and got the government working for the people again. I think, you know, results matter.
And I think whether you're going to run for re-election as a member of Congress or you're thinking about running for president, it's in everyone's interest if we actually get those things done for the American people. And I think in the end, people will realize that, you know? If we all get elected and just we're going to fight for two more years and not produce real results, then what was the point of going into the majority? What was the point of...
SHAPIRO: Congressman Cicilline...
CICILLINE: Yes, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Thank you for joining us. We appreciate your time tonight.
CICILLINE: My pleasure.
SHAPIRO: Congressman David Cicilline is a Democrat from Rhode Island and co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
MARTIN: Let's go to Mara Liasson now. Mara, what did you - I'm going to ask you to react to what the congressman just said. Is it - 'cause the Democrats - clearly a lot of the Democrats are fired up, and we saw that in a lot of the exit interviews. A number of people who went to the polls said, you know what? I don't care if a dogcatcher is running. I'm voting the Democratic ticket because I want to stand up to this president. That's what I want. I don't even really care.
Obviously there are some countervailing forces. There are people on the other side who went to the polls to support the president. But Republicans tend to come out in midterms anyway. So what do you make of what the congressman just said?
LIASSON: I think that if Democrats take the House back, they have some pretty fundamental decisions to make. You just heard him talking about passing legislation. What they want to do even if they can't get anything passed in the Senate is lay the table for 2020 and pass a lot of things that they think are popular with voters to show what Democrats stand for and believe in. But it's hard to see with the exception of maybe something on drug pricing, maybe something on infrastructure what could get done in a divided government.
SHAPIRO: We're going to go now to Republican strategist Sage Eastman, who is a former Capitol Hill staffer who served as senior counselor to the House Ways and Means Committee. He's also worked in Michigan politics for Republican Congressman Dave Camp, later for then-Governor John Engler. Thanks for joining us.
SAGE EASTMAN: Glad to be with you.
SHAPIRO: We saw something really interesting in the last couple months where more than half of the Democratic ads in the month of September were about health care. As you know, just a few years ago, Republicans were using health care in their ads to clobber Democrats. Does it surprise you that the politics on this issue has changed so much?
EASTMAN: No, I don't think it does. I think this is definitely a - an issue where it's often about cost on one side of the argument and coverage on the other side of the argument. And it's really both parties playing to their bases - Republicans more concerned about the cost of health care, the rising cost, the out-of-pocket cost, cost of premiums; Democrats making an argument about coverage - how many people are covered. And that's really just sort of the divide. And I think what we're seeing tonight, again, is a very red and blue country right now.
SHAPIRO: But I think a few years ago, Democrats were afraid to run on health care. They didn't want to talk about it. And Republicans wanted to talk about it a lot. It seems the dynamic has shifted.
EASTMAN: Well, I think what you saw was - again, I see this is very much folks playing to their base. I think right after the ACA, the Affordable Care Act, was passed, Democrats did not do a very good job selling it - a lot of it 'cause it was delayed implementation. Republicans are having a similar problem this year with the tax bill. So I think...
SHAPIRO: Yeah, I was going to ask about that next - the Republican decision not to campaign on the law that they fought so hard to pass giving tax cuts.
EASTMAN: Yeah, I think it was absolutely a mistake not to tie the tax cuts to the economy. Tax cuts in and of themselves don't always sell that well. It's the impact of those tax cuts, which is the economic recovery we've seen, record low unemployment, record job growth here. And I think Republicans should have done a better job. And frankly, the president should have done a better job of talking about the economy. But clearly both parties decided to go back and play to their bases. And we're sort of seeing that. The red states are coming back home, it appears, in the - on the the Senate races. The red districts in the House seem to be coming back home. So we're not seeing as many surprises. It's early in the night yet. So we'll have to see how this plays out.
SHAPIRO: Do you think that as Latino populations in the United States grow, Republicans make a mistake by making immigration the front-and-center issue the way President Trump has?
EASTMAN: I don't think so. I think what we need to do a better job - is talking about the illegal immigration versus how we're going to transform the system, how we're going to do visas, how we're going to do work entries, how we're going to do our quota systems. I think that needs to be done better in those populations, or we are going to risk certain demographics, and certain regions are going to become a lot tougher for Republicans.
SHAPIRO: Republican strategist Sage Eastman, thanks for joining us tonight.
EASTMAN: Thank you.
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MARTIN: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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MARTIN: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Michel Martin. And I'm joined now by Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee. And he's with us now. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
BILL HASLAM: Oh, well, good evening. Glad to be with you.
MARTIN: I want to mention that you've been Tennessee's chief executive since 2011. But you are serving your last term because you are term-limited. So the first question I had for you is - first of all, I guess I want to say thank you for your service. And how does it feel? You're handing over the gavel.
HASLAM: You know, it's truly bittersweet. I have loved this job. It's - being governor of your own home state is really the best job in the world, and I mean that. But also, I'm one of those that believes in term limits, and there's a season to everything. And this has been a wonderful season, but it's time for somebody else to take over. And we will be cheering for our new governor-elect Bill Lee, who just was declared the winner in Tennessee.
MARTIN: Well, we haven't called that race yet, so we're going to...
HASLAM: (Laughter) OK.
MARTIN: ...We're going to say that according to (laughter) Governor Haslam. You are our source on that, but we'll be calling it on our own time. But you are also chair of the Republican Governors Association.
MARTIN: And there are 36 governorships up for grabs tonight. Republicans start with 33 but are defending many seats. What are the dynamics of the races, as you see it? Is there a national theme here that you can identify?
HASLAM: Yeah. So I mean, this is a - you know, everybody talked about the Senate map being good for the Republicans. It's kind of the reverse for Democrat - for here in the governors' races. There's - of the 36 races, 26 of those are ours, so we're playing defense, if you would. And of those 26, 13 are people like me who are term-limited out, and 13 are incumbents who can run again. Typically, in a president's midterm, the party and the White House loses four and a half governors seats on average in this election where there's 36 of them. Obviously, where we have 33, it's a pretty vulnerable year.
But having said that, we - so far the results we've seen coming in are encouraging. It's obviously still early in the night. But, you know, we feel good about where we are. But it's a - but we have to be realistic about tonight. There's no way we'll end up with 33 governorships at the end of the night. We'll see how many we have. But we - like I said, we have a lot of great candidates. We put a lot of effort and initiative into the races and, like I said, feel good about the night.
MARTIN: And I am told that we have covered - called the governor's race for your colleague, Lee - Governor...
HASLAM: Good (laughter).
MARTIN: ...Incoming Governor Lee, so congratulations to you on that. The 2020 census is coming up. The winners tonight will be in office for that redistricting period.
MARTIN: And as you know - as I'm sure that you know, there've been a lot of complaints by various sources that the parties haven't played fair, that in some states Republicans haven't played fair and tipped - put their finger on the scale to an unfair degree, and that in some states - a couple, like Maryland, for example - the complaint is the opposite. What's your sense of that? Do you agree? Do you disagree?
HASLAM: Well, you know, whoever has that pencil that gets to draw the lines obviously have an advantage. And it's different in some states of who does that. Sometimes the legislature does. Sometimes the governor does. Ultimately, a court has to approve that, yes, this is a fair way to do it that represents one person, one vote in the redistricting. But, I mean, it's no secret to anybody that whoever holds the pencil have an advantage.
MARTIN: All right. Unfortunately, we have to leave it there for now. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. And Governor Haslam has been Tennessee's chief executive since 2011, chair of the Republican Governors Association. This is NPR News.
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MARTIN: From NPR News, this is election night live. I'm Michel Martin.
SHAPIRO: And I'm Ari Shapiro. Democrats have officially picked up three seats in their bid to win control of the House, winning races in Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Democrats need to pick up 20 more seats to win control of the House of Representatives. And good news for the Pences. Family is coming to D.C. The vice president's older brother, also a Republican, has won a House seat in Indiana.
Democrats may be on their way to losing a Senate seat in Indiana, but they have hung on in New Jersey, where incumbent Senator Bob Menendez has survived a challenge.
NPR's Kelsey Snell and Tamara Keith are here with us. And, Tam, I know you've been spending time in Indiana. You - President Trump has visited there. Obviously, Vice President Pence is from there. Give us some insight into the political dynamic playing out there tonight.
KEITH: And I will say, I haven't personally been in Indiana with them.
SHAPIRO: Oh. (Laughter).
KEITH: However, I have been talking to people inside the Trump and Pence orbits. And they both have had their eyes on Indiana, of course, within the family, this - this win for Greg Pence in the House seat, which is not really a surprise. It brought some early joy to people in the Trump and Pence orbits, but also this Senate race that is looking like it hasn't been called yet. We haven't - and AP has not called it yet. But the Senate race where it looks like Democrat Joe Donnelly is likely to lose to Mike Braun.
This is something that the White House is celebrating because President Trump was personally invested in that race. He held four rallies in Indiana over the course of this year, including two in the closing days. This is one that he really wanted. And it looks like he's gotten it.
SHAPIRO: And, Kelsey, if this does fall for the Democrats and go the Republicans' way, it may be just one Senate seat. But the Democrats really cannot afford to lose very many Senate seats tonight.
SNELL: No, that they absolutely cannot. And I've been talking to Republicans - Senate Republicans who - on the campaign side of things, who are telling me that they're excited about Donnelly. But they don't really feel like - well, they're excited about Braun (laughter), the potential win. But they don't feel like they're ready to celebrate on the map in general.
They feel like there are too many battlegrounds and that the control of the Senate is going to really be decided out on the West Coast and in the Mountain Time, not - not in the earlier hours today.
SHAPIRO: Looking ahead to another state where President Trump is deeply invested...
SNELL: Montana, they're also...
SHAPIRO: ...Where Democrat Jon Tester is defending his seat.
SNELL: They're also looking at Nevada and Arizona. There's a lot to be fought still.
KEITH: And Montana is a state, again, where President Trump took it very personally...
KEITH: ...Visited four times to Montana. And...
SHAPIRO: And that was tied to his original nominee to be V.A. secretary, who Jon Tester was key in sort of giving...
SNELL: Tanking that nomination.
SHAPIRO: Yes, that was the word I was looking for...
SHAPIRO: ...Tanking that nomination.
SNELL: Yeah, and President Trump and his family - Donald Trump Jr. spent a lot of time there in Montana campaigning, too. They were not going to let Jon Tester forget.
SHAPIRO: That race is personal.
MARTIN: We're joined now by Tom Perez. He is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for joining us.
TOM PEREZ: Hey. It's great to be with all of you.
MARTIN: What was the issue that worked best for your candidates in this campaign?
PEREZ: Health care, health care, health care. You look at the exit polling, and you see that health care is the No. 1 issue. We want to make sure that people with preexisting conditions can continue to get access to health insurance. And the Republicans are trying to repeal. And we talked about that everywhere. It resonates in every county across America.
MARTIN: But one of the things that we noticed in a lot of the ads and in a lot of the contested races, the Republicans also put up ads and also made the argument that they, too, were dedicated to defending - or covering, rather - preexisting conditions. So at the end of the day, did those two messages cancel each other out?
PEREZ: No, because the Republican message was a lie. And you can go look at the court case in Texas. You didn't get the 60 or 70 votes they took to repeal the Affordable Care Act. You know, voters aren't stupid. I mean, Barbara Comstock tried to say that in Northern Virginia, and people understood that she hadn't been fighting.
You look at other races across this country. I think people have - voters are studying the issues. They know who's been fighting for them on health care. They know who's been fighting to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and that is Trump and the Republicans. And that's why I think this - this issue - and that's why they tried to change the subject at the end of the day because they didn't want people focused on health care and Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid because they knew they were on the wrong side of that issue.
And I think that's going to be the issue that's going to carry the House of Representatives for us. And I'm heartened that we've taken three so far. And there have been no surprises, so - that - there have been no seats that we thought we would win that we haven't won. And these three seats that we've won so far are seats that are solid victories - obviously, still a tall mountain to climb. And I think we're all going to be up late tonight.
MARTIN: We are going to be up late tonight...
PEREZ: So you better caffeinate.
MARTIN: ...And we are...
PEREZ: You better caffeinate.
MARTIN: We are ready. We have our coffee, and we are ready. But I do want to ask you about the Senate, though. Do you think that - it looks already that - it looks as though the Democrats have lost that seat in Indiana. It looks that Heidi Heitkamp is in trouble. Do you think that the Democrats should have done more to protect their moderates?
PEREZ: Well, I think we did a lot of work and these are - this is a historically bad, challenging map for - for Democrats. And so we always knew it was going to be a challenge.
But I'll tell you - I've spent a lot of time in Nevada. And if you look at the early vote numbers there, we banked an advantage in Clark County, which is Las Vegas. We've held our own up in the Reno area. And I've been looking at the turnout today again in Clark. I think we have a real shot with Jacky Rosen - same thing in Arizona with Kyrsten Sinema. And you obviously are watching closely down in Texas. I think that race is at the moment a dead heat. And Harris County, which is metropolitan Houston, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't reported yet.
So we've got a lot of motherload votes yet to come in on the Democratic side there, so...
SHAPIRO: Chairman - Chairman Perez, this is Ari Shapiro - if I could jump in. One of the criticisms of President Obama's eight years in office was that he did not do enough to recruit Democrats at the grassroots level. And so there wasn't a bench of people to run for office. If Democrats make gains in state legislatures tonight - tonight as - as you are hopeful will happen, how far does that go towards fixing the problem? Is this something the party needs a decade to fix? Is a couple election cycles enough to do it?
PEREZ: Well, I'll tell you, the women who led the resistance, Ari, went from marching on January 21, 2017, to running for office. And I think one of the things that will be talked about in this cycle is that 2018 was the year of the woman because record numbers of women are running. We have distinct advantages with women who are voting as well. And we are a 50-state party again. And we have made dramatic investments in helping candidates from the school board to the Oval Office.
I was in Milwaukee yesterday with a state senate candidate. If we've put two Senate seats in Wisconsin, we've flipped that chamber. If we flip 17 seats in eight chambers across the country, we've flipped those chambers. And, as you know, these governors' races are 12-year cycles because these governors are going to control redistricting.
And that's a big part of what we're doing in the Democratic Party now, where we're investing in these down-ballot races because we all know a state senator in 2004 who became president of the United States. And good baseball teams have good farm systems. Good political parties have good farm systems.
MARTIN: All right, Mr. Chairman, I'm going to ask you just one last question. Then we're going to...
MARTIN: ...Take it back, and I - recognizing that you don't get a vote, is Nancy Pelosi the right leader for the House if she - if the Democrats take the House back?
PEREZ: I'm confident Democrats will take the House back, and they will vote on that soon thereafter. And I have great respect for Nancy Pelosi. We have an Affordable Care Act because of Nancy Pelosi. And the health care is on the ballot.
And so that'll be up for the new House members to decide. And I'm sure one thing that they will factor into that is, given the importance of protecting health care, which leader is best positioned - which potential leader is best positioned to do that?
MARTIN: Mara, did you have a question?
LIASSON: Tom Perez, it's Mara Liasson here. I just wanted you to...
PEREZ: Hey, Mara.
LIASSON: Hey, how are you doing? I wanted to ask you a question. You talked about governors. I wanted to ask you about the state that's been a perennial heartbreak for Democrats, which is Florida. And I'm hearing - I'm hearing a lot of deflated Democrats tonight who are feeling that they're just not going to make it in that really important electoral state. How are you feeling about Florida tonight?
PEREZ: Well, it's going to be a nail-biter, and if you look at the votes yet to be counted, they're down in Broward. They're disproportionately down in Broward and Dade County. So, I mean...
LIASSON: You still think there's enough votes outstanding...
PEREZ: Oh, yeah.
LIASSON: ...Gillum could still do it.
PEREZ: Absolutely. But, again, it will be - it will be very close. And that's why so many people invested so much down there because we know it's difficult. And they - you know, you always have - this is Florida's three different states. And you got to organize everywhere. And that's what we did differently this year. And that's why, you know - that's why it's been such a competitive race.
But we're going to - we always knew tonight was going to be difficult. We've got a lot of dead-heat races - Ohio, Wisconsin, very close races. But I think we're right on the issues, and we've done unprecedented investment. We have - not just the DNC, but the broader party. So I'm very - I'm still very optimistic. Although, I know I'm going to go get more caffeine.
MARTIN: That is Tom Perez. He's the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Perez, thanks so much for joining us.
PEREZ: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: And let's take a moment to take stock. Kelsey Snell, you have some news for us.
SNELL: Yes, the Associated Press is calling Indiana for Mike Braun, the Republican. That means Joe Donnelly, the incumbent Democrat, is officially been defeated in that state. We've also had calls in Pennsylvania's Senate race and the Ohio Senate race where Democrats both won. Now, those two senators - in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey and in Ohio, Sherrod Brown - both were widely expected to win.
But the thing that's interesting here is that it challenges the idea that those two states that went for President Trump in 2016 are permanently going for Republicans. It tells a more nuanced thing - you know, it's a more nuanced way of thinking about those two states that were so key to 2016.
SHAPIRO: One of the questions after 2016 was, did the Democratic Party lose white, working-class voters long-term? And based on tonight's results, the answer seems to be it's a little more complicated than that.
SNELL: Absolutely. And those are the voters that Sherrod Brown in particular says that he himself appeals to. He speaks very much to white, working-class voters. And he spends a lot of time going out and campaigning to them directly.
SHAPIRO: We're going to bring in Mark Lamkin, who's a Republican lobbyist here in Washington. He's a former strategic adviser to who was then House speaker, John Boehner. Welcome, Mr. Lamkin.
MARK LAMKIN: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Can you hear me OK?
SHAPIRO: Yeah, we hear you just fine. How different is the Republican House today from the House that you worked in under Speaker Boehner?
LAMKIN: Oh, it's certainly incredibly different. You've got, first, the wave of Tea Partiers and then the Freedom Caucus. They are not your - I like to say they're not your grandfather's Republican Party. They're not simply corporate interests. They really focused on things back home in terms of what small business and people that are fighting against immigration and things like that. So it's a completely different party than it was just a generation ago here in (inaudible).
SHAPIRO: Do you think it is a party that is inclusive of minorities? You're African-American. Do you feel as welcome in the party as you once did?
LAMKIN: Yeah, I think there's certainly a lot of mainstream media especially invested with the party of Nationalists or racists or things like that. But I think in many respects most Republicans in the House right now and certainly in the Senate don't engage in things that would be described as being racist. So I think it's certainly welcoming. You know, in fact I think there's lots of opportunity, probably more opportunities historically, for electoral office amongst Republicans than there have been in other major parties. So I don't think there's any major change in that end in terms of welcoming, in terms of electoral politics at all.
SHAPIRO: What do you think of the kind of campaigning that President Trump did in these last few weeks where, rather than focus on the economy or the tax bill that Republicans worked so hard to pass, he talked a lot about immigration, he talked a lot about what he described as the caravan and sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border?
LAMKIN: Well, I think because this was a midterm off-year election, I think historically that both parties go to their base, the people that make up the core constituency. I think for Republicans or conservatives or Trump voters, issues like immigration, this assault across our southern border is something that is actually motivational for them to get them to the ballot box.
I think a lot of the fortune - if you think about it, a lot of the fortune that the Republicans have had, particularly in Senate races you'll see, they really were sparked as a result of the dragged-down, knuckle-fight over now Justice Kavanaugh. I think that was a base issue where they were fighting for the control or influence of the Supreme Court.
So I'm not - it doesn't surprise me. And, frankly, in many respects, it doesn't bother me because President Trump was going to his strength and was going to the way they were trying to increase intensity amongst the Republican and conservative voters across the country. And while there are still a lot of time left this evening, I think there's some sense that probably his efforts have proven to be smart and right on.
SHAPIRO: Mark Lampkin, thanks very much for joining us.
LAMKIN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: He's a Republican lobbyist here in Washington. And we want to let you know you can also go to npr.org to get caught up on the latest news and results tonight. You'll see all the information coming into us here in the studio. Just visit npr.org on your mobile device or on your computer.
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MARTIN: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
I'm Michel Martin, and we're going now to Indiana, where Republicans have flipped a Senate seat. Incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly has lost that race to Republican challenger Mike Braun. Joining us now is Brandon Smith, a statehouse reporter with Indiana Public Broadcasting. He is at the Donnelly campaign headquarters in Indianapolis. And, Brandon, I'm imagining it's not a very happy scene there.
BRANDON SMITH, BYLINE: No, Indiana Democrats have been losing a lot, quite frankly, over the last several years. And this was maybe the toughest loss they faced so far. Joe Donnelly was the only remaining Democrat in any state-wide elected office in Indiana, and they just lost that one too.
MARTIN: So that sort of begs the question about what the dynamics of the race were. Did Joe Donnelly lose or did Mike Braun win? I mean, what were the dynamics? Was there an imbalance in the skill of each candidate or were there tidal waves that either one couldn't fight?
SMITH: I think it's the latter. I think Indiana has been getting progressively more conservative over the last decade or so, and I think this was another bit of evidence that that continues to happen. Joe Donnelly - no one can accuse Joe Donnelly of running a bad race. A lot of people I talked to on both sides think he probably outworked Republican Mike Braun, but in the end it didn't really matter. Whatever blue wave or blue anything might be happening in other parts of the country certainly wasn't happening here in Indiana.
MARTIN: And why is that though? Can you just tell us a little bit more about what the underlying dynamics are? What did voters tell you about why they are increasingly inclined to move to the Republican column?
SMITH: That's a hard question to answer. I mean, I think we saw this beginning really with the Trump election that a lot of union folks here seem to be increasingly going over to the Republican side, and that is a core constituency for Democrats, or at least historically was here in Indiana. So if those folks are starting to shift, perhaps as they get older, perhaps they continue to have more concerns about the economy and shrinking jobs in their field, that would suggest that Democrats are going to continue to lose ground on other constituencies as theirs rise as an insult.
MARTIN: Brandon, I'm going to ask you to stand by, and I'm going to ask my colleague Tam Keith to jump in here. Tam, what can you tell us? I know that you've been reporting - that's one of the states that you've been following as well. What do you think about some of the dynamics in Indiana?
KEITH: Well, you know, the really interesting thing about Indiana is Joe Donnelly was almost accidentally elected. He wasn't supposed to win in 2012 until his Republican opponent, who was sort of a Tea Party person who defeated the longtime Republican incumbent, he imploded. And when Donnelly's opponent imploded, Donnelly won. But Republicans have seen this seat, have seen the Senate seat that Joe Donnelly holds as the one that got away and one that they very much intended to get back.
MARTIN: And that is Tam Keith here in Washington, D.C. And joining us from Indianapolis from the headquarters of Joe Donnelly was Brandon Smith. Brandon, thank you so much for joining us.
SMITH: Thanks for having me.
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MARTIN: You've been listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
This is Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.
SHAPIRO: And I'm Ari Shapiro. It's not just House and Senate seats in play tonight. Voters in 36 states are also choosing their governor. Here are a few winners.
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott was re-elected, defeating Democrat Lupe Valdez. New York's Democrat, Andrew Cuomo, stays in Albany for another term. Republican Governor Larry Hogan wins in blue Maryland, beating off a challenge from Democrat Ben Jealous. However, another Republican incumbent, Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois, has lost to Democratic billionaire JB Pritzker.
Kelsey Snell, bring us up to speed on what we know. You know, having mentioned JB Pritzker there, an incredible amount of money spent on that Illinois governor's race...
SNELL: Absolutely, just a stunning amount of money.
SHAPIRO: ...In a midterm election with stunning amounts of money being spent across the country.
SNELL: They're both incredibly wealthy individuals and were able to donate money from their own - their own great wealth to their campaigns. But Democrats I've talked to in Illinois say that they're hoping that the frustration with the way Rauner ran the state and the general happiness to get rid of him, let's just say, will help float the boat of many other Democrats down the ticket. And so we are watching several very, very close races there, particularly in the suburbs outside of Chicago. A lot of - where we see several moderate Republicans who are really in very close fights right now.
SHAPIRO: Remind us why governors' races are so important.
SNELL: Well, they bring people out in midterm elections the way that you would expect a statewide office to. When people have something to vote on that has to deal with the budget, the education plan for the state, the way the state spends money on roads and infrastructure, those are the kinds of at-home, pocketbook issues that voters really feel in a way that maybe they don't feel about their member of Congress. Congress can feel far away, but the governor's mansion sometimes feels a lot closer.
SHAPIRO: Also, when it comes to the 2020 census...
SHAPIRO: ...Redistricting, rules for a presidential election, a governor has a lot of influence.
SNELL: A governor does have a lot of influence, but, like I said, it comes down to sometimes those pocketbook, at-home issues that make people actually show up and vote.
SHAPIRO: Tamara Keith, I can see you about to jump in.
KEITH: Well, President Trump has been very focused on a bunch of these governors' races for the very reasons that you mentioned because, for his 2020 outlook - and you have to look at his travel schedule in these midterms. And all of his trips - almost all of his trips were to red states, states he needs to win in 2020 or purple states, states he'd like to win in 2020. And he's been very focused on these governors' races because, if he has a Republican governor in place in 2020, that can only help him.
SHAPIRO: I want to bring in Republican strategist Michael Steele, who formerly worked with House Speaker John Boehner. Welcome back to the program.
MICHAEL STEELE: Good to be with you.
SHAPIRO: Now that House Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring, whether Republicans hold onto the House of Representatives or not, what do you see as the future for GOP leadership in the House?
STEELE: Well, I think it's most likely going to pass to Kevin McCarthy. He's the heir apparent and would - has done an extraordinary job over the past several months working with the administration, particularly Vice President Pence, to protect the House majority.
And I think it's not possible to say at this point whether it will be a narrow Republican majority or a narrow Democratic majority in the House of Representatives next year. But the fact that I don't think we're going to see the sort of tsunami, the sort of blockbuster Democratic year that some people were predicting is because, in large measure, of the great work that Leader McCarthy has done.
SHAPIRO: One thing that does seem to be clear is that moderates within the House Republican caucus are leaving either because they've retired, or because Democrats are likely to displace them. What does that mean for the House GOP?
STEELE: Yeah, it's a sad phenomenon that the majority makers in both parties are often the more moderate members, the members that have the ability and the desire and the willingness to reach across the aisle and get things done. And that's unfortunate. I think that we had high hopes that some of those members - you know, Carlos Curbelo in Florida it looks like is - may not be able to - to return.
But there were a lot of Republican members in districts that Secretary Clinton won two years ago, where the president is not particularly popular, who were running really strong races based on their own personal appeal, their own connection with their constituents and their work on issues that are important to their constituents. Looks like Will Hurd, a congressman from Texas, is an example of one of those members who will be able to come back because of his focus on the issues that his voters really care about.
SHAPIRO: It's interesting because so many voters that I talked to say they are voting for the candidate of their choice because they hate the fighting and the partisanship in Washington. And yet the votes that people are casting seems to be leading to more fighting, more extremism and more partisanship.
STEELE: Yeah, and I think if you see a Democratic House, that's only going to get worse. You're going to see endless investigations of the president, the administration. I think that it will very, very likely end in the House passing or attempting to pass articles of impeachment. I don't think the Senate would ever convict and remove the president. But I - I worry that, in an attempt to get change, voters are going to wind up with worse gridlock and worse fighting.
SHAPIRO: All of the Democratic leaders we've spoken to say they are not leaning towards impeachment, at least not until Mueller finishes his work. But they are also saying that they have ambitious legislative goals that they hope they can reach compromise with Republicans on - health care, infrastructure, government reform. Does that seem like a pipe dream to you, or do you think that's plausible?
STEELE: I think that there is a chance in the wake of these - if the Democrats take the House, in the wake of this sort of election where the majority changes, there is an opportunity for the new majority to work with a president of the other party. Historically, times of divided government have been - have been really productive. The question is whether the Democrats and the president will be more like Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, where they found some areas of common - some areas of common ground - not the highest legislative priorities of either. But working together on balancing the budget and welfare reform, they were very successful.
President Barack Obama was never able to - to have that same sort of success on any legislative project after losing the House majority in 2010. He worked for much of 2011 with former Speaker Boehner, my boss at the time, on a pretty aggressive, pretty impressive bipartisan deficit reduction package that included both spending cuts and tax reform, but ultimately wasn't able to bring his own party along. And after that effort collapsed, never really...
SHAPIRO: I think he would describe the chain of events differently, but we needn't relitigate the past (laughter).
SHAPIRO: Well, Michael Steele, thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate your time.
STEELE: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: He's a Republican strategist.
MARTIN: And we're going now to Jim Himes. He is the chair of the - he's a Democrat from Connecticut. He is chair of the New Democrat Coalition. In other words - and actually, why don't I let you describe, Congressman, what it is that you're trying to do with the New Democrat Coalition? We don't have him yet. So let's just stay here and be together with ourselves.
MARTIN: OK, Kelsey. Kelsey Snell, tell us - tell us what you have to tell us right now.
SNELL: Well, the - we - the Associated Press is calling the Senate race in West Virginia for the incumbent, Democrat Joe Manchin. This was a very closely watched race.
SHAPIRO: President Trump himself engaged in that and fought hard to oust Manchin.
SNELL: Yes, and - but Manchin was the lone Democrat to vote for Trump's second Supreme Court nominee, Brett cabinet. And he was one of three Democrats to vote for Trump's first pick. Now, Manchin has been a huge fighter. This is something he has said that he's been confident - as I've talked to him in the hallways for months, Manchin has said that he felt like things were going fairly well. Though - and Republicans were - you know, they really hoped that this would be a seat that they could pick up because West Virginia has trended far more conservative in recent years. But this is one where Democrats - I'm already getting an inbox full of celebration.
SHAPIRO: Donald Trump carried West Virginia by almost 68 percent in 2016.
LIASSON: Yeah, I think that was his biggest margin in any state.
SNELL: Yeah, it is...
SHAPIRO: So what does it say that a Democrat, any Democrat, this specific Democrat, can win statewide office in a state that Donald Trump carried by almost 68 percent two years ago?
SNELL: Well, one of the criticisms that Democrats will level against Manchin is that he's not much of a Democrat when it comes to his voting record and that he often does vote with Republicans. Now, he is very independent. He is a supporter of coal, and he is - I mean, he tends to just buck the party when he needs to. He also is a person who has a long history - a long family history in that state. And he's just a very different type of politician.
SHAPIRO: It sounds like part of the lesson is recruit the right people to run in the state where they're running.
SNELL: Well, and that has been what Democrats have been saying this is - been this - if there will be success for them this year, that is what it is about, is about making decisions that you don't have to have a litmus test to be a Democrat. And that is, I think, one of the single, largest changes that we saw between 2016 and 2018 in the way that Democrats were thinking about their candidates.
LIASSON: And I think if Manchin hangs on in West Virginia, if Tester hangs on in Montana, it shows you the power of having a very strong personal brand. These are states where Democrats, by all rights, should not even have Senate seats because they're so red.
SNELL: And we have another call now, Carlos Curbelo in Florida has lost for his re-election. He is the Republican moderate who ran as a critic of President Trump. He lost to Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. She - she was, you know, a former educator who came up very strong and who Democrats put a lot of resources behind.
SHAPIRO: Two themes of the night there - centrist - centrist Republicans losing their seat and also a man in Congress being replaced by a woman.
MARTIN: And now we are going to go to Jim Himes, Democrat from Connecticut. He is the chair of the New Democrat Coalition. And I'm going to ask him to explain what that means. Congressman, can you hear us?
JIM HIMES: Yes, good evening.
MARTIN: Good evening. OK. So I'm asking you to tell us what the New Democratic Coalition is all about.
HIMES: So the New Democrat Coalition, there's 68 of us right now in the caucus, and I anticipate that they'll be, you know, maybe 88, 90 of us in January when the new class is sworn in based on what I'm seeing so far tonight. We are kind of the more - we'd like to think of ourselves as the pragmatic progressives, that is to say we come from purplish districts, which inclines us to kind of listen to everybody, not just the Democrats but the independents and we need to win some Republicans.
So, you know, we tend to be that element of the caucus that is looking to reach across the aisle, get things done, compromise. We're proud Democrats, but at the end of the day we really want to move forward. And, again, we're the folks who are going to win big tonight in places like Virginia, more challenging districts in Florida, maybe in the Midwest and California. And so I think it will be our folks that hopefully give us the majority before the night is through.
MARTIN: Let me ask you a couple questions about that. First of all, there's already a caucus called The Problem Solvers Caucus, which is the congressional version of a larger group called the No Labels Coalition. It's a group of people from across the aisle who are trying to figure out how they can work together. What does your group do that this group cannot or doesn't?
HIMES: Well, so The Problem Solvers Caucus are Democrats and Republicans. And no surprise a lot of the members of The Problem Solvers Caucus on the Democratic side are the more moderate Democrats. That is to say New Democrats and Blue Dogs. And a lot of the Problem Solving Caucus Republicans are losing tonight because it is those moderate Republicans who are losing tonight, as I remember happened to the moderate Democrats back in 2010. So it's just, you know, the New Democrats, Democrats, Problem Solvers are a bipartisan group.
MARTIN: To that end, what do you think that means though if the argument is that moderate Democrats can survive but moderate Republicans cannot? Does that mean something when it comes to trying to accomplish your agenda?
HIMES: Well, it really does. And remember tonight is a night when moderate Republicans are losing en masse, but my class of 2008 was wiped out. And these were moderate Democrats in 2010 with the Tea Party wave. And so you ask a really good question because the political system that swings control of the House of Representatives back and forth - just in my limited career it's gone back and forth - you know, God willing tonight the Democrats take control of the House - three times.
And what happens is that your most vulnerable members are those members who are most inclined to reach across the aisle. That is, in and of itself, a system that makes it very hard to get things done. So one of the things I'm very focused on as chairman of the New Democrats is, look, I'm thrilled that we're likely to take the majority in the House of Representatives.
But, again, having lived through what happened to Democrats in 2010 and watching it now happen to Republicans, I'm really interested - not with my party jersey on but with my sort of more American benefit of the Republic jersey on - how do we slow the swing of the pendulum? How do we create a system that has more lasting and more compromising legislators to actually get things like infrastructure done, like immigration reform done? Because that's just what's not happening.
MARTIN: Well, a lot of your colleagues would say - well, some of your colleagues. I would say maybe people more in the activist community would say that it's actually gerrymandering that is leading to this kind of extremism of the parties. It really isn't something that the candidates are doing. It's something that the parties have done or that the structure is doing. What is your take on that?
HIMES: Well, that's partly true. That's partly true. There's no question that there's been pretty aggressive gerrymandering over time. And if you look at the popular vote in the United States, you know, depending on which pundit you listen to, the Democrats need to have sort of a 6 or 7, 8 percent popular-vote lead in order to break even in the House. That's not right. That's partly gerrymandering.
It's also partly just the fact that, you know, we've sort of sorted ourselves politically, and that's going to be one of the big lessons of tonight. Democrats are going to win big in urban areas and suburban areas and are going to lose big in rural areas. If you see what's happening in Florida right now, that's the story. But, by the way, the Senate has become just as polarized as the House of Representatives. And of course you can't gerrymander the Senate because, you know, senators...
MARTIN: We're going to have to leave it there for now. There's going to be a lot to talk about in the coming days, and we thank you for giving us a taste of what we're going to be talking about in the next couple of days. That's Jim Himes. He's a Democrat from Connecticut, chair of the New Democratic Coalition. Thanks so much for being with us. And you are listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin. In Illinois, Democratic billionaire J.B. Pritzker has won the race for governor, defeating the incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner - Rauner, sorry. We've got Tony Arnold on the line. He's a political reporter at WBEZ. He's at the Pritzker campaign headquarters in Chicago. Tony, thanks so much for being here.
TONY ARNOLD, BYLINE: Sure thing.
MARTIN: First of all, just give me the sense of the atmosphere there.
ARNOLD: Oh, here at the Pritzker party, everyone's on cloud nine not just because JB Pritzker soundly defeated Bruce Rauner, but also because Democrats won every single statewide seat that was up. And so it's been a very effective night for the Democrats here in Illinois.
MARTIN: And was that a surprise that the Democrats would do so well?
ARNOLD: Not a total surprise. Rauner, the incumbent Republican, you know, we've seen in blue states around the country, Republican governors have been able to be somewhat successful at governing and remaining popular, particularly, I'm thinking of Massachusetts where that's an example.
But here in Illinois, when Rauner entered office, he did really this thing where he went to war with incumbent Democrats and, in particular, labor unions. Democrats were able to coalesce these unions together to form what you're seeing tonight, just a resounding, organized defeat of Rauner. Rauner, bit by bit, over his four years, pretty much lost his entire base both from moderates and from conservatives. And so I think that's also all contributed to the effects - the results that you're seeing tonight, here.
MARTIN: Could you talk a little bit more about that? So, I mean, first of all, a huge amount of money spent in this race. Pritzker spent more than $170 million of his own money on the race. This is the - I'm told, the largest amount any candidate has ever spent on their own race in American history. And there are the dynamics about the incumbent governor, Bruce Rauner, that you just described. Could you just describe the relative weight of each of those two factors, first the money - and was this a referendum on the governor's performance?
ARNOLD: As far as the money goes, Pritzker is a billionaire. You're right $131.5 million put into his own campaign. Most of that went to advertising, 80 million at least. That's the last report that I saw, probably more by now. And in addition to that, he also put - pumped a lot of money - millions of dollars - into rural parts of Illinois to support Democratic candidates way down the ticket. And I think you're out in the results of that, that Democrats have been competitive in rural Illinois where they haven't been competitive in at least 10 years, I was told by a Democratic leader who watches that. As far as - I'm sorry. What was your second question?
MARTIN: The question was Bruce Rauner's - performance was this a referendum on him - as briefly as you can.
ARNOLD: It absolutely was a referendum on him. Illinois went through a two-year budget impasse, having no budget at all, meaning that judges had to step in because the state was constantly getting sued, saying you have to pay for things like child welfare or paying employees who show up to work. And judges were really keeping the state alive. Rauner alienated a lot of people through that strategy.
MARTIN: I think we're going to leave it there. That's Tony Arnold, political reporter at WBEZ. He's been reporting on the victory of JB Pritzker in the governor's race there in Illinois. Tony Arnold, thank you so much for joining us.
ARNOLD: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: And you're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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SHAPIRO: This is Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.
MARTIN: And I'm Michel Martin. Democrats have now picked up four Republican House seats in districts in Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania. They need 19 more wins to take control of the House. Here is the current minority leader, Nancy Pelosi.
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NANCY PELOSI: My friends, tonight, a historic victory is within our grasp, a victory we do not seek in the name of our party, but for America's hardworking families.
MARTIN: So far, Republicans have defended several competitive House seats, including Kentucky's 6th District, where Andy Barr has won re-election. Republicans have also picked up a Senate seat in Indiana. Mike Braun defeated Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in a state that President Trump won by double digits two years ago.
SHAPIRO: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says, so far, it's been a good night for her boss. Here she is speaking just about 30 minutes ago on the White House lawn.
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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Obviously, candidates that have embraced the president, embraced his policies and that he's gone in and campaigned for and worked hard for, we're seeing that pay off tonight.
SHAPIRO: In Florida, the hotly contested races for Senate and governor remain too close to call.
MARTIN: And at this hour, results from the West are starting to come in. Two key Senate races to watch there are in Nevada and Montana. Incumbent Republican Dean Heller is running against Democrat Jacky Rosen in Nevada for a seat that Democrats must win if they hope to take control of the Senate. And in Montana, incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester is a slight favorite over GOP challenger Matt Rosendale in a state that Trump won by 20 points.
SHAPIRO: Let's look at what we've learned so far tonight with NPR's Scott Detrow. Hey, Scott.
DETROW: How's it going?
SHAPIRO: Good. A few hours ago, the narrative was Democrats hope to take control of the House, and Republicans might pick up a couple seats in the Senate. How does what we've seen so far compare to those expectations?
DETROW: Well, it fits the narrative, and it goes against the narrative at the same time. The Democrats have picked up four seats so far in the House of Representatives that were controlled by Republicans, including one just now. The AP is projecting that in Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Dean Philips has defeated Republican Eric Paulsen. So that's a pickup there.
All of these races are incredibly close. Up and down the East Coast, in these must-win districts for Democrats, it's one-, two-, three-point margins.
SHAPIRO: So not a tsunami.
DETROW: It's not a tsunami, but all year, Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats have said, hey, even if it's a tsunami, it'll be about - the phrase that she kept using was tiny drops of water in each district, a whole lot of narrow wins. A lot of people thought that was spin. It looks, like, to be pretty accurate of how the races are coming in.
In the Senate side, Republicans are doing pretty well, a little stronger than projected. But worth noting, one big-picture thing that kind of fell away was that - the AP is now projecting that Tammy Baldwin is defending her seat in Wisconsin. So far tonight, we have easy wins in the Senate for Democrats defending seats in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
SHAPIRO: All three states that went for President Trump in 2016.
DETROW: Exactly. He would not be president without those three states. So this is a tough night for Democrats so far. They've lost a seat in Indiana. They're behind in Florida in a very close race.
SHAPIRO: Though they did hold on in West Virginia, a state that went overwhelmingly for President Trump.
DETROW: Yeah, and that's really notable, as is the fact that Republicans didn't go through the Trump majority, state by state, and pick up a bunch of states there.
SHAPIRO: So what does this mean, Scott?
DETROW: I think it means a whole lot of gridlock. First of all, it means we're gonna have a long night counting votes in the House of Representatives. I think the Democrats are going to add to their lead a lot more in a little bit. There are several open seats in Pennsylvania. The Democrats are on track to win pretty easily.
But right now, this is not that tsunami where you could think in the 9 or 10 o'clock hour we know exactly what's going to happen. We're going to have to wait hour by hour, vote by vote, which kind of feels like last time.
SHAPIRO: Let's go now to Congressman James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina. He is the House assistant minority leader. Welcome to the program, and thanks for making the time for us tonight.
JIM CLYBURN: Hello.
SHAPIRO: Hello. Thank you for joining us.
CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
SHAPIRO: We just heard Scott Detrow say this does not look like a tsunami. Would you agree with that? And if so, why do you think Democrats have not produced the overwhelming tidal wave that some were hoping for?
CLYBURN: Well, you know, you don't always get what you hope for. What we were trying to do is regain the majority. I think that we're going to do that. It's predicted to be an 80 percent chance that we'll take the House back. We needed - to get to that point, we needed 23. I always projected us to pick up around 30 to 35 seats - or to get that much. And so I don't know that you have much of a wave when you really have this kind of redistricting to overcome.
SHAPIRO: So you attribute it to the map.
CLYBURN: Well, I consider to the fact that we have been very harshly redistricted. And that's why you see a lot of states now beginning to take a hard look at doing independent commissions to do these lines. There's some very, very partisan lines drawn. The last time this was done, many of us sued. I complained against my own district because I had piles of counties in my district I had never had before. And all they were doing was bleaching out all the counties around my district. And so I knew what they were doing. And I hope. they get some objections to it. But I didn't. But just because it's legal to do, doesn't mean it's fair to do. So...
SHAPIRO: Congressman Clyburn, I want to pause you for just a moment because Scott Detrow has some news for us, I believe. Scott.
DETROW: Sure. Democrats have actually added another flip to their their approach in Pennsylvania. They have picked up an open seat. Mary - Mary Gay Scanlon is the projected winner there. She now becomes the first woman to be part of Pennsylvania's current congressional delegation. Women have represented Pennsylvania in Congress in the past, but they had not the previous Congress. She'll probably be joined by a few other women. Also, Ar, you covered Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
SHAPIRO: Is he officially a senator from Utah?
DETROW: He is officially coming back to Washington.
SHAPIRO: All right.
DETROW: Associated Press projecting Mitt Romney, the next senator from Utah.
SHAPIRO: OK. I want to return to Congressman James Clyburn, who - Congressman, you're still with us now?
CLYBURN: Yes, I am.
SHAPIRO: OK. I want to talk to you about advances for African-American politicians tonight. Ayanna Pressley - first African-American woman to represent Massachusetts. We're waiting on results in the Florida governor's race, the Georgia governor's race. There are other places where black politicians could really make strides this year. What do you think is the larger story here?
CLYBURN: Well, Ayanna, I don't think she'll having a difficultly today. She was a - it was a big story. I mean, she won the Democratic primary up there against an entrenched congressperson. But winning in this general is not a big story for her. It would have been a big story to win one of the three governorships that African-Americans were pursuing. And it looks like Andrew Gillum is going to come up about 95,000 votes short. And I think that the shenanigans taking place in Georgia...
SHAPIRO: Shenanigans, you mean ballot access issues.
CLYBURN: Yes. I mean, what the secretary of state was doing there and had been doing it for several years now - this is not new. And of course, I just think that - and I've been saying throughout this campaign that this is a great nation. We're having struggles within the nation trying to make that greatness apply fairly and equitably to all of our citizens.
And I think that this campaign brought that into high relief. We've seen just the direct bullhorns being used to racialize these elections. And I hope that this will not be successful, but I've got to admit that in some instances this seems to be a successful ploy.
SHAPIRO: All right, well, Congressman James Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina, thank you for joining us tonight.
CLYBURN: Well, thank you so much for having me.
SHAPIRO: And, Scott, you've got some more news for us, I understand.
DETROW: Two key races - in the Tennessee Senate race, Republican Marsha Blackburn has defeated Democrat Phil Bredesen. This is one of those race where the polls look to be pretty off. The polls had showed Blackburn ahead with a widening lead in recent weeks, but she is leading by a wide margin tonight, 56 percent to 43 percent with about 70 percent of precincts reporting.
That's really interesting because this is one of the seats that, for most of the year, Democrats thought they would be able to pick off. This is a seat being vacated by retiring Bob Corker, one of those Republicans who criticized President Trump and decided to leave Washington. That is going to stay in the Republican column by wide margins.
SHAPIRO: What does this mean for Democrats' hopes to retake the Senate?
DETROW: They're getting narrower and narrower. Two big races that Democrats have felt like they were their best chances to win were in Nevada and Arizona. And Texas, of course, was also a high-profile longshot all along. So...
SHAPIRO: At this point, they've lost Indiana and Tennessee.
SHAPIRO: Well, lost in air quotes.
DETROW: That's right. That's right. They've lost the potential opportunity.
SHAPIRO: The potential to pick up those states. Right.
DETROW: But they have lost a seat for sure in Indiana. Though, as you mentioned, the - holding a seat in West Virginia is a pretty big deal for Democrats.
One other quick race to mention - another suburban Philadelphia pickup for Democrats. Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, yet another one of those first-time candidates with - with a military background. She served in the Air Force. She is now the second woman in Pennsylvania's congressional district. They've gone from zero women representing Pennsylvania to two in the last 10 minutes. She is picking up an open seat that had been held by Ryan Costello.
MARTIN: And now we want to go to NPR's Ron Elving. He's our senior editor and correspondent. Ron, it's good to see you.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you.
MARTIN: Just what are your thoughts about what you're seeing so far tonight?
ELVING: It's quite a mixture of different impulses on the part of the voters. We are seeing big turnout. It's not necessarily big everywhere, but it does seem to be bipartisan. We're seeing a lot of Democrats enthusiastic. We're seeing a lot of younger voters, a lot of people of color coming out to vote. And those are two categories of Democrats who have not been reliable voters in midterms in the past. So they are largely responsible for the heavy turnout.
But the Republicans are not sitting at home. They are representing as well. And as a result, we're seeing some surprisingly strong showings by some Republican candidates, especially the statewide races for the Senate. But we're also seeing a pretty predictable outcome on the House side, where, by the historical standards, a president who's under 50 percent approval in the polls, as Donald Trump is, that president, generally speaking, sees his party lose about 30 seats or more in the House of Representatives.
Right now, we're headed towards something between 25 and 32, 33, something like that. So it looks like it's going to be pretty close to historic norms despite this very large turnout and despite the fact that the large turnout would seem to be particularly driven by Democratic demographic groups.
MARTIN: We're going to hear from another Republican strategist in just a minute. So I'm going to ask you, Ron, first, the question that I'm going to ask him, which is that you hear the White House say that the candidates who have embraced the president's agenda are doing well, and those who haven't aren't. But we see, on the House side particularly, a number of candidates who explicitly ran against President Trump's agenda and some of whom are first-time candidates who said part of the reason they are running is to oppose President Trump's agenda also doing well.
ELVING: That's right.
MARTIN: So what's the message about President Trump's agenda?
ELVING: That it's not very popular among Democratic voters and that if you're a Democrat, you want to run as much against Donald Trump as you possibly can. And if you're a Republican, you're caught in a bit of a bind because if you didn't support President Trump, you might have lost in your primary, as a number of Republicans did, because someone else came along and said, I'm a bigger supporter of the president than the incumbent Republican or the establishment Republican. And so they got the nomination - Ron DeSantis in Florida, who may wind up getting elected governor of Florida tonight. It looks like he's very narrowly ahead. Ditto Brian Kemp in Georgia, who looks like he's well ahead.
So those people embrace Donald Trump and have prospered. But there have been other middle-of-the-road or relatively moderate Republicans who have not embraced the president, and oftentimes, they are in districts that are a little more vulnerable to challenge from the Democrats in the first place, which is why they didn't embrace the president. And many of them are going down. So the president will blame them, in a sense, for being more moderate, for being in districts that were more vulnerable and say it was their failure to embrace him that cost them.
MARTIN: We're going to hear from Scott Detrow now. Scott.
DETROW: One more flipped House district. This is in Kansas. Sharice Davids, the Democrat, defeats - defeats the Republican there. And she is an interesting candidate. She is - she is a Native American. She's - she's a lesbian. She's a formal MMA fighter. She is - she is - a lot a lot of firsts there. And she - earlier in the night, Amy McGrath, one of the Democrats that really went viral nationally and raised a ton of money online, she lost her race. Sharice Davids was another one of these viral Democrats that Democrats across the country were excited about. She is going to win in Kansas's 3rd District. That flips another suburban seat for the Democrats.
It's interesting to note that, so far, every Democratic pickup so far is one of those districts that was their main road map to retaking the House and that was a district that elected a Republican in 2016 to the House, but voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential race.
ELVING: And that district that she is winning is the easternmost district in Kansas. It includes Kansas City, Kan., which is a city of some diversity and also Johnson County, which is the perfect example of a suburban, Republican area where a lot of the women have been bailing out on Donald Trump and his agenda. Also there is another seat in Kansas, which is currently being led by another Democratic candidate, Paul Davis, who is a little bit ahead of Steve Watkins in the district just to the west of the 3rd District. That includes Topeka, the state capital, and that district could flip as well, in which case Kansas would have half of its delegation in the House represented by Democrats.
MARTIN: And Ron Elving is going to be with us for another couple of hours. So stand by. We hope to hear more from you. You are listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin. And joining us now is Rory Cooper. He's a GOP strategist and former communications director for Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
RORY COOPER: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So is it congratulations or condolences at this point?
COOPER: (Laughter) Well, I don't know yet. I mean, it depends - depends on who I'm talking to. I mean, it's a mixed bag, as you - you know, I think that what most people were looking for tonight was some excitement. And what it's turning out to be is a rather conventional midterm.
If you look at President Obama's midterms, you know, he was about the same approval level as Donald Trump is right now or President Bush in his second term. And, you know, they both suffered losses that kind of coincided with that. But Republicans are going to do very well in the Senate. Democrats are probably going to end up with their best-case scenario, which is a narrow majority in the House. So I think, you know, there's plenty for people to pop champagne about and plenty for people to drink a stiff one about tonight.
MARTIN: Let's talk about what this means for policy if we - if we can.
MARTIN: As you've heard the president say or the president's spokespeople say that the candidates who embrace the president and his agenda are doing well, and the candidates who didn't are not. On the other - on the Democratic side, there are a number of candidates who explicitly ran against the president and ran on the promise to both, of course, you know, advance their priorities, which are health care and other things, but also to be a strong voice opposing the president are also doing well.
What does this foretell for setting shared priorities? Is that going to happen?
COOPER: No. I mean, I think that - I think that it's not going to end up being that cut-and-dry. I mean, you're looking at Republicans like Barbara Comstock losing, who certainly - but no one would regard as a Trumpian (ph) Republican. But, you know - and you're also seeing Mario Diaz-Balart in Florida at the same time, and he's also somebody who's been a moderating force in the House.
So, you know, it's not - it's not black and white across the board. I think that regardless of whatever outcome you're going to see tonight, you weren't going to be getting much legislative action out of the House and Senate over the next two years regardless. Republicans clearly wanted to hang on to the Senate to be able to continue pushing judicial appointments through. But in the House, you were going to be looking at gridlock probably either way, either with a narrow Republican majority or a narrow Democratic majority.
You are going to be looking at a heavy amount of committee action because Democrats are going to flex their oversight muscle because that's their ability to, you know, control one lever of government right now. But from a policy standpoint, there's - there's probably very little that they're going to be able to agree on with the Senate, yet alone with President Trump.
And let's face it. The 2020 presidential election starts in probably about eight hours. And most of the senators are - Democratic senators are going to hit the road campaigning to be the nominee. So, you know, either way, you weren't looking at a very busy Washington, D.C., for the next two years.
MARTIN: That is Rory Cooper. He's a GOP strategist, the former communications director for Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Rory Cooper, thanks so much for joining us.
COOPER: My pleasure.
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MARTIN: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR
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MARTIN: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Michel Martin.
SHAPIRO: And I'm Ari Shapiro. Democrats have now won at least 10 of the 23 seats they need to gain control of the House, but they have lost ground in the Senate. Republicans have flipped Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly's seat from blue to red. The man who beat him, Mike Braun, gave his victory speech at the Indiana GOP headquarters.
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MIKE BRAUN: And like any competition, you fight hard. You want to win. You've got to make your case. And we did it. The one thing I would love to see change in politics is it's gotten way too nasty on both sides.
SHAPIRO: That's Republican Senator-elect Mike Braun giving his victory speech in Indiana about 20 minutes ago. And Scott Detrow, way too nasty on both sides pretty much sums up this campaign. Is there any chance of things being a less nasty when a new Congress is sworn in in January?
DETROW: You know, if Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate and the White House, probably not because then you have two parties passing their own agendas, setting their own agendas, and if the last decade or so is any indication, not being too inclined or not having much incentive to work together to get those kind of big, bipartisan, moderate laws that were passed when Mara was covering Bill Clinton's administration. And that was all the rage in the mid-'90s.
That's just not the way the Obama administration worked, the Bush administration worked when Democrats retook control. And it's certainly gotten even more partisan since then.
Democrats have gained several more seats, at least four House pickups for Democrats since we last talked about it. They picked up seats in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado. By and large, all the pickups - almost all the pickups we're seeing so far are coming in those suburban districts, most of them won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. That seemed to be the path of least resistance for Democrats to get the seats they need.
SHAPIRO: So Democrats are roughly halfway to the number of seats they need to flip.
SHAPIRO: Have they been on track so far? Have there been big surprises?
DETROW: There have not been too many big surprises, right, Mara?
LIASSON: No, I think they're right on track. You know, from people who thought they were going to knock off a lot of Republicans in Trump districts, that's not happening. But in the suburban districts, especially that pool of, I think, 21 seats that Hillary won but a Republican was representing in the House, they're doing very well. They're on track.
SHAPIRO: And also we have seen Democratic wins in so many states that president Trump carried, whether we're talking about the Great Lakes, Pennsylvania, Ohio or if we're talking about a place like West Virginia, where Senator Joe Manchin, the Democrat, was re-elected.
LIASSON: But that - and that almost is an anomaly because Joe Manchin has his own brand. What I think is the most significant is the Midwestern wins that Democrats are making. Not only are they holding onto their Senate seats, like Sherrod Brown or Tammy Baldwin or Amy Klobuchar, but to the extent that they can win the governors' races - we don't know yet in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan - that is going to be really important for the next cycle.
SHAPIRO: Let's talk about a state that is not typically a swing state, but in Kansas, the Democratic candidate for governor, Laura Kelly, is up on Republican Kris Kobach, who's currently the secretary of state in Kansas.
LIASSON: The Trumpiest (ph) candidate you can be.
SHAPIRO: The Trumpiest candidate you can be. Let's talk about that with Brian Grimmett, who is a reporter with the Kansas News Service. He is at Kris Kobach's campaign party in Topeka. Hi, Brian.
BRIAN GRIMMETT, BYLINE: Good evening.
SHAPIRO: You know, Kris Kobach is a national name even though he's a Kansas figure. President Trump appointed him to his voter integrity panel, which was subsequently shut down. He has been such a firebrand. What was this campaign like in Kansas?
GRIMMETT: It followed that same model. He hit immigration very hard on the campaign trail and debates. And that was - he talked about a few other things, including taxes. But immigration was a big deal for him, and he hit that really hard.
SHAPIRO: And what does it mean that, after having done that in this deep red state of Kansas, he appears to be trailing his Democratic opponent?
GRIMMETT: Oh, I think it was just - it was a little bit too far for - for people in a state that, historically at least, has been pretty moderate. A lot of the agriculture and meat-processing plants rely on immigrant labor. And I think it just was a bit too much for people here in the state.
SHAPIRO: How much was this race about Sam Brownback, the governor who left earlier this year and was very unpopular at the time?
GRIMMETT: That was also a huge factor, and I think that played a huge role. He said that - Kris Kobach said that he wanted to go back to some of those tax cuts. And people still feel very strongly against that plan. And I think that really helped Laura Kelly.
SHAPIRO: If Laura Kelly does win tonight, tell us a little bit about her. Who would she be as governor of Kansas if she wins?
GRIMMETT: I think she would be a pretty moderate Democrat. She is - education is a big deal for her. So they're going to try to put more funding into education. I think the other big thing that they're going to try to do is expand Medicaid.
SHAPIRO: A couple other interesting races in Kansas before we let you go - two U.S. House races. What are they looking like at this point?
GRIMMETT: So, at this point, in both the Kansas 3rd and 2nd districts, the Democrat is up in those races. And I think it was more expected in the 3rd District where incumbent Kevin Yoder, who's a Republican, they kind of expected that he might lose. But it's a little more shocking to see in the 2nd District that the Democrat, at least at this early stage, is up.
SHAPIRO: If the Democrats win all three of those races, I think a lot of people on the coasts are going to be totally baffled by it. As someone in Kansas, what insight can you give the, quote, unquote, "coastal elites" into how this state could plausibly elect Democrats to these offices?
GRIMMETT: Well, I think it's just a more moderate state than people give it credit for and especially in some of the growing suburban areas. Especially up by the Kansas City area, it's very suburban. The - the - the white women in that area are - I think are - it's been shifting left, and they played a huge role in making these changes happen.
SHAPIRO: That's reporter Brian Grimmett of the Kansas News Service speaking with us from Topeka. Thanks very much.
GRIMMETT: You're welcome.
MARTIN: We've been talking a lot this evening about West Virginia, where Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has won his closely watched re-election bid against Republican Patrick Morrisey. So we're going to go there now. Dave Mistich is with us. He's a political reporter with West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Thank you so much for joining us.
DAVE MISTICH, BYLINE: Hey. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So one of the reasons we've been talking about this is that West Virginia went for Donald Trump by double digits in 2016. So how did Manchin pull this off?
MISTICH: Well, you know, there was a - this race was highly contested. There was a lot of attention on this race. Polling initially put Manchin about 5 points ahead of Morrisey. Later, it sort of tightened up, coming down to the wire. Should note that just yesterday, or today actually, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that Patrick Morrisey had missed the deadline to release some public communication between he and some pharmaceutical companies.
Of course, Manchin attacked Morrisey again and again and again. The Democratic senatorial committee, campaign committee had sued Morrisey to release those documents. At the end of the day, Manchin remains really popular. He's a moderate Democrat. And while Trump is, you know - Morrisey has aligned himself with President Trump, Senator Manchin has had a very long history in the state. And inevitably, the voters saw him as a - as a more likable candidate despite, you know, the affinity for President Trump.
MARTIN: So I was going to ask you about that. Joe Manchin was the lone Democrat to vote with the Republicans to confirm President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. So - which, of course, disappointed some Democrats who were hoping that he would stand with them. And, as you also noted, Joe Manchin has long and deep ties to the state, as Mara Liasson put it, a kind of a really powerful personal brand there.
I'm going to ask you to sort of analyze this for us. Which do you think was the more powerful factor here? Do you think it's the - kind of Joe Manchin's just overall aura, or do you think that specific issues like that, that showed that he's willing to vote with the president, were the relevant factor there?
MISTICH: Well, I think it's a mix of both. I mean, Manchin has, I mean - you can't talk about the West Virginia Democratic Party without mentioning Joe Manchin. He's more or less ingrained in every aspect of the state Democratic Party. Ask anyone that's involved in politics here and the Democratic Party, and Joe Manchin is sort of the first person that anyone would point to.
I think initially progressives were upset with Manchin, you know, for that vote in support of Justice Kavanaugh, that nomination. But I think at the end of the day, you know, it really didn't matter. Of course, you know, Patrick Morrisey tried to attack Manchin for being a political opportunist.
But I think, you know, overall at the end of the day, most West Virginians supported Kavanaugh as that pick. So, you know, and again, we all know that Manchin waited until the very end to announce how he would vote on that. But, again, Manchin's sort of ingrained in the state's - the state political party here. And Morrisey not - despite, you know, his closeness with President Trump, a lot of people saw him as sort of an unlikable candidate compared to Manchin.
MARTIN: That is Dave Mistich with West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Dave, thank you.
MISTICH: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: We're going to go now to Jim Messina, Democratic strategist. He is former deputy chief of staff to President Obama, and he went on to run President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, which was, of course, successful. Jim Messina, thanks for joining us tonight.
JIM MESSINA: My pleasure.
SHAPIRO: What do you think tonight's results say about the state of the Democratic Party so far - results so far?
MESSINA: Well, we're having a great night in the governorships, and if you look at 2020, in the presidential election, having governorships is really important 'cause you get to set redistricting. You get to set campaign laws. So it's a very big night. And, you know, as go the suburbs goes the country. And tonight, as we look like we're on the path to have a narrow victory in the House, we're winning a bunch of suburban seats all over the place. And that's incredibly important to the party going forward.
SHAPIRO: The Senate is also incredibly important, and Democratic hopes of taking back the Senate have been shrinking steadily all night.
MESSINA: Yes, and as kind of predicted. And, you know, my prediction was we - the Republicans would pick up two Senate seats. It looks like that's kind of where we're headed right now. You know, America is still the most polarized country in the world. And when you look at what the Republicans are doing tonight, they're winning Senate races in traditionally red states - Missouri, North Dakota. And we'll see some of the other ones coming up.
Joe Manchin, as you guys just said, is a very different animal. He's incredibly popular in his home state, and he survived where Donald Trump won by 41 points. But right now, you're seeing kind of a realignment in the Democrats taking over the suburbs and Republicans continuing to solidify rural America.
SHAPIRO: Jim, I'm going to pause you for just one second because we have some news from a Senate race that many people have been watching closely. Scott Detrow?
DETROW: That's right. Texas Republican Ted Cruz projected to win in Texas. Democrat Beto O'Rourke caught fire across the nation for Democrats. He raised money that you typically only see presidential candidates raise. And it's a pretty close race. Cruz only has 51 percent right now - but not enough Democratic votes tonight. Cruz is going to win a second term. And that takes both of the long-shot Democratic pickup opportunities off the map - that's Tennessee and Texas both held by Republicans.
LIASSON: So in other words, Beto was criticized for taking all this money from out of state and not helping other candidates. What you're saying is that he made permanent infrastructure improvements for Democrats in Texas.
MESSINA: Oh, absolutely, Mara. When you look at the numbers of people who are registered in that state in the past year, you're seeing a real uptick. And you're also seeing today, in the exit polling - and who knows? - because, Mara, you know me well. And I hate polling. But if the exit polls are right, you have a historic number of young people voting in that election in Texas. And long-term, you vote in one midterm election, you're very likely to continue your voting habits through the rest of your life.
Ronald Reagan turned a bunch of young people in 1980, Republicans. Barack Obama turned his generation in 2008, Democrats, and they stayed in those parties. And so it is probably true that Beto O'Rourke just turned Texas into a - you know, I'm going to say a purple-ish-red state. And it's up to someone else to get it all the way purple.
SHAPIRO: All right, Democratic strategist Jim Messina, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
MESSINA: All right, guys. Have a great one.
SHAPIRO: You, too. And you can go to npr.org to get caught up on the latest news and results. You'll see all the information coming into us here in the studio. Just go to npr.org on your mobile device or computer.
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SHAPIRO: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News. Ian Pryor is a Republican strategist and former press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Thank you for joining us this evening.
IAN PRYOR: Thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: A lot of Republican leaders today and earlier this week were saying, we believe we can hold onto the House. At this point, do you still believe Republicans can hold onto the House?
PRYOR: You know, I think it's pretty tough right now. We've been dealt a difficult map. I think see some races, New York's 11th District and (inaudible).
SHAPIRO: You know, I'm afraid your cellphone is breaking up. We're going to come back to you a little later this evening and hopefully be on a better phone line because we want to hear what you have to say, and right now we're getting just about every other word. That was Ian Pryor, Republican strategist. And we'll try to come back to him later.
Scott Detrow, what do we know at this point?
DETROW: Well, we know at this point what the big picture, split-screen, going into the night looked like. Democrats are on track to possibly retake control of the House of Representatives. If they do so, it's going to be a little bit of a nail-biter. They're winning a lot of close races. And they're winning a lot of the races they expected to win and a few ones that were off-the-wall. But by and large, this is not a tsunami. This is not a night where Democrats are going to gain 60 or whatever seats.
SHAPIRO: So why didn't Democrats get this enormous blue wave that they were hoping and planning for, especially given how dramatically they outspent Republicans on this race?
DETROW: I think a couple of factors. One is that in the final weeks of the election, it looks like Republican enthusiasm really did jump to the level where it may have matched or almost matched Democratic enthusiasm.
SHAPIRO: And was that because of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings?
DETROW: Could be. It could be a lot of factors. It could be the fact that President Trump spent a lot of time in these states where Republicans were trying to pick off Senate seats as well. I'd seen some polling that showed a big - a big wave of Republican enthusiasm right around Kavanaugh. But that kind of faded as, you know, 35,000 other news stories (laughter) happened between then and now.
But in the Senate, you have Republicans having a very good night. They've picked off one Democratic seat so far. And they've held - they've pushed back Democratic challenges so far in the two states Democrats thought there was maybe an outside chance of picking up. That being said, the two best chances Democrats had to take Republican seats are - are in the western part of the country. So we haven't really seen the full numbers coming in yet.
SHAPIRO: When I think back in the two years since President Trump was elected, there has been so much activism, so many people marching in the streets, whether it was teacher strikes, whether it was students marching for gun control, whether it was the Women's March, which brought thousands of people to Washington, D.C. Does all that seem to have had an effect on what we're seeing tonight?
DETROW: Absolutely. You saw a record number of women running for office, primarily on the Democratic side of the race. Several women who are going to be - going to Congress next year said - were pretty frank that they got into politics, they got energized because of President Trump, that they went to the Women's March and decided, I'm going to run for Congress.
I did an interview almost two years ago with one - one Democratic woman who just won a seat in suburban Philadelphia, Chrissy Houlahan. She said she watched election night. She marched. She decided to run. Now she's going to Congress. There are several other Democrats with that story as well.
But I think what we're seeing is a solidifying of the divided country that we have, where Democrats are doing well in the suburbs with higher-income voters and not as well the rural areas.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Scott Detrow, who is with us throughout the night as we get more results. You can also follow along with our coverage online at npr.org. You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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SHAPIRO: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Ari Shapiro.
MARTIN: And I'm Michel Martin. In a key race for control of the Senate, Republican Marsha Blackburn won the Tennessee seat left open by retiring Senator Bob Corker. Blackburn is currently a U.S. representative. She beat Democrat Phil Bredesen, the former governor.
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MARSHA BLACKBURN: We're going to continue to do what we do, work every day. As I say, I get up and I fight for what I call the big five - faith, family, freedom, hope and opportunity.
SHAPIRO: In another closely watched race, Republican Senator Ted Cruz in Texas has won re-election, beating Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke. We're also watching several state ballot initiatives, from marijuana use to expanding Medicaid to raising the minimum wage.
In Florida, voters have approved Amendment 4. That will restore voting rights to most felons after they have completed their sentences. NPR's Mara Liasson is here with us, and, Mara, give us your take on the big picture of the night, what we've learned so far.
LIASSON: Well, I think that there is a narrative forming that, what happened to the big wave? What happened to the tsunami? You were even guilty of that a minute ago, Ari (laughter).
SHAPIRO: I think I repeated someone else saying, we haven't seen the tsunami, and I said, why not? But go on.
LIASSON: I just want to push back against that because early in the evening, NPR laid down what we thought success - how we would define success for each party. And for the Democrats, Domenico and I decided that it would be to take the House back, to limit their losses in the Senate. And we said that was probably two or less - net-minus two or less. And then to make significant gains in governors' races and state legislative races. So far, they are on track to do exactly that. And, yes, we haven't had the huge, surprising, you know, red-state senators falling. But I would say the Democrats are having a pretty good night.
SHAPIRO: And Scott Detrow has some news for us. Scott.
DETROW: Well, they're having a pretty good night in the House. They are not in the Senate because The Associated Press is now projecting that Republicans have officially retained control of the Senate. The AP is projecting that Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has lost her re-election bid to Republican Kevin Cramer, the at-large representative in North Dakota.
That means that even if Republicans lose the two seats they're defending out in the Mountain West and the West, they would have a 50/50 Senate, and Mike Pence would break ties.
SHAPIRO: Just practically speaking, let's take a step back...
SHAPIRO: ...And have a little civics lesson. What does it mean for one party or another to control the Senate? What powers come with that?
DETROW: Well, setting the agenda, what you vote on, what you vote on. Democrats were so angry about Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee who never got a vote in the Senate. He never got a vote because Republicans had control, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had the decision of, we will hold a vote on him; we won't hold a vote on him. He decided not to hold a vote. It didn't happen.
So with Republicans maintaining control of the Senate, that means McConnell will be able to hold votes on a whole lot of judicial nominees for President Trump that can continue putting conservative judges on the Court. And if the Democrats do take back control of the House and pass, you know, a permanent fix for DACA recipients or - or many of the other things that - that Democrats want to do, that means that the Republican Senate can just not vote on it or vote for something else.
And here's one more thing. If Democrats want to push impeachment, the idea that a Republican-controlled Senate would vote to convict a president who's been impeached by the House is somewhere around 0 percent.
SHAPIRO: And how close are Democrats to their goal of retaking the House? We've been saying 23 seats need - needed to take control of the House. How far along are they at this hour of the night?
DETROW: About halfway there. They picked up about a dozen seats at this point in time. And that puts them on pretty good track considering so many of the key races Democrats thought would be that first wave of seats they pick off are out in California, where polls haven't closed yet.
SHAPIRO: How are they doing in the governors' races?
DETROW: They're doing pretty well, as well. They have picked up gubernatorial seats in Illinois and I believe Michigan as well. Democrats have picked up seats there. They've also defended seats in Colorado. Jared Polis won the open governor's seat there.
Ohio had been a race that had been getting a lot of attention. Richard Cordray had been leading a lot of polls. He's the Democrat running for governor of Ohio. He is actually trailing the Republican, Mike DeWine, right now by about seven points, which is notable since Sherrod Brown won a really easy re-election in the Senate race in Ohio.
SHAPIRO: A couple of the most prominent governors' races we've been watching in Georgia and Florida - still too close to call?
DETROW: That is right. Florida is basically 50/50. Republican Ron DeSantis has a 50 to 49 percent lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum. And in Georgia, let me just scroll to that on my screen.
SHAPIRO: I think I would remember if we had called that race, and I don't remember.
DETROW: Yeah, but with 67 percent reporting, Brian Kemp, the Republican, is leading Stacey Abrams, the Democrat, 54 to 45 percent. That would be notable because nearly every poll had that race neck and neck.
MARTIN: Well, we're going to hear more about Georgia actually in - right now. Bill Nigut of Georgia Public Broadcasting is with us, and he can tell us more about that. Bill.
BILL NIGUT, BYLINE: Hi, Michel. Good to talk to you.
MARTIN: So how's it looking there?
NIGUT: Well, I think you've got to be careful about the margin that you're hearing. Because the big metro Atlanta counties, which are predominantly, of course, Democratic are still - those precincts are out in big numbers. DeKalb County, one of the state's biggest and most powerful Democratic counties, very few of the votes counted there. Fulton County, Clayton County - counties in the immediate metro area - and what - what you have to have - had seen was Kemp building up the kind of lead he's showing right now across rural Georgia to withstand the influx of Democratic votes. So I think it's really fair to say that race right now really is way too close to call.
MARTIN: And just remind us, if you would, about why it is that people are so interested in this race. I'm going to take my colleague, Mara Liasson's, instruction here and not call it a wave. (Laughter) But - but you cannot ignore the fact that there has been tremendous excitement about this race from all across the country, excitement and anxiety and actually some anger and tell us why. Remind us of why.
NIGUT: I think there are several reasons. Number one, of course, Stacey Abrams, if she wins would become the first African-American, female governor in the United States. She is also running as a progressive Democrat. Democrats don't run as real Democrats in Georgia. They run to the right, and in the last decade-plus, it hasn't gotten them anywhere. Jason Carter tried to do that when he ran for governor in 2014, Jimmy Carter's grandson. He didn't get very far.
So Stacey Abrams has come in and said, no, no, no. I am basically a liberal Democrat, and I'll run as one. Brian Kemp runs as a very conservative Republican. So you've set up a dynamic here that we have not seen in Georgia for a very, very long time. And it has made for a really exciting race.
MARTIN: I'm sorry. You didn't mention Oprah. Could we mention Oprah?
MARTIN: I just think we should mention Oprah because we should do that at every opportunity - who came in to - what? - campaign for Stacey Abrams.
NIGUT: You know, Oprah told the crowd - she did two events in suburban Atlanta for Stacey Abrams. And she told the crowd that she called Stacey Abrams up out of nowhere one day and said, hi, Stacey. This is Oprah. And Oprah said that Stacey said, oh, hi. Let me pull the car over. I want to talk to you. So it was Oprah who actually said she wanted to come in. Apparently, the Abrams campaign hadn't asked her to. And of course, she made a huge impact here.
Now, did she turn out voters for Abrams? You know, we have nothing but anecdotal evidence. But she didn't hurt.
MARTIN: Well, we do also want to point out that the vice president is campaigning for Brian Kemp, who's currently serving as secretary of state. Tell us, if you would, though - I mean I don't want to make light of the fact that this - this is a hard-fought race, and it's also had a turn that a lot of people are describing as - as very nasty. Tell us why.
NIGUT: Well, for a couple reasons. Number one, Brian Kemp has clung to the Trump mantra of really attacking, as ferociously as possible, his opponent, trying to disqualify her as a legitimate candidate. And then, of course, you have all of the accusations here that the national media has certainly paid a lot of attention to, alleged voter suppression on the part of Kemp as secretary of state.
Most recently, the big story over the weekend, Kemp - the secretary of state, who is also running for governor, sent out a news release saying that the Democrats were under investigation by the secretary of state's office for a potential criminal effort to breach the voter rolls in Georgia. That hit like a bombshell. Kemp was not able to provide any evidence of what exactly had happened.
And so it's that kind of thing, especially in the overall environment of people worrying about voter suppression, that has put a pall on this race in many ways.
MARTIN: That is Bill Nigut of Georgia Public Broadcasting. Bill, thanks so much for keeping us up to date.
SHAPIRO: We're joined now by Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat - oh, no. Sorry. Actually, he will be with us in a moment. But, Domenico Montanaro, take stock for us. What do we know at this point?
MONTANARO: Well, you know, these two narratives that we'd been hearing about going into Election Day that were, you know, potentially looking at Democrats taking over the House and yet Republicans in red states coming out and helping buoy Republicans in the Senate, certainly looks like a lot of what we're seeing.
I wouldn't, again, call the Senate a wave by any means. These are places that Republicans should win. These are places where Donald Trump did very well in 2016. So, you know, especially if they end up with only a net of two tonight or something like that, then, you know, that is hardly a huge win for Republicans.
SHAPIRO: We're now joined by Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. We should mention the only Democrat in the Louisiana delegation. Congressman, thanks for joining us today.
CEDRIC RICHMOND: Oh, thanks for having me.
SHAPIRO: I want to ask you about a development in nearby Florida tonight, where voters approved a ballot measure to give voting rights to convicted felons after they have served their sentence. How significant is that?
RICHMOND: It's big. I think that America's citizens have taken a very hard look at the criminal justice system, what makes sense, what is right. If you look at Louisiana, we also passed a constitutional amendment so that it takes a unanimous jury in order to convict people of a felony. Before, we were 10 out of 12 and you can convict somebody for life. And it was born out of the Jim Crow movement and an effort to disenfranchise African-American voters. And our state overwhelmingly passed that constitutional amendment.
So I don't think it's an anomaly that Florida and Louisiana did it. I think people are just taking note. And it's about really bending that mark of a moral universe more toward justice.
SHAPIRO: One of the things we've been talking about tonight is how, in order for Democrats to win all over the country, Democrats have to tailor their message to the part of the country that they live in. You're a Southern Democrat in the state of Louisiana. What does a Democrat have to do to win in the South these days? Because a lot of Democrats have tried and failed.
RICHMOND: Well, I think we have to the about the family unit, and when you start thinking, well, what does that mean? Family unit is so broad. Well, it means income. It means education and, I mean, how to pay for education for your children, a quality, public education system, the cost of college. It's health care, paid family leave and the fact that people just want a fair shake. And for far too long, Republicans have been able to send this message in the South of, if you're poor and you're white, it's minorities' fault because they keep taking all the benefits that should go to you.
And now I think voters in the South are digging deeper into messages, and they now look past that sort of race message and look at what do you want to do and what's your plan, which is - which is good and where we should be? So - but no. Democrats, we don't need a national message. We don't need a national message. We should run telling our constituents what it is we want to do for them and how we're going to do it. That...
SHAPIRO: I also want to ask you about the leadership in - among the Democrats in the House because the Congressional Black Caucus, which you lead, has said there should be an African-American lawmaker in a leadership post if Democrats take control of the House. Is that an assurance that you've gotten from your colleagues, and how forcefully are you going to push for this?
RICHMOND: Well, that letter that went out said that if there is a leadership change, that means that there is a change in our current leadership, which is Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, we believe an African-American should be one of the top two.
Look, it's been 233 years. We've never had a minority as the one or top two in the party. And if you look at this renewed vigor in the Democratic Party, a lot of it has been driven by minorities. So - and I think we have the talent to do it. And the party should be reflective of the base and the party values.
So if we're going to have a leadership change, yes, I think that an African-American is well-poised to be the one or two. And I think it's important for our caucus to do that.
SHAPIRO: All right, Congressman Richmond, thank you for joining us tonight.
RICHMOND: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: Congressman Cedric Richmond is a Democrat from Louisiana. And you can follow all the latest results and headlines this Election Night Live at npr.org while you're listening here.
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SHAPIRO: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin, and I'm joined now by John Brabender. He's a GOP strategist, and he was a strategist for Rick Santorum when he was in the House and the Senate. Mr. Brabender, thanks so much for joining us.
JOHN BRABENDER: Oh, glad to be here.
MARTIN: I wanted to ask you about the way forward here if the projections are as we now believe them to be and the Senate is going to stay in Republican hands. We're not calling the House yet. But the House does - you know, the Democrats certainly hope that they will then take the House. What does that suggest about how the country moves forward on key policy issues that everybody says that they care about?
BRABENDER: Well, I think there's two possible paths. Either we're going to have the Democrats and Republicans say, look; time out. Enough of this fighting. We're going to find common ground on things like health care and immigration and taxes, and we're going to move forward together. But I think most of us believe that's probably overly optimistic based upon recent history.
If that doesn't happen, you're going to see, in the next two years, a lot of what happened in the final two years of President Obama's administration, and that is basically governance by executive order.
And so what preserving the Senate for the Republicans, No. 1, is it preserves judicial nominations. So that - that takes that out of the equation. But as far as actual legislation, if there isn't going to be common ground found, then you will see President Trump doing a lot of things by executive order.
MARTIN: Scott Detrow has a question for you.
DETROW: Hey, there. So I have a question about the Senate. Obviously, a good night for Republicans in the Senate - they're keeping control. They picked off several Democratic seats. But if you go state by state through the states that made Donald Trump president - Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, likely Michigan - in every single one of those states, it wasn't really a close contest. And the Democrat won re-election easily.
What do you make of that in terms of thinking about - with apologies to everyone for asking about an election two years from now - looking at those key states that put Trump in the White House, whether or not you can really call those states that are now in the Republican - in the Republican camp or not?
BRABENDER: Well, one thing I've been saying for a long time is I think people were making a false assumption. And that was just because conservative Democrats, the sons and daughters of Reagan - what we would have called Reagan Democrats voted in big numbers for Donald Trump in those Rust Belt states. There was the presumption, oh, I guess that means they're now going to vote Republican.
And I think you have to understand, when Donald Trump ran in 2016, in some sense, they saw him as a third-party candidate. They felt that they had been left particularly on the economic battlefield or playing field by both the Republicans and Democrats and were looking for something different.
The other thing you have to keep in mind is that 2016 was not just a vote up or down on Donald Trump. It was a choice election, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. And so I think the false assumption we made was if Donald Trump won a state by 18 points, or a state like he won in wide margins...
BRABENDER: ...We knew that states that...
MARTIN: All right. We have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us. We have to leave it there for now. John Brabender is a GOP strategist. Thanks so much for joining us.
BRABENDER: Thank you.
MARTIN: This is NPR News.
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SHAPIRO: This is Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.
MARTIN: And I'm Michel Martin. Democrats have made gains slowly and surely in the House tonight. So far, they have picked up 14 seats. That means they are nine seats away from the number needed to take control of the House.
SHAPIRO: At this hour, polls have closed in California, where there are several key House races that could help get Democrats closer to that goal. Many of those districts are in Southern California around Orange County, a longtime Republican region that flipped to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
MARTIN: And NPR is now reporting that Republicans will retain control of the Senate. They have flipped two Democratic seats in states that President Trump won handily. That means Republicans will have at least 50 Senate seats and can break any tie with Vice President Pence's vote.
SHAPIRO: One notable Senate victory for the Democrats - West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin won his re-election bid against Republican Patrick Morrisey. West Virginia is a state that President Trump carried by 43 points in 2016, and the president made several visits to that state to boost Morrisey. Despite that, it was Manchin giving a victory speech tonight. Here he is speaking at his election headquarters in Charleston.
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JOE MANCHIN: What West Virginia said loud and clear tonight, Mr. President, we want our senator, not your senator.
MARTIN: And we'd like to get some details on what we know so far from NPR's Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, welcome.
SNELL: Thank you. Hi there.
MARTIN: So what do we have?
SNELL: We are watching right now - as I've been talking to Democrats in the past hour or so who feel like - they - they're not surprised by what happened in the Senate, but they are disappointed. But they are feeling like they are happy with where they are in the House. This is where they wanted to be at this time of the night in order to take control in the House.
Now, they've got a lot more races still to come in, and in particular, they're expecting a large number of pickups in California. But they feel comfortable with where they are, and they are looking to see, in the next hour or so, several more seats.
MARTIN: Can - I know it's early, and we still haven't seen the full picture. But I'm wondering to what they attribute their success. Is it picking the right candidates? Is it matching the right candidate to the right state? Is it giving them the support they needed early on? Is it running the whole board, you know, running across the country? What are some of the things that they're saying is contributing to the outcome that we're seeing tonight?
SNELL: They're saying that they landed on the right candidates, the right message and that it was the right time for Democrats to to take over in places where, you know, particularly in the suburbs - something we've talked about for months now. These are places where a lot of voters felt really turned off by President Trump and by his - not just the policies he was talking about, but the way he was talking about policy. And they really have made a lot of gains in those suburban areas, areas around Miami, areas around Chicago, around Philadelphia, in New York.
These are places that Democrats were confident that they could really dominate, and they have.
MARTIN: So is this a realignment, or is this that Democrats have figured out how to win seats they should have been winning anyway?
SNELL: Well, it may be a little bit of both. A lot of the consultants I talked to think that people really are retreating to their corners and that the economic pull of cities is growing larger. So areas in the suburbs are really just attracting more Democrats who may not be able to afford to live in the cities but want all of the conveniences that go along with cities.
Now, there is a little bit of Democrats picking candidates that are just not following the traditional Democratic litmus test, people - they recruited more people who are military veterans. They recruited a lot more women. They really expanded what the party looked like this year.
SHAPIRO: We're going to go now to Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from my home state of Oregon. Senator Merkley, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
JEFF MERKLEY: Oh, you bet. It's great to be with you.
SHAPIRO: Well, what do you see as the narrative of the evening for the Democratic Party?
MERKLEY: Well, first I see that the president's polarization of the country has made red areas redder and blue areas bluer - very significant wins in - for the Senate - in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania states.
SHAPIRO: I was going to ask whether you call those red or blue areas because they went for President Trump in 2016, but Democrats carried them tonight.
MERKLEY: (Laughter) Well, they have been a little bit what we might say is purple, but a strong, working-class background, a lot of manufacturing - manufacturing that's really been hurt by jobs going overseas, something President Trump played on. But our candidates, our incumbents in those states, Casey and Sherrod Brown and Tammy Baldwin - all very strong proponents of making things in America. And they did very well tonight. So that is certainly encouraging as we look to 2020.
SHAPIRO: So do you see President Trump's tariffs and his moves on steel affecting the political leanings in these Great Lakes areas that rely so heavily on manufacturing?
MERKLEY: Well, I think what Trump has done is essentially to make symbolic moves. He's kind of throwing rocks and saying, yeah, I'm taking on the folks who are taking our jobs. But it's not a systemic strategy that's going to restore manufacturing to America. And so I think the outcome there is pretty - pretty mixed. And that - so it's not a kind of a Republican brand at this point. It was something Trump pushed and claimed he'd fight for. And he's done a few things, but the outcome is in question when you have these Democrats from manufacturing states who have been fighting this battle very hard.
SHAPIRO: Senator Merkley, I also want to ask you about progressivism within the Democratic Party because you endorsed Bernie Sanders in 2016. You've been a vocal progressive voice in the Senate. Where do you think your party stands in regards to the far-left wing of the party?
MERKLEY: Well, we're very clearly a big (inaudible). And you think about the differences in the spectrum between Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Bernie Sanders or others on the progressive end, and yet all of us, 100 percent of us in the Democratic caucus, stood against the tax scam bill that took a trillion dollars out of the Treasury last year and gave it to the richest Americans. All of us stood up against the effort to dismantle health care in America.
And now we're seeing the middle class is saying, oh, you know, that Bill of Rights that was part of the ACA that you'd get the same price even if you have preexisting conditions. You get the same price on your insurance, your children stay on your policy until age 26 and so forth - that those turn out to be really valued across America in red areas and blue areas. So we're really seeing that - that health care battle evolve.
But one thing I wanted to mention in the Senate because there's going to be a lot of commentary about the fact that Democrats lost seats tonight - but think about it this way. We're on track to win 21 to 23 of the 35 seats up. So that's two-thirds of the seats up in the Senate tonight Democrats are going to take. We had to take 80 percent to win the Senate, and we're not making that. And we are losing some seats. We're still winning two-thirds of the seats.
SHAPIRO: Well, that's another way of saying the map was not favorable to Democrats because seats that...
MERKLEY: Exactly. It was an extraordinarily tough map to begin with. If we'd that started somewhere else, we'd be celebrating a massive Democratic victory in the Senate tonight to go along with the victory in the House.
SHAPIRO: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
MERKLEY: You're so - you're so welcome. Great to be with you, and we do need to fight for a lot of this vision of how to make America work for working Americans.
SHAPIRO: All right, thanks. Take care.
MARTIN: We're going to go to Florida now, where Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis appears poised to become that state's next governor. The Associated Press has not yet officially called the race, but the Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, has just given his concession speech.
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ANDREW GILLUM: Y'all, I want to encourage you not to give up. I want to encourage you to stick to the fight. I want you to know that every step of this way, even though I won't have the blessing of serving as the next governor of the state of Florida, I still plan to be on the frontlines right alongside every single one of you when it comes to standing up for what it is that we believe in.
MARTIN: That is Democrat Andrew Gillum conceding the race for governor of Florida to his opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis. And joining us now is Brendan Byrne, a reporter with WMFE in Florida. He is at the DeSantis campaign party in Orlando. Thank you so much for joining us.
BRENDAN BYRNE, BYLINE: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: What does this mean for Florida in 2018?
BYRNE: Well, it seems like, you know, the president endorsement of Ron DeSantis really played out. Going into this election, DeSantis was down in the polls. And he somehow was able to come through and come out and win this election, with a last-minute focus on the environment and the economy. And that is what his campaign manager said kind of gave him that last push. It helped get some of those non-party-affiliated voters here in the state to go ahead and support DeSantis.
MARTIN: Well tell us more about that. What exactly about the economy and what exactly about the environment do you think were the key factors there?
BYRNE: Right, so the environment in Florida right now is struggling with quite a few things. We're dealing with algal blooms, and we're also dealing with red tide that's killing fish on our shoreline. And really, DeSantis pushed and said, you know, Gillum wouldn't be right for the economy and - or for the environment. And, you know, he would be the right guy. One of the first things that he put out in his campaign was his environmental policy.
When it comes to the economy, DeSantis pushed back on a lot of Gillum's programs, like Medicaid - or Medicare for all or like revamping the state's schools and said, well, you know, that was a big cost of taxpayers' money.
MARTIN: Well, I - I hear you're in a busy place. I'm going to - I'm not going to keep you too long because I hear you're sort of fighting the crowd there, at least the noise of the crowd there. And obviously people are very excited there. But - but - but we've been talking a lot about turnout around the country. Do you have any sense of how that broke? Did they break for Gillum, and did that break for DeSantis?
BYRNE: Well, it looks like the turnout was neck and neck with - with both for early turnout, for Democrats and Republicans. But there was, like, 2.5 million non-party-affiliated voters that are unaccounted for on Election Day. So it seems to be the trend is to break for DeSantis. And if they win 13 million voters, that's quite a lot.
MARTIN: All right, well, thanks for trying to fight through it, Brendan Byrne. That's Brendan Byrne, a reporter with WMFE in Florida. Thank you so much.
BYRNE: Thank you.
MARTIN: And now we're going to go to Kelsey Snell. Also I just - I do want to mention the Florida Senate race between the incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, the Republican challenger Rick Scott, is - the outgoing governor, is still too close to call, as I understand it. But, Kelsey, what else do you have to tell us?
SNELL: Well, we have talked quite a bit about how Democrats are having a fairly good year so far with governors. But Republicans have just eked out a win in Ohio. AP is projecting that Republican Mike DeWine has won there. And it's the seat that's being vacated by term-limited Governor John Kasich, now also a Republican who ran for president.
He defeated the - the - sorry - Richard Cordray, the Democrat who ran the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and ran with the endorsement of a lot of labor unions, something that people thought would be very helpful to him in Ohio.
MARTIN: Give me a sense about why - any more can you tell us about the dynamics of that because Richard Cordray is obviously a really well-known figure in Washington, D.C. I don't know how well-known he is in Ohio. But what's your - what's your sense of the dynamics there?
SNELL: Well, it's really - I think this whole thing has been really interesting, watching the way Ohio has played out. We talked a bit about how Trump has - has had strong feelings and has weighed in there and that this state is something we're going to be watching really closely. We saw Sherrod Brown, the senator Democrat, be re-elected there at the same time as the state decided, another statewide election, to go for a Republican. That means that Ohio is definitely going to be a contested state in 2020.
SHAPIRO: And now we're going to go to Texas, where NPR's Wade Goodwyn has been watching the Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke. Of course, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz hung on tonight. Wade, what's the story with the night in Texas? Democrats' hearts broken again?
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Well, I mean, if your heart is set on Beto O'Rourke, your heart's broken.
SHAPIRO: Democrats' hearts broken. Democrats' hearts broken.
GOODWYN: Yes, if - if - if that's where your heart is, your hearts are broken.
GOODWYN: If you're - if you're interested in seeing how Democrats and Republicans do in the Congress - in key congressional races, your hearts are less broken. And two kind of key congressional races, one in Dallas, and one in Houston - the Democrats, Lizzie Fletcher is challenging Congressman John Culberson. And she's leading by about 4 percentage points, 51.9 to 48.1 with 74 percent reporting - and Colin Allred, who is a former middle linebacker who played college and professional football, who has a certain Dwayne Johnson je ne sais quois is beating...
GOODWYN: ...Pete Sessions by almost 6 percentage points with 53 percent reporting.
SHAPIRO: So could be a couple of House pickups for Democrats tonight in Texas.
GOODWYN: These are congressional districts that have a mix of - of middle-class and rich constituencies and have been - I mean, Culberson's district was won by George H.W. Bush in the '70s and has been a rock-solid Republican district for 50 years. So this is - this would be an historic win if Fletcher holds on to win. And Sessions has held this seat for 16 years. And if Colin Allred defeats Sessions, that would be a big story, too.
As far as Cruz and Beto go, Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke, it's - Cruz is leading with 60 percent of the vote by about 3 percent. So it's...
SHAPIRO: So the national profile and all the fundraising of Beto O'Rourke was not enough to endear him to enough Texans to win him the Senate seat.
GOODWYN: Right. Well, I mean, he's - you know, a Democrat in this state statewide is starting about a million votes down. So that's a steep climb - a steep hill to climb.
SHAPIRO: All right. That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Texas. Thanks, Wade.
GOODWYN: It's my pleasure.
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SHAPIRO: And you're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
MARTIN: And joining us now is NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe. Ayesha, welcome.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Thank you.
MARTIN: Well, what is it - what is the White House saying about tonight's results? Now, we've been talking about all of this. What does the president have to say?
RASCOE: Well, the president just tweeted just seconds ago. And Trump says, tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all. So that is essentially what the White House has been saying. They are saying this is a great night for him. Sarah - White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders talked before it became - so before there were so many projections that Democrats would take the House tonight. But she was saying, even then, that she thought things were going well, that candidates that embraced President Trump and that President Trump invested a lot of time and effort into campaigning for, that they are winning.
So they're pointing to - they're pointing to Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee and Mike Braun and Indiana. Both picked up Senate seats tonight. So they are pointing to the President Trump - to President Trump's efforts in those races and saying that he did a great job and seemingly right now saying because they're able to hold on in the Senate, that this is a win for President Trump.
MARTIN: But did the president choose these places in part because they embraced him? I mean, the question is what was their strategy going into it?
RASCOE: Well, that's the thing. What was the cause and effect? There is definitely an argument that he campaigned in places where it seemed that he would have the biggest impact and where his base was really strong and that he didn't go to the places where he wouldn't have had it. So he wasn't focused on House races. He was focused on those Senate races where he had the best chance. So there's a little bit of the chicken and the egg there.
MARTIN: It's - obviously, it's early. We still don't know the full picture. The question then becomes if the - if the Democrats do take over the House - and the president did indicate, in recent days, that he thought that that was going to happen - has the White House given any indication of how they plan to work with the House, what they anticipate their relationship is going to be with the House?
RASCOE: They say that they will work with - with anyone, that they - that this is not going to change President Trump's agenda. It will change, obviously, how they can get it through if you have a Democratic House. They're going to have a very different partner in trying to get these things through.
Tonight, Sarah Sanders was talking to Fox. And she said that if Democrats do take over the House, they shouldn't focus on investigations, that they need to be focused on policy. But of course, that's going to be the sticking point is that if Democrats do take over the House, there are going to be many investigations. And so this could be a very antagonistic relationship.
MARTIN: And of course, very briefly, if you can, Ayesha, but is the White House anticipating that, and they - do they have a strategy for addressing it? We know that there's been quite a lot of turnover in the White House counsel's office and in the president's legal team over the course of the last two years. Have they - how are they going to address that?
RASCOE: It's going to take a lot of work. They're probably going to have to hire and staff up to get ready for kind of an onslaught of subpoenas.
MARTIN: That is NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe. Ayesha, thank you.
RASCOE: Thank you.
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MARTIN: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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MARTIN: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Michel Martin.
SHAPIRO: And I'm Ari Shapiro. Having picked off two seats held by Democrats, Republicans will keep control of the Senate. But Democrats are marching closer to taking control of the House tonight. So far, they have picked up 15 of the 23 seats they need to do that. About an hour ago on the White House lawn, press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters what that would mean for President Trump.
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HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president is going to continue doing exactly what he came to Washington to do, and he can do that whether Democrats have control of the House or not. The question is whether Democrats actually want to come to Washington and do the job that they were elected to do and actually solve real problems.
SHAPIRO: That's Sarah Sanders speaking about an hour ago at the White House. Domenico Montanaro, do you think Democrats view what they are being brought to Washington to do in the same way that Sarah Sanders does - quote, "do the job they were elected to do and actually solve real problems," as she describes it?
MONTANARO: Well, sure, except if what Senator Sanders is saying by that is compromise with this president and do what he wants. Then no, that's not what they think. So, you know, we have to play a little bit of translation here as the spin war certainly tries to be played out.
You know, we don't know all the results just yet tonight, but a couple of points to make here. One of the things I've been looking at is trying to track these Obama-Trump districts, places where President Obama won in 2012 and President Trump won in 2016, which should tell you a little something about which direction things are headed. And right now, Democrats are - have either won or are winning in two-thirds of those districts.
MONTANARO: Yeah, 13 of 21 or 20 districts so far.
SHAPIRO: I'd like to take a step back and talk about the big picture. Kelsey Snell, we've talked a lot about Democrats versus Republicans tonight. But there have been a lot of other themes. This has been called the year of the woman because of record-breaking numbers of women running for office. There's been talk of a rainbow wave, with record numbers of LGBTQ candidates, a wave of veterans with veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars running for office.
Do the results that we are seeing reflect those big themes that we've been talking about all through this campaign?
SNELL: So far, yes, and in part because Democrats are having a lot of success right now. And those - that wave is happening largely within the Democratic Party - not so much within the Republican Party. When you talk about military veterans, we see - saw Jason Crow who is a former Army Ranger, win in Colorado. And we have Mikie Sherrill, a woman who is also - she's a a former federal prosecutor and a Navy helicopter pilot who won in New Jersey.
And they're just some of them - just a few of the many people who are fitting into, again, this expanded version of what the Democratic Party will look like in 2018.
SHAPIRO: How does that make business on Capitol Hill function differently?
SNELL: Well, that's something that Democrats and their leadership are really going to have to tackle. And we're really expecting that Democrats are going to have a - an internal moment where they have to figure out who their party is and what their leadership looks like. A lot of people I talked to think that Nancy Pelosi will likely be their leader next year still. Though, it's not likely to be something that is going to make everybody happy. And her tenure could be very short if a lot of these new faces have anything to say about it.
MARTIN: I wanted to ask about some of the racially charged messages that we saw over the course of this campaign. And obviously, there are - some of the candidates would disagree that these were racially charged messages, but they were received as such by the people to whom they were directed - or at whom they were directed.
I'm just wondering about what these results say about the success of that tactic. I mean, I've seen in some districts, candidates who were recipients of that message have succeeded. In other - in other campaigns, they have not.
Everywhere we went - we've been reporting around the country - people have complained about the tone of this campaign. That is part of that. I just wonder if we can draw any conclusion about whether these kinds of really hard-edged messages work or don't work.
MONTANARO: I don't know if you can draw real strong conclusions about it. I mean, I think that to an extent, you know, cynically they do work, right? I mean, there are - there are the kinds of negative ads that you see, the kinds of ads that prey on fear and white grievance, in particular. That certainly drove a lot of Republicans to the polls.
Now, when you're talking about districts like an upstate New York district with Adrian Delgado, he won tonight. So, you know, that's - that clearly didn't put, you know, enough voters off to say that they were not going to vote for him. This has played out in a lot of different districts in a lot of different ways. And this is not the first election to see that happen. And I think that if you're a Republican and you're thinking that this is something that can work, it may work in certain places, but not in others.
MARTIN: It is interesting, too, to see some of the attack ads were based on questions of economic - economic theory, like when is the last time you heard people talking about socialism in this country? And there were races where people were being accused of being socialists and what does that really even mean in the current environment?
SNELL: I think one of the things that we're going to have to watch here is how this changes the makeup of the Republican Party and the messaging of the Republican Party over the next couple of years heading into 2020. Do they move closer and closer to adopting the really heated rhetoric of the president, or does this start to even out now that we're past the midterms?
SHAPIRO: Well, let's put that question to Ron Bonjean, who worked with the Trump transition team in 2016 and was spokesman for Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott. Thanks for joining us tonight.
RON BONJEAN: Thank you very much for having me.
SHAPIRO: Well, could you try to answer that question that Kelsey Snell just asked? How does tonight's outcome affect the shape of the Republican Party and the message of the Republican Party in the next two years?
BONJEAN: Well I'll tell you what. It is going to be very - it's going to be very difficult to change up the direction that they're going in at this point because of the fact that they've built a red wall in the Senate based upon the motivation - you know, the messages that President Trump delivered on immigration, delivered on Brett Kavanaugh. Those kind of things really fired up Republicans in those states. And Trump can see the success of that.
Of course, we've also lost House of Representatives in a number of districts that were - were trending blue and it looked very difficult for us to win or in toss-ups - you know, a lot of toss-ups that, you know - and historically, we know that the House goes to - that - that the president - you, know the party in power, you can and often you lose the seats.
And so I don't know how much the message is actually going to change. Also with Democrats' newfound powers of oversight, I think it's going to really fire up Republicans as well. This is not...
SHAPIRO: Do you think Republicans...
BONJEAN: ...Going to be - yeah.
SHAPIRO: Do you think the White House...
SHAPIRO: ...Is ready for Democrats, if they take the House, to start wielding those oversight powers?
BONJEAN: I'm not sure. I don't think so at this point because they've just hired a new White House counsel who is now staffing up. And hiring new folks, as all - as, you know, other counsels begin to leave that office. And so it's going to be really interesting to see how aggressively House Democrats come out of the gate, which they probably will do. That will obviously get a bad reaction from President Trump.
And we're not off to kumbaya come January, February of 2019. We're off to World War III on Republican-versus-Democratic messaging going into 2020.
SHAPIRO: You know, we've also just, in the last few weeks, seen so much violence in this country between the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the pipe bombs that were sent in the mail, the attempt in Louisville to shoot - open fire in a black church where the person redirected to a Kroger supermarket. And many people have argued that language leads to action and that rhetoric leads to violence. Do you worry that the country will continue in that direction?
BONJEAN: Well, I certainly hope not. I mean, no one would wish violence that, you know - of any kind based upon political rhetoric. Absolutely not. And my hope is that it does not. But the stakes are raising now for the 2020 election starting tonight, tomorrow. And the political rhetoric is going to get red-hot. I mean, not just from Republicans - it's going to be red-hot from Democrats, too.
I mean, you know, the Democrats under likely leadership of Nancy Pelosi, they're going to want to - they're going to want to, you know, showcase what they have to prove. And they are going to want to take on President Trump. I mean, this is - the stakes are going to get real high.
SHAPIRO: If I interpret what you're saying correctly, it sounds like you hope that the violence and the attacks will not continue, but you fear and perhaps anticipate that it will?
BONJEAN: No, I fear and anticipate - I don't fear it - I hope that they don't and I have no idea if they will or not. I can't answer that as a hypothetical. Let's just all pray and hope that it doesn't continue.
But I will say that - that we're going into a news cycle where there will be calls for bipartisanship that will likely get cast aside pretty soon unless people come to their senses and start trying to create some deal from - for the betterment of the American people in a bipartisan way.
SHAPIRO: Ron Bonjean, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
BONJEAN: Thank you. Take care. Bye bye.
SHAPIRO: Domenico Montanaro, before we had results come in, we were talking about tonight possibly seeing the biggest turnout of any midterm election in 50 years. How does it look now?
MONTANARO: You know, it's not clear. We're not going to know for probably days because you'll have so much of the vote come in and not to mention a very large state has not brought in all of its vote...
MONTANARO: Right, and they count very slowly. So, you know, we don't quite know yet. But everybody seems to think that it is going to be fairly high. You saw that with not just early voting, but some of the lines in some of the more populated places. And just to tell you about the direction that the House seems to be going, you know, we're talking about the possibility of Democrats taking over the House.
You know, they're really hitting - Democrats are really hitting their marks for everything that they told us heading into tonight. And when I reached out to a Republican source and a Democratic source, I asked them, how are you feeling, right? What's going on? And the Democratic strategist said, it looks good. We made this happen in the House. Candidates matter. Right? - essentially what Kelsey was saying a little bit earlier tonight. When I asked the GOP operative, how are you feeling, he just said, like drinking.
SHAPIRO: How much of the Democratic success tonight is because they so dramatically outspent the Republicans?
MONTANARO: Well, you know, spending money is only one measure. You know, spending money doesn't just, you know, get you votes, right?
MONTANARO: I mean, there's a reason why people can raise as much money as they can. And that's usually an indicator of energy. So when you have the kind of energy that a lot of small-donor Democrats had, you really had this sort of bifurcated thing going on. You had a lot of Democrats, small, grassroots donors, people donating to a lot of candidates across the country, opening up their wallets in very small donations. On the Republican side, you had a lot of big money coming in to outside money groups. And there's a very, very different way that that reflects energy on the ground.
SHAPIRO: Do you think President Trump's campaign appearances in the last few weeks have been helpful? Because when I look at states like Indiana, where - sorry. I was about to say West Virginia. Indiana is the exact opposite.
SHAPIRO: In West Virginia, President Trump went there, campaigned against the Democratic senator who held onto his seat. In Indiana, it was the opposite. In Montana, a race that was very personal for President Trump, it's not yet been called but it looks like Jon Tester, the Democratic incumbent, seems to be doing well. How has President Trump's campaign travels for the last couple of weeks shaped what we're seeing tonight?
MONTANARO: Well, you can't say that he didn't try. You know, he was certainly out there - did a lot. He did a ton of events, and it certainly looks like he helped in Florida, for example. And, you know, he got Republicans out. I mean, when I was on the - on the trail, I went to one rally in Houston. And there were a ton of people there and just enthusiastic and came to see Trump. I'm not sure that many people really loved Ted Cruz in the crowd. But they wanted to vote the way Trump wanted them to vote. And he was really doing a good job with his base to turn them out.
Now he's got a lot of work to do, though, to be able to try to win re-election, let's say, in 2020 when he has done absolutely nothing at this point to reach out to Independents. And one of the messages tonight in the House, which is much more representative of the entire country, is that in those suburban districts, you know, President Trump's message has not resonated.
MARTIN: But I'd like to pick up on something that Ari spoke of earlier, which is on the Democratic side. Have they done anything to address their infrastructure problems? If I can call at that, Kelsey, maybe you want to address that.
SNELL: I think that that's absolutely something that has happened here. Democrats were, what went into this year, being accused of being a party of the coasts. And if anything, the victories that they have had so far tonight help them address that problem. We just saw the AP call a race in Iowa for Democrats and the same time as they were calling a race in New Jersey.
SHAPIRO: Democrats are doing well in Kansas tonight.
SNELL: Yes, they...
MARTIN: They're in a runoff in Mississippi for a statewide office, which they have not held in whenever.
SHAPIRO: It really does kind of feel like the map is being scrambled.
SNELL: Right, and that's what they wanted to have happen. They needed to have an opportunity to prove to people that they were going to show up in the states where they lost.
SHAPIRO: But is it easier to be a big-tent party that includes, you know, Bernie Sanders in Vermont and Jon Tester in Montana when you're in the minority?
SNELL: Absolutely (laughter).
SHAPIRO: And when you actually have to, like, put up a candidate in 2020 for the entire party to rally around, it becomes a lot harder.
SNELL: Yeah, just ask the Republicans of 2010. I mean this is not an easy thing for any party to solve. But Democrats claim that they have more experience doing this and that they have been a bigger tent party for a longer period of time. But this is why it's such a big test on leadership and on Nancy Pelosi in particular, who has promised that she has the experience and the ability to bring people together that nobody else has.
SHAPIRO: I think...
SHAPIRO: So - so if you're a Democrat in charge of the party, if such a thing exists, how happy are you feeling tonight?
MONTANARO: Well, I think Democrats are definitely feeling, at this point, you know, if it goes the way that they hope it does, they're - this is what they set out to do. You know, the whole goal was to take back the House to have an ability to gum up anything that President Trump would want to do in a major way and, they believe, have to force the president and Republicans to have to compromise. Otherwise, nothing's going to get done. And that's perfectly fine with Democrats until 2020.
SHAPIRO: Our coverage continues for several hours yet to come, and you can also find out what's happening in your state and your county at npr.org. I'm Ari Shapiro, and you're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin. And joining us now is Nadeam Elshami, Democratic strategist and former chief of staff for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Welcome. Thank you for joining us.
NADEAM ELSHAMI: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: Well, let me put some of the questions to you that we've been talking about here among ourselves. First of all, I guess, do you feel congratulations are in order or at least almost in order?
ELSHAMI: I do. I do. But, you know, I never feel like a winner till all the votes are counted. I feel this is a good night for Democrats. This is something that they promised that they've been working on for the past two years and as you talked about the map. There's been a complete realignment of the Democratic map across the country in winning districts in Kansas and Iowa, perhaps even in Montana. We won in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California and Washington state. Now we're starting to look like the Democratic Party of old...
MARTIN: And so who shapes the message going forward? If the - if the message for the Democrats is that they've figured out how to match the candidate to the district in order to win, who shapes the national message going forward? Who is that?
ELSHAMI: Well, it's definitely something that is tough - right? - that is - that's not easy to do. You can't sit in a room and say, look, this is the message. This is something that's arisen from the caucus. And when you're in the majority, it's a lot harder to be united than when you're in the minority. So you have to decide as a full caucus, what is the message?
And they've played out some general issues that they want to hit on, right? They see an opportunity to work with the administration and with the Republicans on infrastructure and perhaps on some health care issues. You know, but Democrats are also promised a stringent oversight of this administration.
And then the voters who've come out and supported them in such large numbers not just in the suburbs, but across the country, have said, you know, we also want you to show some differences between the Republicans and Democrats. Those are some votes on the DREAM Act and some other issues as well.
So those are the - all the matters that they have to deal with as a caucus, as a whole. And until they - until they get into that same big room and decide, look, this is how we're going to move forward together, you know, it can - it can't be told by one leader or the leaders that this is exactly what we're going to do.
MARTIN: Domenico Montanaro has a question for you.
MONTANARO: Hey, Nadeam.
MONTANARO: Let me ask you a question about your former boss, Nancy Pelosi. You know, do you think, A, she deserves to be re-elected as speaker by your caucus? And, B, if so, you know, why, I mean, considering you know that a lot of Democrats are kind of looking for new leadership?
ELSHAMI: Well the answer to the first question is yes. And then the answer to the second question is new leadership has grown. You know, if you look at the Democratic caucus now and you look at the leadership table that - I think it has 17 members on it. And there's young, energetic new leadership that's coming in, new members that are coming in. They've won in very tough districts with the right message. You know, and they - having a strong leader and a strong leadership team that involves the full caucus is actually the right - is the right way forward.
MARTIN: We have to leave it there for now. Nadeam Elshami is a Democratic strategist, former chief of staff for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Nadeam, thanks so much for joining us.
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SHAPIRO: This is Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.
MARTIN: And I'm Michel Martin. The leader of House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, is speaking now. We are going to go to her now and hear what she has to say.
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D-CA, REP: Greater confidence in everything their Congress works on, from health care to taxes to guns to clean air and clean water for our children when they know that the people's interests will prevail, not the dark, special interests.
D-CA, REP: In stark contrast to the GOP Congress, a Democratic Congress will be led with transparency and openness...
D-CA, REP: ...So that the public can see what's happening and how it affects them and that they can weigh in with the members of Congress and with the president of the United States. We will have accountability, and we will strive for bipartisanship with fairness on all sides.
We will have a responsibility to find our common ground where we can, stand our ground where we can't. But we must try. We have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong. A Democratic Congress will work for solutions that bring us together because we have all had enough of division.
D-CA, REP: The American people want peace. They want results. They want us to work for positive results for their lives. Our founders believed in a principle that they knew must guide our nation. First, in our declaration, they promised life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But they gave us guidance, e pluribus unum - from many, one. The founders could never have imagined how vast our country would become, how many we would be, how different we would be from each other. But they knew we had to be one - unity, unity for our country.
D-CA, REP: And that - today, the American people have spoken to restore that vision. With this new Democratic majority, we'll honor the vision of our founders for a country having a legitimate debate but remembering that we are one country.
D-CA, REP: We'll honor the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and their families who have made us the land of the free and the home of the brave...
D-CA, REP: ...To build a better future worthy of...
MARTIN: That was the current leader of the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi. We went to her speaking now. And now we're going to Martin Heinrich. He's a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from New Mexico. He has won his campaign for re-election, defeating Republican Mick Rich.
Senator, thank you so much for joining us.
MARTIN HEINRICH: Well, it's great to be with you.
HEINRICH: Thank you.
MARTIN: So as you look at the landscape now - and we are not yet calling the House for the Democrats. But certainly, it looks like it's heading in that direction. The Senate will continue to be controlled by the Republicans. What does the policy outlook look like? Does this - just a recipe for more gridlock?
HEINRICH: No, I don't think so. You know, what I have found is in the Senate, it takes 60 votes to get things done. So the successful legislative attempts are things that have some bipartisan support, and that doesn't really change. I think given the fact that we'll have more of a partner in the House will improve the prospects legislatively. And I think it just provides checks and balances on an administration that is at times deeply out of control.
MARTIN: What are your - what is your sense of whether the House Democrats should invest their time in investigating the president? I mean, we've heard a number of Republican strategists this evening say that, in effect, the Republicans have a red wall in the Senate, that these investigations may be interesting to the public and may be attention getting but they're only going to go so far. What is your sense of that? Senator? Senator?
I think we - we've lost him? OK. I think we've lost him. So let's talk among ourselves.
SHAPIRO: Kelsey Snell, I wanted to ask you about a few of the things we just heard Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House Democrats, talk about. She talked about striving for bipartisanship. She spoke of trying to find common ground where we can, a bipartisan marketplace of ideas, unity for our country. This sounds like a kumbaya moment. Is that what Congress is going to look like if, in January, Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House, as seems very likely?
SNELL: Well, you'll also notice that about the only legislation that she mentioned there had to do with campaign finance reform and with - of doing some sort of government oversight - so not big, blockbuster pieces of legislation. But you know, it's really hard to see how they're going to get through any of that once they start launching the investigations that Democrats say they have planned. I mean, we've talked before about how Elijah Cummings, who is likely to, if Democrats take the House, would be the chairman of the Oversight Committee in the House - he has been working on building a list of issues that he thinks the president needs to be investigated on.
SHAPIRO: Stacks of binders...
SNELL: Stacks of...
SHAPIRO: ...I think, was the phrase he used earlier today.
SNELL: Well, in addition to that, there are other committees. The Ways and Means Committee has subpoena power and could ask for the president's tax returns.
SHAPIRO: Does the president want to have this fight? I mean, the president likes to brawl. Is there some part of him that is itching for this?
SNELL: Well, you know, it's funny. There are a lot of Republicans who think that if Democrats go down that road, it makes the president look like he is under attack. He's very good at saying that he - framing himself as being in a defensive position and having to fight back. And this could give him that power.
SHAPIRO: And does that perhaps explain why we, tonight, hear Nancy Pelosi talking about bipartisanship and unity and a marketplace of ideas?
SNELL: Well, I think some of that is also because Democrats don't want to walk into taking over the majority in the House saying that all they're going to do is resist, which is what, you know, Republicans had said throughout the campaign. They - Democrats spent lots of money trying to combat that message.
MARTIN: On the other hand, I think it's important to note that these aren't simply - these are being presented as political issues. But for many Americans, they are substantive issues. They are issues which they think deserve to be investigated, they think are fundamental to the functioning of the country. And I just think it's important to sort of point out that there that there are people who have substantive concerns, not solely partisan concerns. So the question is, I think, how the Democrats navigate that.
MONTANARO: Right. Well, you know, using investigations is a different I-word than, you know, what some of the Democratic base wants to talk about, and that's impeachment. And Nancy Pelosi has been very careful to thread the needle of not talking about impeachment and rather talk about investigating and being a check and balance. Check and balance - not to be completely raw political here but check and balance polled really, really well. You know, when I talked to Democrats and Republicans, both said that "dysfunction," quote, unquote, popped in polling, that they saw that as a thing that voters on both sides of the aisle really cared about and that Democrats were pushing a check and balance on President Trump. Republicans knew that check and balance was a great message. So what they tried to do was run on this, having Nancy Pelosi back in as speaker and try to sell to voters - look, you know, we know you want a check and balance. But do you really want that? Well, apparently tonight, they knew that that was an uphill battle because they controlled the House, the Senate and the White House. So it's a very difficult argument to make.
MARTIN: But where is the energy on the Democratic side? Has it been with people who really want an aggressive posture toward the president? Or is it people who describe their motivation as wanting an end to the dysfunction? Because that would seem to argue for a different course of action.
MONTANARO: I don't think that Democrats, you know, were running on impeachment. I mean, you know, I just don't. I think that there are some Democrats who certainly would like to go that far, absolutely. You hear some Democrats in Congress talk about that. But I think, you know, the - a lot of Democrats had their eye on the prize here. And their eye on the prize was stopping, to a degree, whatever President Trump's agenda was, fearing that if they were to again lose the House and lose the Senate, that you would have Republicans step on the gas and continue forward as far as they possibly could and potentially repeal fully the Affordable Care Act.
SHAPIRO: Let's go now to Colorado, where Democrat Jared Polis has been elected the next governor. He is the first openly gay governor ever elected in the U.S. This was a very expensive race. And joining us from the Polis campaign is Bente Birkeland of Colorado Public Radio.
Thanks for joining us.
BENTE BIRKELAND, BYLINE: Happy to talk to you.
SHAPIRO: This is a historic win. What is it like there tonight?
BIRKELAND: You know, I think Democrats are pretty thrilled about this win. And also, they're just doing well across the board. In addition to Jared Polis winning the governor's race, you had Democrats sweeping almost every other statewide election. One is still too close to call. We also picked up a key congressional race that Democrats have been trying to win since 2012. That's Republican Congressman Mike Coffman. So I think they're pretty thrilled. There was a lot of anxiety going into tonight, and they're kind of breathing a sigh of relief here at the Democratic watch party.
SHAPIRO: How much was Polis' sexual orientation a factor in the race?
BIRKELAND: You know, what is fascinating is it just really didn't come up in the race hardly at all. He had his family in campaign ads. But beyond that, it wasn't an issue that he mentioned or opposition research mentioned. But during his acceptance speech, it was something he brought up right away. And in fact, he said he was going to introduce Colorado's first first man. So he was really excited about it and talked about the...
SHAPIRO: Referring to his husband.
BIRKELAND: Yes. And he talked about the challenges that LGBT communities face in Colorado and across the nation so - but not really a campaign issue.
SHAPIRO: Colorado is an interesting state - very traditional, religious, conservative in some ways and very progressive in other ways, one of the states at the forefront of legalizing marijuana, among other things. What were the major issues in this midterm campaign?
BIRKELAND: You know, I think a lot of people did see things as a referendum on the president and some of his divisive language and rhetoric and other policies. Colorado was a state that did not vote for Trump. In this particular congressional district that I mentioned earlier that Democrats picked up, the Democratic candidate, Jason Crow, you know, he made that a core part of his campaign. You know, I'm going to push back against the president in the sense that I don't think Republicans should have majority in Congress. And a lot of voters we talked to, that was really important to them. And then down-ticket races - you know, our state legislatures swept. And that's now controlled - both chambers are in control by Democrats.
BIRKELAND: And, again, you know, our governor said he talked to Republican voter who said, look. I'm just so upset with the president right now. I'm voting Democrat top to bottom.
SHAPIRO: So state legislatures are a big story tonight that's sort of under the radar relative to the governors, Senate and House races. Bente Birkeland of Colorado Public Radio, thanks for joining us tonight.
BIRKELAND: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: And Kelsey Snell has some new information. Kelsey, what do we know?
SNELL: Republicans have picked up yet another Senate seat. The AP is calling for Josh Hawley in Missouri, defeating Claire McCaskill, who narrowly, narrowly won her last election and was considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democrats out there. I've also learned since we've been here that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spoken with the president and thanked the president for all of his help in the election. And Drew Hammill, who's a spokesman for Nancy Pelosi, just tweeted that Trump called Leader Pelosi at 11:45 to extend his congratulations on winning a Democratic House majority, which is something the AP has not yet called. But the president is going out there, apparently already, and saying it.
MARTIN: How do we interpret those phone calls? I mean, those are customary courtesies.
SNELL: They are.
MARTIN: But as we know, there have been a number of sort of norms of political life that her are not being observed at the moment. How do we interpret those calls?
SNELL: It - I mean, it seems that maybe it is an attempt by the White House to kind of speak to Congress and say that things may be different here. We heard the president say that he - if he had any regrets, it may be his tone. That was something new to hear from him in the past couple of days. We will see how long that sticks. The president often says things and changes his mind. So we'll see how long that lasts.
MARTIN: I think we're going to go now to Virginia, where Democrats have flipped two House districts and may take a third in the state's 7th District around Richmond. Democrat Abigail Spanberger has declared victory, but her opponent, incumbent Republican Dave Brat, has refused to concede. Joining us now is Mallory Noe-Payne. She's a political reporter at WVTF. She's in Richmond at the Spanberger campaign party. Mallory, thank you for joining us.
MALLORY NOE-PAYNE, BYLINE: Happy to be here.
MARTIN: Briefly tell us - why is this district important?
NOE-PAYNE: Well, it's a really, really tight race. Leading up to the race, polls has them neck and neck, even tied in one. And it's also sort of been a bellwether. So the district includes a lot of the rural, central part of the state but then also the suburban areas just outside Richmond, the state capital. And so people were looking at it to sort of predict how things would go for the rest of the night.
MARTIN: And what can you tell us about the latest there?
NOE-PAYNE: Well, the latest is that Spanberger, the Democrat, has declared victory. Her opponent, Brat, hasn't conceded. And the AP hasn't called the race yet. There's still, I think, last I checked, three precincts that haven't reported. It's very, very tight.
MARTIN: And before we let you go, tell us about a couple of other districts in Virginia that Democrats have been able to flip tonight, the 2nd and the 10th.
NOE-PAYNE: Sure. So Democrats were sort of targeting four different districts in Virginia. They have won two of them. They lost another. And then there's this one, which is sort of a toss-up at the moment. The 10th is in Northern Virginia. And then the 2nd is in the eastern part of the state around the Hampton Roads-Virginia Beach area.
MARTIN: So the Democrats must be excited. Surprisingly quiet there...
NOE-PAYNE: Democrats are very excited.
MARTIN: ...For people who are as ecstatic as we think that they would be. That's Mallory Noe-Payne from WVTF in Richmond - the Spanberger campaign party. Thank you so much.
NOE-PAYNE: You're welcome.
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MARTIN: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
SHAPIRO: I'm Ari Shapiro. And we're joined now by Jim Kessler. He was policy director for Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. Welcome to the program.
JIM KESSLER: Glad to be on.
SHAPIRO: We've heard about a few major defeats for Democrats in the Senate this night - tonight. Just now we heard about Claire McCaskill in Missouri. What do you see as the way forward for Senate Democrats with even smaller minority than they had before?
KESSLER: Right. I think it's - look. One of the things they're going to have is that they're going to have a House Democratic caucus. And that's going to be very, very helpful. So you're going to have the split Congress. But, you know, you're going to have a smaller Democratic caucus. And it's - you know, Mitch McConnell's still going to need to get 60 votes for a lot of things. And that's going to be difficult. Schumer's done a very good job of keeping the caucus together. But, you know, he's going to have fewer cards to play.
SHAPIRO: You know, speaking of the balance of power, I'm going to pause you for just one moment to let Domenico Montanaro jump in here with some news. Domenico?
MONTANARO: Well, we can now say that Democratic House control is likely. As we've been talking about all night - that the Democratic gains are - have been right on track for what Democrats and Republicans had said would be target races. There's still a whole lot to go. But at this point, we can say that Democratic control is likely.
SHAPIRO: So to return to former Senate aide Jim Kessler - Jim, in the last couple of years, we've seen so many efforts by Democrats to pick off one or two Republicans here or there to prevent some initiative from passing. How does that change now that, A, Democrats have a smaller number of seats in the Senate, and B, Democrats are likely to control the House?
KESSLER: Yes. So I think you're going to see a completely different dynamic because of that. And not only do Democrats control the House. But if you look at the new Democrats who have picked up these seats, nearly all of them are moderate Democrats, as well. So the Democratic caucus is moving further to the center. Look. I don't think there's a lot of opportunity - great opportunity for bipartisan things to get done with Donald Trump, unless he changes drastically. But it also means that, you know, the Senate can't - that Congress can't ram things through anymore. So what you see is a check on Donald Trump, which is very, very important. And I think the other thing that's going to happen in the Senate - the other dynamic is about, you know, close to one-fifth of the caucus - the remaining caucus - is thinking of running for president.
KESSLER: So there's going to be that dynamic there, too, which will be very interesting. But one of the things that I think is fascinating about tonight's election - and state in the governors' races, particularly in the Midwest, and in the House races is, you know, there is this battle or debate within the Democratic Party. Do you go, you know, further left towards Bernie Sanders, or do you try and have a sort of a bold centrist approach to it? And the centrists - the more moderate candidates have done extremely well in these races, particularly the House races and the governors' races. And the very progressive candidates really underperformed. So I think you'll see some steering - some thought about Democrats is, how do you beat Donald Trump in 2020?
KESSLER: You know, do you go in a Bernie Sanders direction...
KESSLER: ...Or do you go in a different direction?
SHAPIRO: All right.
KESSLER: These results really point toward a more centrist direction.
SHAPIRO: Jim Kessler, thanks so much for joining us.
KESSLER: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: We are going to continue past the midnight East Coast hour with more coverage to come. This is Election Night Live from NPR News.
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SHAPIRO: This is Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro.
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
And I'm Sarah McCammon. Republicans will keep control of the Senate, and Democrats are steadily moving closer to winning control of the House.
SHAPIRO: Republicans have flipped three Senate seats previously held by Democrats in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Republicans also defeated Democratic challengers in Tennessee and Texas. President Trump easily won all five of those states two years ago. In Florida, the Senate race is still too close to call, though Republican Rick Scott has claimed victory. We have news on the other hotly contested race in Florida. Republican Ron DeSantis will be the next governor of Florida after defeating Democrat Andrew Gillum. Here's DeSantis speaking tonight at his victory headquarters in Orlando.
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KELLYANNE CONWAY: The president is very happy that Ron DeSantis will be the next governor of Florida and certainly helped him in the primary. And the president also helped him in the general election.
SHAPIRO: That was actually President Trump's counselor Kellyanne Conway speaking tonight about DeSantis' victory. At this hour, more than a hundred House races have yet to be called. Democrats only need to flip just two more GOP-held district to get to 23 seats, which would turn the balance of power in the House to their favor.
MCCAMMON: Let's get some details on what we know so far from NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Welcome, Domenico.
MONTANARO: Hey there, Sarah. Well, at this point, like Ari was mentioning, you know, Democratic control of the House is likely at this point. That's what we can say for sure. They are leading in several races in the West. A lot of them that we're watching very closely, especially in Orange County and around Los Angeles, in California, we're going to start to see a lot of those results start to come in. We did just get a call from The Associated Press that one of the former House - likely to be former House leaders on the Republican side, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who was in a tight race, has won re-election.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. And as we continue to, you know, see polls closing across most of the country by now, what are we continuing to watch for? We think we know control of both chambers, but what are the big questions that are left in the hours to come?
MONTANARO: Well, just how big of a majority will Democrats have? You know, Nancy Pelosi, if she is going to become Speaker again - which it appears she will be because she was out, you know, taking a victory lap of sorts already before the number was known - she's going to need to be able to marshal her troops to, you know, get to 218 with just Democrats. We've seen that that's become the norm now.
And she's going to have a lot of moderates who are going to be going to Congress on the Democratic side, and she's going to need to be able to merge what has become an anxious and restful - you know, restless progressive wing of the party with that moderate and centrist wing. So it's going to test her leadership skills. She's been there before. Can she do it again?
SHAPIRO: We're joined now by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of California. She is vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus. Congresswoman, thanks for joining us tonight.
LINDA SANCHEZ: Yeah. Thanks for having me on.
SHAPIRO: I want to ask you about what we heard Nancy Pelosi saying just a little earlier this evening. She talked about striving for bipartisanship, finding common ground, unity for our country. Does that really seem plausible to you if in fact Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate in January?
SANCHEZ: Well, I think if Democrats control the House, we will seek to find common ground and work legislatively on issues where we think we can get bipartisan support. With a likely Republican majority in the Senate, we are going to have to work together in order to accomplish many of the projects that we - you know, that Americans have told us they want to see us get done.
SHAPIRO: So much of what I heard from voters in the last several months was anger and insistence that the Democrats serve as a check on President Trump. How do you balance that desire to find common ground with the need to channel that anger from your base?
SANCHEZ: Well, certainly, we have to deliver on the things that we've been talking about on the campaign trail because if the American public entrusts us to govern, they entrust us to work on those issues that they told us are important to them. So we need to pursue two tracks. One will be legislative priorities that, you know, people care deeply about, things like, you know, protections for preexisting conditions in health care coverage, investment in infrastructure in this country.
But the other side of that is also oversight, providing the much-needed oversight that hasn't, quite frankly, been there with the Republican-controlled Congress and Senate. We have the opportunity to hold the executive branch and the federal agencies accountable to the American people and make transparent the decisions that they're making and, you know, bring them before Congress to make them explain what they're doing and why they're doing that.
SHAPIRO: We've heard about the long list of ways in which the Democrats would like to conduct oversight. Are there just a couple of things that are just at the top of your list in that category?
SANCHEZ: Well, I mean, there have been scandals after scandal within the federal agencies with regard to using government resources for personal use. And so I think, you know, we should be looking into that. The Republican-controlled Congress should be looking into that. That's just good governance. You know, Republicans who cry about waste and fraud and abuse, you know, when their president is serving in the White House and their appointees are in the federal agencies, you know, they're very lax about any kind of oversight whatsoever. They don't want to hold people to account.
And it's our job to do that regardless of what your party is. It's what makes America strong, having a system of checks and balances. That's what our forefathers intended when they structured our government in the way that they did, and we intend to reassert ourself as a coequal branch of government and provide the oversight and accountability that's so desperately lacking right now.
SHAPIRO: We still don't know the exact numbers, but it looks like a remarkable number of women will be in the freshman class that are sworn in in January. As a woman in Congress, what advice do you have for this incoming group of women?
SANCHEZ: Well, a lot of these women just are amazing. You read their resumes, and I feel like a slacker in comparison...
SANCHEZ: ...Compared to all their accomplishments. I mean, they're just really outstanding, professional women, and I'm excited to see them come to Congress. I suspect that...
SHAPIRO: Any advice for them about how it works, things that might not be obvious to somebody walking in for the first time?
SANCHEZ: There are a lot of little gems of advice that I can provide to people, big and small things - small things being like, have, you know, two pairs of, you know, black, navy blue and tan pumps in, you know, in your home state and in your D.C. residence because...
SHAPIRO: (Laughter). I've heard Mitch McConnell say the same thing.
SANCHEZ: Yeah. That way, you're not, you know, dragging shoes with you back and forth when you go back to your district. Those are small things. But they're going to need help, you know, in terms of getting oriented to D.C., finding housing, you know, staffing up - you know, all of those things. And that's - you know, as vice chair of the caucus, one of my roles will be to help them, you know, come in and hit the ground running. So I'm looking forward to trying to help them, you know, get prepared to serve in Congress.
MCCAMMON: Congresswoman Sanchez, this is Sarah McCammon. I just want to piggyback, if I could, ask a question Ari asked earlier about sort of the challenge of governing and also holding the administration accountable. On the one hand, a lot of Democrats who turned out this year turned out, I believe, in response to President Trump, out of concern about President Trump. At the same time, anecdotally, I heard a lot of messaging from Democrats about unity, about bringing the country together. Can you do both of those things at the same time?
SANCHEZ: You know, I think you can. You know, call me crazy or an eternal optimist, but I think you can. It has to be balanced, obviously. But I don't think that it's wrong to, you know, ask the hard questions and get the information that the public is desperate to know but do it in a way that doesn't necessarily have to be nasty and partisan the way that, you know, it's been done in the past. And, you know, I think that Americans are tired of divisive policies. I think that's why we will have a Democratic majority in the House, and it will have an opportunity to serve as that check.
You know, it will mean that they can't ram, you know, bad legislation, bad policies through with very little, you know, airing of the, you know, of very important issues. You know, we'll have hearings, for a change, on many of these issues and be able to amend legislation before it gets to the floor. I mean, this is getting in the weeds but, you know, they've had a historic number of closed rules - which mean you cannot modify legislation. It's just straight up or down vote when it goes to the floor - and that's not good for our country.
SHAPIRO: All right. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
SANCHEZ: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
SHAPIRO: And she's a Democratic representative from California.
MCCAMMON: Let's go now to Florida, where Republicans appear poised to flip another Democrat-held Senate seat. The Associated Press has not officially called the race, but Republican Governor Rick Scott has claimed victory over the incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, apparently. Here's Scott speaking about 15 minutes ago at his headquarters in Naples, Fla.
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RICK SCOTT: Now that this campaign is behind us, that's where we're going to leave it.
SCOTT: At least, the campaigns I've been involved in are divisive and they're tough. And they really are, actually, way too nasty. But, you know what? We've done this for over 200 years. And after these campaigns, we come together. And that's what we're going to do.
MCCAMMON: That's Republican Rick Scott, who's claiming victory in the Florida Senate race, though the race is officially still too close to call. We are joined now by Rachel Iacovone, a political reporter with member station WGCU. She's at the Scott campaign headquarters. Hi, Rachel.
RACHEL IACOVONE, BYLINE: Hi there.
MCCAMMON: So what's the mood like there?
IACOVONE: Right now everyone's kind of partying, enjoying the food. Scott just got off the stage. And so right now he's claimed victory, and everyone's going with it. They have been all night.
MCCAMMON: And as we've mentioned, officially the race hasn't been called, but Scott is claiming victory. He, of course, has been the governor of Florida, is now, it appears, poised to take over the seat held formerly by Democrat Bill Nelson. Tell us about this campaign. What characterized this campaign?
IACOVONE: Well, there's a lot of elements to this that in this area are related to the environment. So a lot of the ads that were running were related to the two algal blooms that are facing southwest Florida. There's not just the blue-green algae that was trending nationwide, but there was also the red tide. So he did touch on that a little bit, and that was getting a lot of social media attention. And that was also why a lot of people are saying maybe Nelson wasn't what they wanted. Another 15th term.
People that were here are saying, I voted Democrat and I voted for Nelson before, but I don't want him again because he hasn't done enough on that issue. So here in this area it seems to be that the environment was the big decider. And he had a lot of Puerto Rican support here, as well. He mentioned that a couple times - Hurricane Maria and his efforts there. And he was getting a large amount of response from the crowd, a lot of Puerto Ricans were screaming for him, you know, Puerto Ricans for Scott.
MCCAMMON: If I'm not mistaken, he made some trips to Puerto Rico. Is that right?
IACOVONE: Yes. Him and Nelson both did. But he seems to have gotten more of that attention on the campaign trail.
MCCAMMON: It's interesting that you say an issue like algae blooms, right? - not one that makes the national radar a whole lot. Although having been a reporter in places like Nebraska where this is also an issue in some of the waterways, I know it's an issue people care about locally. And it kind of goes back to that saying, all politics is local. But how much did the national issues we heard so much about - immigration, health care - did those come up very much in this race, and how?
IACOVONE: I feel like it came up much more on the statewide level. On the local level, we weren't hearing much about that, so it wasn't until today, really. He's kept his arm's distance with Trump, even. When President Trump came down here last week to stump for him and for Ron DeSantis running for governor, he - it was kind of a surprise that he was there. He was almost the second name on it. It was much more of an event for Ron DeSantis.
And today, though, he came out and immediately thanked President Trump. So he's always been cordial with the president, but he has not been as open of a supporter. Yet today when someone shouted at him, America first, he said, yes. And everyone cheered. The immediate response of, yup, seemed to get the crowd riled up again.
MCCAMMON: OK, so that's the Senate race. And of course, Rick Scott has been the governor of Florida. He's leaving that position. And it's been a big night for Republicans in the governor's race as well. Republican Ron DeSantis, former congressman, defeated Democrat and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. That was a closely watched race. If Gillum had won, he would have been the first African-American governor of that state. And of course, you know, speaking of hewing closely to Trump or not, DeSantis, as you know, Rachel, ran - you know, very closely aligned himself with the president, right? And he's won, it looks like. So what more - I mean, what stands out to you about that race?
IACOVONE: It's very interesting because there's a parallel there already that in that case, Gillum had actually - he had given his concession speech before it was called as well. So in this case, here on this end, they were waiting for Nelson to do the same. Both were very tight races. And the only big difference here for a lot of the Republicans was that if they were large Trump supporters, they were saying, well, they like that DeSantis was very much aligned with the president and that they were waiting for maybe, in this case, Scott to be as aligned with the president.
And by him coming out and immediately saying, I'd like to thank the president for his support, it kind of answered that question they might have had in the back of their mind of, is he as - on good of terms of the president as the now-governor will be?
MCCAMMON: Right. One of the big questions we've seen in races across the country, does hewing close to the president help or hurt these candidates in the general election? And in DeSantis' case, it seemed to help. We've been talking with Rachel Iacovone, political reporter with member station WGCU. Thanks so much, Rachel.
IACOVONE: Yeah. No problem.
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SHAPIRO: And you can go to npr.org to get caught up on the latest news and results. You'll see all the information that's coming into us here in the studio. Just go to npr.org on your mobile device or on the computer.
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SHAPIRO: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro, joined now in the studio by NPR's Asma Khalid, who's been looking at who these voters are who have been going to the polls today. And we've been hearing a lot about large numbers in terms of turnout. We won't know for a few days yet whether this is a record-breaking turnout. But what can you tell us about who the voters are?
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: I think one thing that - just if I can step back for a second that...
KHALID: ...I think is really helpful to understand because as we're looking through the election results, I keep getting questions on Twitter and emails about, you know, what does this mean, right? - that Democrats seem like they are going to take over the House. But they didn't necessarily pick up as many governors' seats or Senate seats maybe as had - people had kind of predicted at the outset.
And I want to say that when we looked at every single demographic group, basically - I would say every key demographic group - and we compare them from 2014, which was the last midterm election, to now, you see pretty much every group, the Democrats did better this election cycle. And it's hard for me to single out and say, oh, it was married women or it was white people. I mean, every group we see movement on...
KHALID: ...Which - yeah, I was going to say which, basically - I just want to say - I think reaffirms the idea that, really, this overall was a much better year for Democrats than it was four years ago. And I think that that is something to just kind of keep in mind.
SHAPIRO: Midterms are typically not good for Democrats. Midterm voters are typically older and whiter and more conservative, more Republican. Can you tell whether the electorate this time looked like a typical midterm electorate?
KHALID: So it's hard to say - right? - with the share of the electorate because the exit polls aren't really a good, useful source of that data. So we've got to wait some months, actually, until people kind of do the number crunching on that. But again, I would say that you're right, that the average midterm electorate tends to be older. It tends to favor Republicans. But I would say this is kind of an indirect way of answering your question, which is that if we see movement towards the Democrats in pretty much every group, that would lead me to believe that this year's electorate was a more favorable electorate for Democrats, which you don't see based on every Senate or gubernatorial race.
But we're seeing it across the board. I mean, we just see white voters. We see white, married voters. We see suburban voters. Every group pretty much tilted a little bit more towards the Democrats than we saw in 2014, which was the last midterm.
SHAPIRO: President Trump's campaign stops towards the end became so very focused on immigration. What, if anything, do you know about Latino turnout and whether that resonated with people to turn out to vote against the president's party or whether it mattered to them at all?
KHALID: It's hard to say exactly, you know, about the turnout numbers again. But I do want to single out one race. We were just talking about Florida. And I had spent some time in the run-up to this election cycle doing reporting on the really conscious effort that Rick Scott took to court Latino voters in Florida. I mean, not only did the man visit Puerto Rico, I believe, eight times, but he would go on Spanish language TV all the time. He would go to these, like, Venezuelan, Cuban festivals and whatnot.
And so I did look at the Florida-specific numbers. And I will say those, to me, were very, very interesting. We have both traditional exit polls and we have something new this year, which is a big pre-election survey that Fox and the AP did. He did better than Republicans did significantly in 2014.
SHAPIRO: Interesting - NPR's Asma Khalid digging into those exit polls. And we'll be digging a lot more in the hours and days ahead. Thanks so much, Asma.
KHALID: You're welcome.
SHAPIRO: You can also follow the latest results and headlines this Election Night Live at npr.org while you are listening here. Dig deep into what's happening in your state, in your county. You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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SHAPIRO: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Ari Shapiro.
MCCAMMON: And I'm Sarah McCammon. Democrats have picked up 23 seats, which could be enough to take over the House if they can hold on to that lead. Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared victory less than an hour ago.
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D-CA, REP: A Democratic Congress will work for solutions that bring us together because we have all had enough of division.
MCCAMMON: President Trump has called Pelosi to congratulate her.
SHAPIRO: Republicans have strengthened their majority in the other chamber, the Senate. So far tonight, they have flipped three seats held by Democrats. And there will be a new senator from Utah with a familiar name, Mitt Romney.
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MITT ROMNEY: I'll work with good men and good women on both sides of the aisle to serve the cause of America's enduring greatness.
SHAPIRO: That's former GOP presidential candidate and now-senator-elect Mitt Romney delivering his victory speech tonight in Utah. Domenico Montanaro, it seems like tonight showed us that whatever ways President Trump redrew the map in 2016 were not permanent redrawings. We saw so many Democrats win in places where President Trump flipped from blue to red in 2016, flipping back to blue tonight.
MONTANARO: That's right. There were 21 of those so-called Obama-Trump districts, places that President Obama won in the 2012 presidential election and yet President Trump won in the 2016 election. In those, Democrats have won or are leading in two-thirds of them. So, you know, that gives you a sense of how the country has moved. And with the House being far more representative, obviously, than the Senate races that have been up, Democrats have carved a path through the suburbs to likely take back control of the House. That should send a message to this White House. Whether or not the president receives that message and believes that taking that message is to, you know, then perhaps work with Democrats - I think there's a lot still to be seen on that. But the fact is right now it looks like Democrats are likely to take control of the House. And, you know, it does put the president's agenda on hold.
SHAPIRO: You said that the Democratic sort of takeover of the suburbs should send a message to the White House. There has been this tug of war in the Democratic Party that we've been reporting on for at least the last two years. We called it the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders divide. We called it the progressive wing, the centrist wing. Whatever you want to call it, does tonight's result tell us anything about the best path forward for the Democrats?
MONTANARO: Well, for now Democrats have decided to put that aside and decided to keep their eye on the prize. And that eye - and that prize, rather, was to take over the House. And it appears they've done that. So, you know, the fact is we're not going to know exactly what it's going to mean and how they think they can win in 2020. But there are going to be a lot of these centrists and moderate candidates who have been able to win in a lot of these right-leaning districts, frankly, that a lot of Republicans think that they can have a shot at taking back again in 2020. And if you have a candidate at the top of the ticket for the Democrats in 2020 who turns out to be a super-liberal candidate that could have potential problematic down-ballot coattails in a lot of these, you know, swing districts.
MCCAMMON: Domenico, I'm curious - you know, we talk a lot about - tonight, we've been talking about the Democrats in the House sort of checking the president's power. I'm curious, too, about people within his own party - for example, Senator-elect Mitt Romney, who has been a critic of the president. What do you expect from him? Do you think he'll be providing pushback, or - he is going to be a Republican senator now. So what are you expecting from Senator Mitt Romney?
MONTANARO: I expect Senator Mitt Romney to go the ways of Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. They're polite people who, you know, might say something once in a while when they seem upset, you know, by what the president does, his demeanor that offends their sensibility. But what has Jeff Flake or Bob Corker really done to stand up to the president? Very little, if anything, especially in the way of votes.
So if you're, you know, the senator from Utah coming in to Congress and you have a big tax cut bill in front of you or a big repeal of the Affordable Care Act in front of you, now, will he stand up and say, no, I don't want to try to do that? You know, he may not be tasked with that anyway because that's never going to become law with a Democratic House. At the same time, Mitt Romney knows a lot of the reporters on Capitol Hill. A lot of them covered his campaigns. Is he going to go to those microphones and take up a kind of mantle like John McCain did? You know, I kind of don't think so. I think he's somebody who, you know, is a polite guy, who is - may speak out once in a while - but probably not going to be the anti-Trump.
MCCAMMON: Does he have a little bit more latitude, though, than maybe some of these other senators?
MONTANARO: Of course.
MCCAMMON: I mean, he's from an overwhelmingly Republican state. He's got so much name recognition.
MCCAMMON: Little more freedom, maybe, to push back if he wants to.
MONTANARO: He certainly could. You know, and he may in certain instances. But, you know, he's a maybe, right? But I think that he's the kind of guy who it kind of goes against his real want to be combative and confrontational. Of course, he did show that he could do that in debates in 2012 when he ran. And, you know, maybe he'll do it again. But, you know...
MCCAMMON: And he had some strong words during the 2016 campaign about Trump...
MONTANARO: He certainly did.
MCCAMMON: ...But then backpedaled over.
MONTANARO: And then President Trump, you know, subjected him, essentially, to that photo where he was considering him for secretary of state, supposedly. And he wanted to try to get along with this president.
SHAPIRO: So for folks who don't remember, what's life like in Washington when one party controls the House and the other party controls the Senate?
MONTANARO: Yeah, nothing happens, unless something happens. You know, like...
MONTANARO: And I mean...
SHAPIRO: It's the hour of the night when the tautologies come out.
MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, I - if there is some desire for compromise, especially starting at the top, the president is the one who sets the mode - sets the mood in this town. And, you know, Bill Clinton did it with Newt Gingrich. He decided that he was going to try and work with the speaker of the House. He was a Southern Democrat who felt like if - for Democrats to win, they couldn't alienate Republicans. Otherwise, they'd be in a permanent minority. You have a different kind of Democratic Party now. This is not the party of Bill Clinton. This is, you know, a new - it's a new birth to this party - far more diverse, far more ideologically left, in some respects, and also a lot of centrists, as well. But the president is going to have to make the decision - whether or not he's going to want to hold up Nancy Pelosi as what he runs against in 2020 starting in January 2019, or if he actually wants to get anything done.
SHAPIRO: Next, let's go to Missouri, where Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley has won the race for senator. He defeated incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill, who gave a concession speech earlier tonight.
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CLAIRE MCCASKILL: In this audience tonight, there are two candidates that will stand for election in this state and win. And I look forward to helping you, helping nurture the next generation of leaders for the values that we care about. And for now, it is good night. But it is not goodbye. I love you guys to death. Thank you so very much for all you've done.
MCCAMMON: And we are joined now by Jason Rosenbaum, a reporter from St. Louis Public Radio. Hello, Jason.
JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: Thank you for having me tonight.
MCCAMMON: So this has been an interesting race. And I have to say this is my home state of Missouri, so I've been following this one. And I know you've been following it very closely. It's been a tight nail-biter hasn't it, up to now?
ROSENBAUM: It has, but the result really wasn't that close. If you look at the county-by-county results, Claire McCaskill actually did worse than Jason Kander did in both the rural and some of the suburban areas. I think that - I said all along that if President Trump's popularity was around 50 percent in Missouri, which it was, it was going to give a pretty sizable advantage to Josh Hawley. And that has turned out to be correct. The president came here several times. He was here the day before the election in Cape Girardeau. And I think that his presence both physically in the state, as well as Josh Hawley linking his political fate to Trump, ended up being a successful combination in a state that Trump won by 19 points in 2016.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. I mean, how much do you think this was about Trump's influence?
ROSENBAUM: A hundred percent. I think that a lot of times in Missouri, when it comes to U.S. Senate races, it really gravitates to how the people here view the administration in power. In 2006, when Claire McCaskill beat Jim Talent, Republicans were probably at a low point nationally. And the Iraq War was causing all sorts of issues within the Republican base and energizing the Democratic base here. But since that point, a lot of moderate to conservative Democrats, I think, have abandoned the Missouri Democratic Party in droves, especially in rural and exurban Missouri. And after tonight, like, especially with Trump's continued popularity in the state, they're in a world of hurt. And Republicans are ascendant in a state that Democrats traditionally, for most of Missouri's history, have led.
MCCAMMON: Right. If you look at the map of Missouri, which - of course, I'm nerding out as a Missourian. But, you know, you see blue in the big cities - in Kansas City and St. Louis, where you are, and Columbia - college town. But then so much of the state is red. I mean, is this about rural-urban divide? Is this about particular issues or some of both?
ROSENBAUM: I think it's some of both. I think that the social issues, which is the colloquialism that I use for abortion rights and gun control - I mean, that really looms large in not only the rural areas, which have typically supported candidates that oppose abortion rights and oppose gun control, but also in highly populated suburbs. There's been - I mean, I'm sure you guys have been talking tonight about how a lot of suburban congressional districts have gone the Democrats' way.
But in Missouri, there's kind of another type of suburb where a lot of socially conservative people have decided to move to, like St. Charles County, like Jefferson County, like Buchanan County. And those are the types of suburbs that Democrats need to win outright in Missouri, and they're just not doing it. They're not only not winning there. They're not even coming close to winning there. They're losing it by double digits. So - and the social issues play a big role. And, I mean, there was some talk about the tariffs and the retaliation from the tariffs maybe causing some rural voters to think about voting for McCaskill, but that obviously did not happen here.
MCCAMMON: Well, thank you so much, Jason. That's Jason Rosenbaum, reporter with St. Louis Public Radio.
SHAPIRO: We're joined now by Rory Cooper. He's a Republican strategist who is press secretary to Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Thanks for being with us tonight.
COOPER: Of course, good to see you.
SHAPIRO: When you look ahead to January with a likely Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate, what do you think is going to be the highlight of this Congress?
COOPER: Well, we have to recall that a lot of these events are going to be controlled by external forces. We have Bob Mueller's report, which is likely to be released sometime between now and the end of the year. Democrats have made the case over the past few months that they're not going to be the, quote-unquote, "pound-of-flesh club." But they're going to have newfound oversight power. They're going to be using their subpoena power, and it's going to be intoxicating. And when that report comes out, that's going to suck up all the oxygen. And if you thought nothing was going to get done in the Congress beforehand, it will be almost certain at that point that this will become an oversight House. Half the Senate Democrats will be in Des Moines and Manchester running for president. And that will effectively shut down any legislation in Washington.
SHAPIRO: You know, on the one hand, the president's party almost always loses House seats in a midterm election after first being elected president. But on the other hand, this is an extremely strong economy. Republicans passed a tax cut. Do you think there is a way that Republicans could have played this election and not lost the House?
COOPER: No, not - I mean, not in particular. I mean, you have to look at this by a race-by-race perspective I mean, actually, Republicans have done really well in midterms since 1994. They traditionally do very well in the down-ballot races. In the House this go around, their map was not as - not as good as they had it in the Senate. There was a lot of market correction going on, if you will, where, you know, Republicans had racked up a lot of, you know, large majorities - some of the largest majorities, you know, in the past hundred years. And they were in districts that were not favorable to them. And so, you know, the president's unpopularity is really on par with what Obama and Bush - Obama was in both midterms and Bush was in his second midterm, the first one being shortly after 9/11, so he was very popular then - somewhat of an outlier (ph). But, you know, I think that the House was going to go this direction regardless of what was going to happen...
SHAPIRO: Just in the last minute...
COOPER: ...And the Senate was going to go that way.
SHAPIRO: Just in our last minute, if you were to advise House Republicans who are now likely to be in the minority, what course do you think they ought to take in the next couple years?
COOPER: Well, it's very hard to be in the House minority. You have very little control. It's not like the Senate. There's not much you can do on the floor. It becomes largely a messaging exercise. They're going to have to become cheerleaders for what Mitch McConnell and Republican leaders are doing on the other side of the building. And you'll see a lot of young up-and-comers start to make names for themselves in the hopes that when they retake the majority, they'll see a fresh new crop. But, you know, we lost some chairmen tonight on the Republican side. You know, there's going to be room for growth for younger members to (unintelligible).
SHAPIRO: All right. Rory Cooper, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
COOPER: Of course.
SHAPIRO: He's a Republican strategist, former press secretary to Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
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SHAPIRO: And you are listening to election night live from NPR News.
MCCAMMON: I'm Sarah McCammon. And now we're turning to Andrew Littmann, former chief of staff to Senator Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota, and Senator Barbara Boxer's policy director. Littman is a veteran strategist and policy analyst. And thanks for joining us, Andrew.
ANDREW LITTMAN: Yes, thank you for having me.
MCCAMMON: So tell us - what do you think losing the House apparently means for President Trump going forward?
LITTMAN: Well, it's problematic for Trump for the obvious reason. If he had a legislative agenda, he'd have trouble getting it through. But the more significant reason is the House has a great deal of oversight power. The House's subpoena power is unlimited. You'd need a countervailing constitutional right to resist a House subpoena. So now all of a sudden, you're going to have all these Democratic committee chairmen - some of them, like Maxine Waters, Trump has really singled out for abuse - in a position to hold investigations, conduct oversight and subpoena anything they want from the Trump administration or from the president personally.
MCCAMMON: And so they have that power, but I think one of the questions is will this - will the upshot of that be sort of - and not that you have a crystal ball but actually, you know, finding things and, you know, some kind of censure or, you know, holding the president accountable, or is it mostly going to be about politics, about continuing to sort of trot out these controversies in front of the public, especially heading into 2020?
LITTMAN: Well, I think it's going to be the policy. I think a lot of the oversight - some of the oversight will be corruption oriented, hearings, say, about Interior Secretary Zinke, who's the subject I think of 10 or 11 separate investigations right now. But a lot of them will be about policy. Did the administration follow proper procedures in shrinking the national monuments out west, including Bears Ears? No president has ever shrunk national monuments before. So you can hold an oversight hearing that's pointed that has some political valence but that also deals with policymaking and what Congress should do in response to the president's behavior. Same thing with support payments under the Affordable Care Act - it's an oversight subject. It has political importance, but it has immediate policy importance.
MCCAMMON: And very quickly, just in about 30 seconds, I mean, what does this say about - is this a referendum on the president? On the one hand, Democrats appear to be taking over. On the other hand, candidates like Ron DeSantis in Florida did really well after running close to the president. What does this say?
LITTMAN: I think part of what you're seeing is a lot of alignment. For example, in the Senate, the three seats that Democrats lost that the Republicans flipped - at least as of now - Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri - those are red states to begin with. Those are states that Democrats probably won't seriously even contest in the next presidential campaign. So some of it is just alignment, and you're getting the same thing in the House with a lot of these suburban districts. Democrats are winning districts where Hillary Clinton was successful in 2016. So I don't know that you can read much more into it. Certainly, Trump has spurred turnout, but I wouldn't go further than that.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you, Andrew Littman.
LITTMAN: OK. Sure thing.
MCCAMMON: You've been listening to election night live from NPR News.
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SAM SANDERS, HOST:
From NPR News, this is election night live. I'm Sam Sanders with a big thanks to Ari Shapiro for the hours of coverage you've done here tonight. Thanks, Ari.
SHAPIRO: Happy to hand the baton off to you, Sam. Have fun.
SANDERS: Thank you, sir, thank you.
MCCAMMON: And welcome, Sam. I'm Sarah McCammon, and Sam is joining us for the next couple of hours. Good to have you here.
SANDERS: Good to be here.
MCCAMMON: We are still waiting for an official call in the hard-fought race for governor of Georgia. Republican Brian Kemp is Georgia's secretary of state and oversees Georgia's elections. He currently holds a seven point lead over Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams. Abrams was hoping to become the first African-American woman governor in the history of the United States. There's also a libertarian candidate in the mix - Ted Metz. His votes so far are just in the tens of thousands. Kemp and Abrams both have a million-plus votes each. That third party share is small but with potentially big consequences because under Georgia law, if no candidate wins with at least 50 percent plus one vote, the top two finishers advance to a runoff in December.
SANDERS: Let's go now to NPR political reporter Jessica Taylor. Jessica, what's the latest?
JESSICA TAYLOR, BYLINE: So it's a good night for Democrats in the House, obviously. They are projected to take back the House at this point. Our count has them at 24 right now. That is one more than the 23 that they need for control. But, of course, Senate - very good for Republicans right now. They have picked up three seats - Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. So it's a split sort of night, in a way. It sort of represents the two very different - split in the country, really, because you have Democrats that have been running really well in these suburban districts in the House that they needed to to take back the House but then Republicans doing really well in red states.
SANDERS: I know it's split, but it feels as if some of the biggest Dem stars lost tonight - talking about Beto in Texas, Abrams in Georgia, Gillum in Florida. Are Dems actually happy when those big, bright stars lost?
TAYLOR: I mean, they attracted a lot of attention. But I think that, you know - and we'll see how, you know, some of them have been mentioned in conversation even for 2020 or other races and things, too. But, you know, there are some big Dem stars that have won in the House, too. Women are leading the way - women of color. You have Lauren Hultgren that flipped a seat in the Chicago suburb. She is the first African-American woman to represent that district - Sharice Davids, a Native American woman winning in Kansas. So you have some women of color too that - you know, women sort of fueled this take back of the House. And you have a lot of women of color, too.
SANDERS: Yeah. In spite of those new women coming to Congress, does it still seem that Pelosi will lead the House and lead Dems there?
TAYLOR: That's a really big question because a lot of these Democrats that won, they campaigned on saying that they weren't going to vote for Pelosi. So, you know, there's some backstage machinations that will take place. There'll be a vote in the caucus. And we'll see whether that spills out onto the floor. But, you know, with this sort of younger generation coming in and a more diverse leadership, you really could have a push for - you know, for really a Democratic caucus that - and Democratic leadership of that caucus that is more reflective of the people that they just elected.
MCCAMMON: Jessica, I'm curious what you think about, you know, whether this is a blue wave or not. I've seen discussion about that on Twitter, whether it's just waves sort of lapping at the shore or if it's, you know, a big wave. A source of mine who's watching returns with President Trump tonight said the president was happy and that there's no blue wave. We're going to probably see debate about this in the coming days. But how do you characterize this?
TAYLOR: I mean, I think Trump, you know, when he goes and he has these rallies, he sees this as, OK. I was able to help them keep the Senate. He is someone who is very controlled in the environment that he has. When he goes, he sees these adoring crowds. And to him, it wasn't a big wave. And Republicans - let's be clear. They outperformed expectations in the Senate. They have added three seats. That is huge. When we were talking even, you know, a month ago about Democrats still having a path - but these - I mean, you know, I hesitate to call it a wave. I don't - you know, Democrats that I've been talking to tonight, they could pick up 35 seats - would be a really good night. We'll see how many more they get.
And that's just, you know - we still have a lot called, so we're not saying they're going to pick up 35. It could be sort of on that path. But, you know - and they're even making surprising gains. They've won a seat in Staten Island in New York that we didn't expect the Republicans to lose. They picked up a seat in Oklahoma City. So there are some surprising victories, and that's sort of, I think, indicative of these races. You know, it feels like, to me, some of these races did in 2010 - I remember covering that election - because there are people that you didn't expect to lose. So that's what I kind of feel like when I'm looking at some of these places.
MCCAMMON: With the Senate, there was a lot of discussion about the Kavanaugh factor, right? And we heard Republicans saying after the sexual assault allegations that, actually, a lot of the Republican base was fired up, didn't like the way that that was handled. On the same token, the Democratic base was fired up to an extent as well. Do we have any sense of what the Kavanaugh factor might have been in the Senate outcome?
TAYLOR: Well, I think it's notable that right now the only Democrat in the most Trumpian state that won was Joe Manchin in West Virginia. And he is the only one that voted for Kavanaugh's confirmation. And, you know, Heidi Heitkamp voted against him. Claire McCaskill voted against him. Joe Donnelly voted against him. They have all lost. We'll see what happens in Montana - still outstanding. I think that it did sort of rev up the Republican base in these red states in a way.
MCCAMMON: That's Jessica Taylor, an NPR political reporter. Thanks, Jessica.
TAYLOR: Thanks, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: We're going to go now to Barbara Lee, congresswoman - a Democratic congresswoman from California's 13th Congressional District. That's the Oakland area. Hi, congressman, thanks for joining us.
BARBARA LEE: Yeah, my pleasure, glad to be with you.
MCCAMMON: So we've been talking about the big night for Democrats, certainly in the House. How are you feeling?
LEE: Well, I'm very excited for the American people, quite frankly. I think that this vote and Democrats taking back the House really reflects the sentiment in the country that people really want to restore our system of checks and balances and put a check on this Trump administration. I also think that this vote reflects a vote that people really have cast against hate and against bigotry and against the mean-spirited nature of what is taking place. And also, it reflects, I think, that people want to see us move forward with our agenda for the people, which involves fighting to make sure we reduce the cost of prescription drugs, fighting against this corruption that is taking place through the use of our committees for investigations and oversight to protect our democracy, also to move forward to create good-paying jobs through an infrastructure bill. So we have an agenda to move forward. And also, we have an agenda to really protect our democracy, which really, quite frankly, is at a defining moment.
MCCAMMON: Let me put a question to you that I put to one of our guests a few minutes ago. I mean, you say that this is pushback against the president's rhetoric. But at the same time, we saw Republicans perform well in the Senate. We saw Republicans like Ron DeSantis in Florida, who aligned himself with the president, do very well. We have a sort of a split decision here. And it seems to me that you could read it a number of different ways, certainly, a divided country. What do you make of that?
LEE: Sure, you can. But also, you have to look at the glass half-full, quite frankly. When you look at, for instance, Colin Allred in Texas beating the chair of the Rules Committee, Mr. Sessions - when you look at some of these districts which we had no notion that we would win, or at least they were districts that required a heck of a lot of resources and grassroots organizing - and we won those districts.
And so we've got to move forward and try to make sure that as we move forward to 2020 that the public understands that Democrats are fighting for them, and we're on the side of the people. We've got to get this economy under control. People are working two jobs and still living below the poverty line. And I think that it really is a double-edged sword. And in many instances, it's bittersweet in some of these states where we did not win. But I think when you look at - on the positive side, this is a great victory to be able to have Democrats back in control of the House, to put a check on this Trump administration.
MCCAMMON: And now there's a lot of talk about leadership. I believe I've mentioned you might be interested in running for a leadership position. Is that something that's on your to-do list?
LEE: Oh, yes. I am running for a Democratic Caucus chair. And that has begun. And I think that we have to move forward with our leadership vote. I believe that'll be on November 28. But I have thrown my hat in as a candidate for Democratic Caucus chair. And I'm talking to members, working with members to try to put forth my agenda for what I want to do and listen to the caucus members because I think it's important that we move forward with a caucus that's unified but that respects everyone's points of view and that provides a more connected caucus where everyone is communicating in a more efficient way and clear way with constituents...
LEE: ...And voter engagement. And so I look forward to this campaign.
MCCAMMON: Well, thank you. That's Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat from California's 13th Congressional District.
LEE: Thank you.
SANDERS: We're going now to Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state. He's the chair of the Democratic Governors Association. Thank you for being here.
JAY INSLEE: You bet.
SANDERS: So Dems have picked up five governorships tonight - three in the Midwest, one in Maine, one in New Mexico. What's the significance of those pickups?
INSLEE: Well, it's a big night. You know, we'll have 30 million more Americans who will have Democratic governors working for them on health care and roads and education than they did when we woke up this morning. We have flipped five states from red to blue. And so far, at least at the moment, there have not been any flips the other direction. So, you know, it depends how you keep score. But when - you know, when you get five touchdowns and the other folks didn't have any, you know, that's pretty good night.
INSLEE: So we're happy about that.
SANDERS: There was a big loss in Florida. Mayor Gillum lost. He was a big face as the future of your party. What does his loss mean?
INSLEE: Well, it means a very, very talented, inspiring young man won't be - right now - governor. But he may serve in other capacities. But I would point out that we have had a very historic night where six Democratic women have been elected - two incumbents, four new women who are going to become Democratic governors. And I think that's a significant thing. We have our first openly gay man serving in Colorado, businessman Jared Polis. So this has been a historic night. We've protected all of the incumbent Democrats, and we have to say that that's a way to make progress.
And I'm very pleased that we put forth a vision that was around health care, to protect people's health care, a vision that was to protect kids in school. And those things have been successful in many states. And I think one of the interesting things you commented on is that we've won in the West. We've won in the Midwest. And we've won in New England. So this is not just a pinprick of victory. It's a broad swath. And we're pleased about it.
SANDERS: Can Dem state governors work with Trump? And if so, on which issues?
INSLEE: Well, you know, in any case where it's possible, they will. Unfortunately, we have had to act more as a check on the multiple assaults on our states. The Trump administration has really attacked our state - many states in many ways. And we've had to protect our states.
SANDERS: How so?
INSLEE: Well, trying to ban people from - you know, Muslims from coming to our shores, trying to take away grants from our law enforcement agencies and, most importantly, refusing, to date, to assist us with our infrastructure. Frankly, this is a great disappointment because the president said he was going to be the infrastructure president. We have $70 billion of infrastructure that I have passed and helped in my state. And, you know, frankly, he hasn't built a birdhouse or helped anyone do so. So it would be great if the federal government would help in that regard. Now that the Democrats are in the House, perhaps they can spur an infrastructure bill that would help the states build bridges, roads, public transportation, water infrastructure. We need that significantly across the United States.
INSLEE: We hope this election spurs that activity.
SANDERS: All right. Governor Inslee, thanks so much.
INSLEE: You bet. Thank you.
MCCAMMON: We're going to go quickly to NPR's Ron Elving, editor correspondent, who's in the studio with us. Hi, Ron.
ELVING: Hey, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: Quickly, you know, we've been hearing from a lot of experts tonight about the big picture. What are a couple takeaways as you look at - across the country at these races?
ELVING: It really depends on where you choose to look. There is a tremendous division between what you see if you look at the urban areas and the suburban parts of the urban areas, as well as the inner cities, which are clearly trending Democratic and strongly so. If you look at the exurban areas and the truly rural areas and the smaller towns and smaller cities, they are remaining very much attached to the Republican Party. And the trends that we saw that President Trump established and benefited from in 2016 are exacerbated by the split that we saw in the results today.
So, yes, the division is still there. And, yes, the division, in some respects, is getting wider. The Democrats are obviously going to feel good about the House. They're going to make some gains in terms of the governorships. But they do see themselves being pushed further behind the eight ball in the Senate. That's going to be a tremendous discouragement. But really quickly, in 2020, the map is going to reverse - and becomes much easier for the Democrats to win in the Senate, much more difficult for the Republicans. So this could be different two years from now.
MCCAMMON: So we may be having the same conversation in reverse in a couple of years. From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. Thanks for joining us.
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MCCAMMON: I'm Sarah McCammon. And we're going now to Wisconsin to check in on one of the closest governor's races tonight. Incumbent Republican Scott Walker is running for a rare third term against the Democrat Tony Evers, the Wisconsin state school superintendent. We're joined now by Bridgit Bowden from Wisconsin Public Radio. She's at the Scott Walker campaign party tonight. Hi, Bridgit.
BRIDGIT BOWDEN, BYLINE: Hi.
MCCAMMON: So this is a tight race, right? The candidates are neck and neck with just a few places still yet to record their votes. Catch us up. What's happening?
BOWDEN: Yes. It is incredibly tight. I believe now we're less than 1 percent difference. We are waiting on about 36,000 votes from the city of Milwaukee that were either absentee ballots or mail-in ballots. And those still need to be counted. But we should have those within the next hour or so. So once those come in, we may know something a little more.
MCCAMMON: And so tell me - what areas are you really watching for the next, you know, several minutes or hours, whatever it may be.
BOWDEN: So we're watching the city of Milwaukee for those missing votes, also Brown County, which is the Green Bay area - only has about 45 percent reporting at this point. And then also, La Crosse County in southwestern Wisconsin only has about 36 percent reporting. So there's still quite a bit to go as we wait to see what the results will be.
MCCAMMON: And Walker doesn't seem to have the steam behind him that he had in previous campaigns as he runs for a third term. What's happened?
BOWDEN: This has been Walker's race, I would say. It - you know, who's to say exactly what happened. But this has been really the fight of his political career.
MCCAMMON: And so how are people in the room feeling right now?
BOWDEN: Very tense. You know, it's been up and down. We'll see Walker go up a little bit, and we'll hear cheers. Then he'll go down a little bit, and everyone's smiles go away. So it's really, really tense.
MCCAMMON: And what would an Evers win, if that's the eventual outcome here - what would that mean for the state of Wisconsin going forward, Bridgit?
BOWDEN: It would be historic. Walker been a very popular governor among some but also a very divisive governor. So it would be absolutely historic.
MCCAMMON: Did - I mean, I know this has been a closely watched race, but there have been a lot of closely watched races this year. Did anybody expect it to be quite this tight?
BOWDEN: The last poll that was released, the Marquette Law School poll - it did have Walker and Evers tied. So this does line up with the polling that we had.
MCCAMMON: And in terms of the issues, what have been the big issues in this race?
BOWDEN: A few things. Health care has been big, especially the last few weeks. Walker has put out ads about pre-existing conditions. And then he's been criticized heavily because Wisconsin is involved in the lawsuit challenging the ACA. And then also things like education. Tony Evers being the state superintendent of the schools - obviously, that's huge.
BOWDEN: Walker's history with, yeah, union rights...
MCCAMMON: Yeah. I'm going to have to stop you there, Bridgit. That's Bridgit Bowden from Wisconsin Public Radio. You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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SANDERS: And I'm Sam Sanders. Dems have declared victory for the House. They've picked up enough GOP seats to take control of that chamber. President Trump has already called Dem Leader Nancy Pelosi to congratulate her.
MCCAMMON: Republicans will retain control of the Senate after defeating Democrats in North Dakota, Indiana, Texas and Missouri. In North Dakota, incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp conceded her seat to Republican challenger Kevin Cramer. Heitkamp summed up her time in the Senate this way.
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HEIDI HEITKAMP: I went to Washington, D.C., not to rubber stamp any political party, not to, you know, take an easy, easy decision. I went to Washington, D.C., to represent the people of North Dakota the best way that I could.
HEITKAMP: And I think that's what we did.
SANDERS: In Missouri, state AG Josh Hawley defeated Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. In her concession speech, McCaskill vowed to keep working with Democrats who want to run for office.
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MCCASKILL: For now, it is good night, but it is not goodbye. I love you guys to death. Thank you so very much for all you've done.
MCCAMMON: And in Texas, Democrat Beto O'Rourke told his disappointed supporters that he will do what he can to help Senator Ted Cruz serve them and the state of Texas.
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BETO O'ROURKE: Whether that means that we are there for every single one of us who needs a helping hand so that we can live to our full potential, the ability to see a doctor, go to the hospital, receive the medication that you need to be alive. I want to work with him. I want to work with anyone to make sure that we can lead on that.
SANDERS: Democrat Beto O'Rourke giving his concession speech in Texas. Let's get some more details from NPR's Scott Horsley. Thanks for being here.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Sam.
SANDERS: So what do we know as of now?
HORSLEY: Well, this is a tale of two chambers. Republicans will keep control of the Senate, and they look poised to expand their narrow majority there, having flipped Democrat-held seats in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri. On the House side, get ready for once and future Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democrats have been steadily gaining seats in the House all night. At last check, they were net positive 24 seats. That's one more than would be needed to take control of the chamber. And there are a lot of competitive races that still have to be decided.
President Trump telephoned both Nancy Pelosi and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell this evening. McConnell thanked the president for his campaigning efforts which were heavily weighted towards the Senate. Trump, who had been issuing dire warnings on the campaign trail about what a Speaker Pelosi might mean, was conciliatory in his conversation with the California lawmaker tonight, congratulating Pelosi on the Democratic win. We're also watching some interesting governors' races around the country. Republican Kris Kobach, who chaired the president's short-lived commission on voter fraud, has lost his bid to be the next governor of Kansas. Democrat Laura Kelly won the governor's race in that usually red state.
Also, some firsts - Republican Kristi Noem won the governor's race in South Dakota. She'll be the first female governor there. And Democrat Jared Polis won the governor's office in Colorado. He'll be the nation's first openly gay governor. Overall, Democrats have made modest inroads in the GOP's commanding lead in governors' offices around the country, but they did lose some of their marquee races. Governors-elect Mike DeWine in Ohio and Ron DeSantis in Florida could be key allies for President Trump in what are sure to be 2020 presidential battlegrounds.
MCCAMMON: And we go now to Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist. He's a former adviser to Mitt Romney, Senator-elect from Utah now, as well as to the late senator and former presidential candidate John McCain. Hi, Mike. Thank you for joining us.
MIKE MURPHY: Thanks for having me.
MCCAMMON: So what's your reaction, first of all, to all these results we've seen tonight?
MURPHY: Well, it is a big night in American politics. A lot of people voted, far more than normal for a off-year in the midterms. I think that's a sign of Democratic - small-D non-partisan strength. I think people are participating. And as far as interpreting the results, I think you have to kind of look at them on two levels. On the spin, bragging, expectations game level, the Democrats underperformed. They did not win a big marquee race like Florida, where they had huge expectations, or make inroads in the Senate.
On the other hand, the Republicans made inroads. But on a, frankly, more serious X-ray of the real political strength of both parties and what it tells us, the Democrats had a pretty good night. They flipped the House, which in governing terms, means they have a lot more power now in Washington than they had before. Not only can they investigate and, you know, print subpoenas - which I would guess they won't be shy about doing - they also will be very involved in the appropriations and budgeting, you know, the checkbook of government, which is real power in Washington. So that change is a huge deal in kind of the reality of politics.
And second, I'd say, if you look at where they did well, these suburban places with more college-educated voters are historically a key part of the Republican coalition. And we've had massive defection to the Democrats, which is why they flipped the House. I would say also the Midwestern states - particularly Michigan and Pennsylvania, either of which if the president has lost in 2016, he would not be president - both had very, very strong Democratic performance. So there's a lot for the Democrats to be excited about.
MCCAMMON: What message do you think voters are sending to Republicans, Mike?
MURPHY: Well, I think the messages are somewhat tribal. If you're in a red state which was a Pro-trump state, a reliably Republican state like Missouri or Indiana, the message was our tribe runs this place, no room for a Democrat like McCaskill or Donnelly. On the other hand, in suburban congressional districts, we've got a bunch coming up California that have been reliably Republican, there's been a message of rejection to President Trump. So you're seeing a schism in the Republican Party between college-educated wealthier suburbanites outside the metroplexes and - often in and Democratic states, but not always - and the more rural exurban voters, a little less college-educated who are sticking with the president. But if you look at the president's political power tomorrow versus yesterday, it has been weakened by this. And how he deals with that will be the story of the next two years.
MURPHY: Should we expect Trump to change his behavior based on these wins and losses tonight?
MURPHY: Well, that has normally been a losing bet. The president is kind of the atomic clock of being himself. He doesn't adapt, which is a strength and a weakness. Most politicians adapt and survive. He has doubled down. And I think the bubble around him will declare victory a lot of victory, that the Democrats underperformed in the Senate. But that was a home game for the Republicans. The kind of creeping rust on the structure are these suburban congressional districts and states like Michigan, perhaps Wisconsin and definitely Pennsylvania where we had real trouble. So I don't expect the president to change, although it's in his political interest to do that.
MCCAMMON: Definitely some dynamics to watch in the coming years. We've been talking with Mike Murphy, Republican strategist. Thanks so much.
MURPHY: Thank you.
SANDERS: We're joined now by NPR's Daniel Kurtzleben. Hey, Danielle.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, Sam.
SANDERS: So what do we know about the exit polls so far?
KURTZLEBEN: Well, as far as exit polls go, I mean, one thing that I had been watching for tonight was women voters. There has been a lot of attention on women voters throughout this cycle in particular because what kicked off this whole election cycle was that massive record-breaking women's march that took place worldwide.
But to me, the story of this year, really - women voters, yes, they voted heavily Democratic. There is a large gender gap. Women voters voted for Democrats by over 20 points. Men broke about evenly between Democrats and Republicans. That is a large gender gap, but not an outsized one. What it tells us is that women and men both swung Democratic this year from 2014 by about the same margins. It's about equal. To me, the story in terms of gender this year is about candidates. It's not about voters. You had a record number of women running for office up and down the ballot, especially at the state level and in the House.
SANDERS: Did most of them win?
KURTZLEBEN: We're not sure yet.
KURTZLEBEN: But what I can tell you is this - right now, there are 84 women in the U.S. House. We are on track for there to potentially - we don't have all the results in - for there to potentially be a hundred women in the House. That is a huge story. In, you know, Congress right now, about 1 in 5 members are women. For that to go up by even this amount - it won't be nearly half - but for it to go up by this amount, that's a big deal. But the one thing I will say in terms of exit polls - to get back to your question here - the most interesting thing that I have seen is in terms of education, like Mike Murphy was saying there. What you have seen is that college-educated - people-with-a-college-diploma voters have swung more Democratic this year from 2014 than non-college-educated voters have. What it suggests is that that growing gulf that we saw in 2016 between people with and without a college diploma is just potentially continuing to grow.
SANDERS: What surprised you the most so far with the polls tonight - exit polls?
KURTZLEBEN: Honestly, it's the fact that that gender gap didn't really change that much. It's the lack of a really clear story to tell about gender aside from the fact that America's gender gap remains large. We've known that. It's still there. It's - we don't have clear enough results yet to know, OK, what about turnout? Were Democratic women super energized to come out? Were college-educated women - who also tend pretty Democratic - super energized? That's what I saw on the trail. But, I mean, we don't have the numbers yet to know that for sure.
MCCAMMON: And real quickly, Danielle, we've talked a lot about Democratic women, but what about Republican women? Are they coming out in large numbers too?
KURTZLEBEN: Yes. I mean, there are more Democratic women turning out this year, but there are more Democrats who - or there are more people voting Democratic, perhaps I should say, this year. So, I mean, yes, you did - there's always plenty of enthusiasm on the Republican side in midterm elections. There was plenty of enthusiasm on both sides. So, yes, more - plenty of Republican women did come out. But in terms of voting people in, Democratic women by far did better than Republican women tonight.
SANDERS: Danielle Kurtzleben, thanks so much.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.
MCCAMMON: We're going next to Alan Greenblatt staff writer with Governing Magazine and a former NPR colleague. He's following governors' races across the country. Hi, Alan.
ALAN GREENBLATT: Hi. How are you?
MCCAMMON: Good. Thanks for joining us. What's striking you as you watch these governors' races tonight?
GREENBLATT: Well, the headline is that Democrats are making a bit of a comeback. Republicans started the night with twice as many governorships as Democrats, and Democrats so far have picked up five. And Republicans haven't gained any, although they'll probably win in Alaska. But to me, the striking thing is that, following these races all year, it seems like people didn't even really want to be running for governor. They wanted to be running for Congress. They talked so much about President Trump, either being for him or against him. And a lot of them are in very ideological campaigns on issues that were more national than what they were going to deal with if they were actually elected governor. And a lot of those candidates end up losing a lot of the highly progressive candidates in Florida. You've been talking about it a lot with Andrew Gillum, but also Ben Jealous in Maryland, David Garcia in Arizona and Christine Hallquist in Vermont all ran on very left agendas, platforms. And some of the candidates who ran most strongly as Trump acolytes also lost in Kansas and in Michigan and in Pennsylvania. So what we've seen are a lot of more pragmatic candidates win, which is normal for governors but looked like it might not happen this year.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. And some of the most competitive races haven't been called yet - in Georgia and Wisconsin. What are you seeing going on with those?
GREENBLATT: Well, Wisconsin, the last time I hit refresh, Scott Walker, the incumbent Republican, was up 875 votes out of 2.4 million cast. So obviously, that's a super tight race. Wisconsin has been the most polarized state in this decade, with Walker being a very high-profile governor. You know, he was famous for busting the unions and attracting big protest crowds. Democrats thought this was their chance to beat him. They ran Tony Evers, the state superintendent of education.
And, you know, it's a jump ball. What can you say? In that state, as in so many states, the more populated areas - the bigger cities, like Milwaukee, and the college towns, like Madison - vote against the rest of state. And that's something we're seeing in a lot of states. So whether a state goes D or R depends on the metropolitan population, whether it can outvote the rest of the state.
MCCAMMON: Sure enough. That's Alan Greenblatt, staff writer with Governing magazine. Thanks so much.
GREENBLATT: Thank you.
SANDERS: Back here with NPR's Scott Horsley with an update. What do we know?
HORSLEY: We do now have a call in the Maine governors' race. Democrat Janet Mills is the winner in Maine. That's another net pickup for the Democrats. She'll replace Paul LePage, who was termed out. The Republicans could make that right back, though, in Connecticut, where the Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy is termed out.
And as of now, the Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski is leading Democrat Ned Lamont, who you might remember from that contested Senate primary back in 2006. But no call's been made in the Connecticut governors' race. And as you just heard, the Wisconsin governors' race, where Republican Scott Walker is vying for a third term, is a real nail biter.
SANDERS: Do we know if these Dem governors will fight Trump on issues like climate change and on other stuff?
HORSLEY: Certainly. The states have been sort of a last battleground for the Democrats when they were completely out of power here in Washington. They were largely out of power in the states, too. Remember, the Republicans went into this contest controlling two-thirds of the governors' mansions around the country. So there was really nowhere for Democrats to go but up. And they have gone up. I think we're at a net five or six Democratic pickups so far. There could be some wiggle before we're done for the night.
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SANDERS: Thank you, Scott Horsley. You're listening to election night live from NPR News.
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MCCAMMON: I'm Sarah McCammon. You're listening to election night live from NPR News. We're going to go now to Josh Altic, the project director for the Ballot Measures Project at Ballotpedia. Thanks for joining us, Josh.
JOSH ALTIC: No problem. Thanks for having me on.
MCCAMMON: So there have been a lot of different issues on the ballot this year, as there usually are. Election policy, voting rights, Medicaid, marijuana. Catch us up. What are some of the big ones that you've been paying attention to this year?
ALTIC: Yeah, kind of moving east to west, Florida, amendment 4, which would restore the voting rights for those convicted of felonies' past. And that was sort of combined with Republican victories in close gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, which, I mean, you could see those as a little bit contradictory or at least ironic because you're introducing 1.7 million new possible voters, and we don't know how those races will play out in the future. Marijuana was also kind of a big issue this year. It was trying to bust into the Midwest, and it passed in Michigan - or, at least, the race hasn't been called, but it's very likely to pass. It's seven or eight points ahead right now.
MCCAMMON: Is that medical or recreational?
ALTIC: That is recreational marijuana in Michigan. And recreational in North Dakota, as well, where it failed. But Michigan is a pivot state. They're voting Democrat, Republican. And then North Dakota's voted Republican the last few presidential elections. Kind of a distinction there. The line has been drawn a little bit more narrowly with regard to marijuana legalization. And then for medical, one of Missouri's three medical marijuana legalization measures passed, amendment 3. The other two failed. So there isn't going to be a complicated legal battle about which provisions get enacted in that case.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. And you mentioned the restoring voting rights initiative in Florida, which would affect a-million-and-a-half people. What could that potentially mean long-term for the outcome of Florida elections?
ALTIC: Yeah. I mean, looking at the close races, you saw, you know, this midterm, that's par for the course in Florida for the last however many cycles, for the presidential races and gubernatorial races and other important races there. So I think it's everyone's sort of waiting to see what effect this will have. But I think it could - you could see some interesting campaigning in future elections trying to get the vote out that kind of access this new sort of wealth of voters that haven't been able to vote for some time. And then it's often sort of assumed that this might be a benefit to Democrats. That's something that we'll have to see going forward, as well. There's not a whole lot of data on that.
MCCAMMON: Anything else? Any other initiatives that you want to mention quickly before we're out of time? The next 30 seconds or so.
ALTIC: Yeah. Redistricting was definitely a focus this year. Independent redistricting commission, the policy that broke east of the Rockies. Colorado and Michigan will have the first independent redistricting commissions east of the Rockies. And then Missouri amendment 1 is very unique. A brand-new office, called the state demographer, and some new competitiveness formulas...
MCCAMMON: All right. Josh, we have to leave you right there, but we'll check in later. Thanks so much. That's Josh Altic with Ballotpedia.
SANDERS: You're listening to election night live from NPR News.
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MCCAMMON: From NPR News, this is election night live. I'm Sarah McCammon.
SANDERS: And I'm Sam Sanders. Senate will stay in GOP hands, but when it comes to the House, Dems are claiming victory. One of the many seats they've flipped from red to blue is Virginia's 7th District. In her victory speech tonight, former CIA operations officer Abigail Spanberger thanked all the Virginians she met while campaigning in this once reliably red district.
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ABIGAIL SPANBERGER: The veteran in Louisa who suffers from PTSD. The mother in Nottoway County who threw her body over her children as a tornado destroyed their home. A sawmill worker in Amelia County. A Holocaust survivor in Crewe. Teenagers and young people across this district who want to make their voices heard.
SPANBERGER: Thank you.
SANDERS: Her opponent, GOP congressman David Brat, has yet to concede his seat.
MCCAMMON: And we're going to go now to NPR's Scott Horsley, who's here to bring us up to speed on the latest. Hi, Scott.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: So as we heard, some flips from red to blue in Virginia - a couple of seats, including mine, in the Virginia Beach area. Tell us what you see in Virginia and beyond as far as, you know, the shape of things. It looks like the Democrats are going to be in control. What else do we know?
HORSLEY: Well, as we heard, Dave Brat not conceding yet. But, of course, he's the fellow who ousted Eric Cantor two cycles ago. So it's kind of a live by the upset, die by the (laughter) upset. What we're seeing here is - again, it's kind of a split decision between the House and the Senate. One analyst described this to me the other day, saying, you know, the House is more like a popular vote contest. The Senate is more like an Electoral College contest, where you get disproportionate weight given to people in rural areas. You get disproportionate weight given to smaller states, less populous states.
And just as we saw in 2016, Donald Trump put his emphasis on the Electoral College. He prevailed in the Electoral College. He didn't prevail in the more popular-vote-style House race. And that's why you see Democrats retaking control of the House but Republicans not only holding on to control in the Senate but expanding what had been a very narrow margin there. It looks like they're poised to pick up at least three seats in the Senate. So that'll be a somewhat more comfortable majority for them to work with.
Of course, this was a very Trumpian approach to campaigning. He wasn't trying to persuade the people who weren't in his camp to start with. He spent most of his time on the campaign trail in the last two months. And remember, the president had 30 rallies between Labor Day and Election Day. Most of those rallies were in Trump country, in places where he was already popular. He wasn't trying to persuade. What he was trying to do was mobilize his core voters. And that paid off for him in the Senate, which, of course, will have a lot to say about future nominees, future judicial appointments that this president wants to make. Meanwhile, he'll be facing a very different House of Representatives under the control of Democrats, who will have subpoena power, oversight power and the power to block legislative agendas that the president wants to push.
MCCAMMON: And, Scott, we've talked a lot tonight about how, in many ways, this is what we expected, right? The Democrats had a big opportunity in the House. The Republicans were looking good in the Senate. They did maybe a little better than expected. In a couple of years, though, as we heard Ron Elving say not too long ago, it could be a very sort of opposite scenario. I mean, how are the politics shaping up for the next couple of years? And how does that knowledge that two years from now could be a very different landscape - how is that going to shape what we see happen in Congress?
HORSLEY: Well, you're absolutely right. I think this is a night - a pretty good night for the pollsters and for the political modelers. I mean, this - I think everyone was a little bit wary about making projections after 2016. But to the extent that they did make projections, what they forecast is pretty much what we got. Maybe some of the contours of the races were a little bit different. There might be, certainly, surprises in individual seats. But the broad outlines of a Democratic win in the House and a narrow expansion of the Senate majority - the Republican majority in the Senate - is pretty much what was forecast.
And as we've talked about, you know, the gubernatorial victories in future battlegrounds like Florida, like Ohio, where the president invested a lot of time and a lot of energy to put Mike DeWine in the governor's office in Ohio, DeSantis in the governor's office in Florida - those could be crucial allies for him in what are sure to be hotly contested 2020 presidential battlegrounds.
MCCAMMON: Thanks, Scott.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you.
MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Scott Horsley.
SANDERS: We're going now to Governor Bill Walker of Alaska. He's the current governor there and an independent, the only independent governor right now. He's on the ballot. But he stopped his campaign last month and threw his support to Mark Begich. Hi, Governor Walker.
BILL WALKER: How are you tonight? Good to talk to you.
SANDERS: Likewise. So what's your big takeaway from tonight's results?
WALKER: Well, you know, we've been watching across the country. I know many of the governors that are up for - those who are not termed out. So I've been watching that. Of course, our poll just closed here not less than an hour ago. So we really don't have - seeing any returns come in yet. So we'll watch it closely and see. I've enjoyed being the independent governor - no party affiliation. It's really been - just do what's best for Alaska and sort of, you know, toss the initials aside. And I've - that's been, I think, good for Alaska.
SANDERS: Is there still space for independents like you? We've seen the nation become much more polarized these last few years. Is there a middle?
WALKER: I think there is. I think that - I think we've seen that a few - when I ran and was elected as the only independent governor in the nation, I think it was because of the middle that were just disenfranchised at this - you know, a little tired of the party bickering back and forth. So I've never believed that any one party has a monopoly on good ideas. I've been able to sort of - there's no aisle to reach across because in my world, there are no aisles. And so I just, you know, represent 730,000 Alaskans equally. And our cabinet was a unity cabinet, as well, with Democrats, Republicans, nonpartisan independents. So...
SANDERS: So a majority of Alaskans - they liked what you were doing there. But you left the race last month and supported Begich. Why? What happened?
WALKER: Well, something happened with my lieutenant governor. And it was just beyond my control. It was so close to the key election period, it was clear that we needed to turn this into a two-way race. Somebody needs to step away. And I was not happy with the Republican option. So I was the one that said it was appropriate for me to step away. It was a very difficult decision. But my campaign motto has been Alaska First. And that means Alaska before me. And so I stepped away. And very unusual for the incumbent to do that. We were doing very, very well. We had an incredible team. But it was clear that all we were going to do is we were going to split the split the vote. And that was not acceptable. I wanted to be - Alaska to have a true two-way race at this point. And that's what they had today.
SANDERS: Yeah. There's going to be a lot of new governors who are going to have to work President Trump. What's your advice to them in doing that?
WALKER: You know, my advice to them is do what's best for your state and don't follow a, you know, party, you know, platform or such. When it's not good for your state, don't do it. If it is good for your state, do it. It just feels good. It feels right. Every state is unique and special. And I just am - I'm not a fan of sort of picking up a torch for a party platform that does not work for my state. So it's really been a gift for me to be able to govern not necessarily from the middle - govern just for Alaska. I accepted Medicaid expansion. Forty-four thousand Alaskans now have health care coverage before - because I accepted it on my own. The legislature did not vote for it. And so there were a number of party issues that - of the split we had in the Alaska legislature - that I was able to make the decision to move forward and do what's best for the state.
SANDERS: You're independent now, but you were in the GOP until 2014. Are you proud of where that party is right now?
WALKER: You know, I am very proud of being nonpartisan. And you know the party itself. For me, it was a - it just wasn't a good fit. So I'm not a...
SANDERS: Why not?
WALKER: Well, because it wasn't - you know, there were decisions such as health care. I mean, health care is not - should not be a partisan issue. So, you know, I - it was not accepted because the make-up of the legislature was such they would not vote on accepting Medicaid expansion. I said, that's absolutely ridiculous. And so that's why I did what I did. So, you know, I can't try to, you know - I don't need at this point in my life - I was born in Alaska, and I'll die in Alaska. This is my home. And I don't need a party whispered in my ear about what I feel, what I believe. I know what I feel. I know what I believe. And every day, I do what's best for Alaska.
SANDERS: All right. Governor Bill Walker of Alaska, thank you so much.
WALKER: Thank you very much.
MCCAMMON: Joining us now is Bill Nigut of Georgia Public Broadcasting, a former colleague of mine who I know well. Hi, Bill.
NIGUT: Hey. Hi. how are you?
MCCAMMON: Great. It's good to talk to you.
NIGUT: You too.
MCCAMMON: So what's happening there in Georgia? Fascinating governor's race. Catch us up.
NIGUT: Yeah. Very simply, Brian Kemp, the Republican, is ahead of Stacey Abrams, the Democrat, who has been working to become the first female African-American governor in the United States, is behind camp by about 115,000 votes with 95 percent of the vote counted. I think an objective look at the precincts that are still out suggests that it's going to be hard for Abrams to make up 100,000-plus votes. But her campaign manager said a little while ago they are not giving up the fight. There are absentee ballots, large numbers of them, that have not been counted and reported in a number of precincts. They also say there are provisional ballots that are outstanding. So they're probably going to go to bed tonight and pick up this fight again in the morning.
MCCAMMON: And, Bill, close races are always contentious, but this one in Georgia has been particularly contentious when it comes to sort of voting integrity, questions about who's running things. I mean, how does - catch us up on that. And how does that factor into what's happening right now?
NIGUT: Well, that's exactly right. From the very beginning, Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams have been dueling over whether or not she believes Brian Kemp runs honest elections. She and people who support her have accused him of voter suppression. There have been many national stories about things that have happened in Georgia that people suggest are efforts of voter suppression on the part of Kemp's secretary of state's office. She ran the New Georgia Project a couple of years ago, which was an effort to broaden the voting base here, to bring 200 or more thousand new voters in. From the very beginning of that, Kemp's office rejected any number of the registrations that they went after, accused the New Georgia Project of fraudulent ballot registrations. So they've been fighting about this for a couple of years. And if the Abrams people are going to bed tonight saying we're still going to fight on tomorrow, you have to wonder whether these arguments on this bitter acrimony between them over making sure the secretary of state is counting votes correctly and completely is going to continue into tomorrow.
MCCAMMON: And what is Brian Kemp, who, of course, is the Republican nominee and the secretary of state, what is his camp saying right now?
NIGUT: His camp is saying that all of the voter suppression accusations that have been leveled at them by Democrats primarily are false and malicious efforts to undermine his work at the secretary of state's office. And as a candidate for governor, they offer explanations for everything that's happened that people have viewed as potential voter suppression. And essentially, they've said, look; we're going to run an honest election. Brian Kemp says my job is to do that and I will move forward in that with that in mind. So we're going to see. Brian - nobody's come out one way or the other to either concede or declare victory, so it looks like we're going to go to bed with neither candidate willing to do that.
MCCAMMON: And quickly, Bill, what does this mean going forward? This is a state where there's a lot of talk about whether or not it's going to turn from red to purple. Does this raise the energy around it, say anything about that?
NIGUT: Well, I mean, it is certainly true that the Democrats have been saying for some time that Georgia is on the verge of turning blue, but they've been saying that maybe for the last eight or so years here. They are going to go away realizing tonight that did not happen again. There is a chance that Democrats could win both the 6th and 7th Congressional District races, which are now in the hands of Republicans. Those races right now are too close to call. Those races probably won't be decided overnight. If Democrats pick up either of those seats and contribute to this House takeover by Democrats, they'll be thrilled with that and see that as the beginning of the blue wave they've been hoping for for some time.
MCCAMMON: All right. That's Bill Nigut of Georgia Public Broadcasting. Thank you, Bill.
NIGUT: Thank you.
SANDERS: We're going now to...
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MCCAMMON: All right. We're going go to Scott Horsley, NPR White House correspondent. Just a quick recap of where things stand tonight, Scott.
HORSLEY: Well, we have a split decision with Democrats retaking control of the House of Representatives and Republicans retaining control in the Senate and it looks like expanding their narrow majority there. And just to expand what Bill Nigut was saying, it's important remember that a lot of that House momentum that Democrats were able to pick up was a result of some of those hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial races. Even if the Democrat at the top of the ticket was unsuccessful, they probably can claim some credit for those pickups in the House.
MCCAMMON: You're listening to election night live from NPR News.
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SANDERS: From NPR News, this is - this is - from NPR News, this is election night live. I'm Sam Sanders here with Deirdre Walsh from the Washington Desk. Hi, how are you?
DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Great. Great to be with you.
SANDERS: So what's the latest?
WALSH: Well, we just saw House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier tonight declare victory, and she had sort of two themes. She talked about bipartisanship and accountability. And as Scott talked - Scott Horsley talked about earlier with the split decision with the Senate Republicans retaining their majority, House Democrats on track to pick up a new majority for themselves, she was trying to walk this fine line between saying that she was reaching out a hand to do bipartisanship but at the same time promising accountability. The president called Nancy Pelosi tonight and congratulated her, and he picked up on the bipartisan part but not the accountability part.
SANDERS: Hearing this and, you know, seeing Trump called Pelosi, Pelosi be pretty nice tonight, this is not what the base of either party wants, right? How long does that last?
WALSH: No. Pelosi will be under intense pressure to start the accountability piece as fast as possible.
SANDERS: If she's speaker still, right?
WALSH: She's intending to run for speaker. She believes that she has the votes right now. She will have to see because when the caucus votes, there are a lot of Democratic candidates who are winning tonight who are on record publicly against voting for her for speaker. She believes she can convince some people and enough. And right now, there's no one else challenging her.
WALSH: But she will be under intense pressure from the progressive base that has called for her and others to begin impeachment, to start investigations, to get the tax returns.
SANDERS: That's the big question - the I word - impeachment. How soon should we expect to hear that word on Capitol Hill, if at all?
WALSH: I think on Capitol Hill, you won't hear it as much as you will hear it around the country from the base. Top Democratic leaders beyond Nancy Pelosi have definitely thrown cold water on the idea of impeachment. They use the I word as investigation as opposed to an impeachment. And one after the other, top Democratic leaders say we need to let special counsel Robert Mueller finish his investigation, see what kind of evidence is there, and then we can talk about - if there is some hard evidence from an outside special counsel, we can go to the next step. But they are not ready to go near impeachment at all right now.
MCCAMMON: Deirdre, how contentious do you expect the speaker's race to be? I mean, Nancy Pelosi has been sort of a symbol that's been held up by Republicans - right? - as sort of a maybe a punching bag, you could say, someone that's sort of, you know, held up as someone they run against. She's been seen as an effective leader - right? - but how much support does she have?
WALSH: She does have significant support, and I think the thing that Pelosi has going for her is you can't beat someone with no one. There is no one announced as challenging Pelosi for the top spot. There are people who have suggested that it's time for new leadership and she needs to go, but they are not personally stepping up to challenge her. The Ohio Democrat that did challenge her the last time may decide to do it again.
MCCAMMON: That's Deirdre Walsh with NPR's Washington Desk. You're listening to election night live from NPR News.
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SANDERS: You're listening to election night live from NPR News. I'm Sam Sanders.
MCCAMMON: And I'm Sarah McCammon. One of the Senate seats that Republicans flipped tonight was in North Dakota. Congressman Kevin Cramer beat incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, who was one of the most endangered Democrats in this midterm. In his victory speech at Bismarck State College, Cramer gave big props to President Trump.
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KEVIN CRAMER: He made a lot of promises. He promised to never forget real America, and he came here three times. Our vice president's been here three times. Cabinet officials have been here multiple times because they will not forget the once forgotten. And I'm grateful that Donald Trump knows and remembers the heartland of America.
MCCAMMON: That's Senator-elect Kevin Cramer speaking at his victory speech in Bismarck, N.D., a state that Trump carried by 36 points in 2016.
MCCAMMON: Let's go now to NPR political reporter Tim Mak for an update on the results. Hi, Tim. Thanks for joining us.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.
MCCAMMON: So what are you following right now? It's late. We've been up all night, and there are still results coming in. But what are the ones to watch at this moment?
MAK: I'm really interested in California's 48th District. That's Orange County. That's where Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is facing a challenge from Democrat Harley Rouda. It's really going to show us if the current trend with regards to suburban districts - had a lot of voters - which have been turned off by President Trump's language and his policies, whether that's going to continue across the West Coast. I'm super interested in that. I'm also interested right now in the general immediate reaction from the Democratic leaders in Congress about how aggressive they're going to be when it comes in the new year - when they're expected to have the majority, whether they're going to aggressively prosecute investigations into the president and his administration. And right now, I'm getting a little bit of a tap on the brakes. The - a Democratic committee aide for the House oversight committee is saying that the congressman who's expected to be the chairman of the committee will try to conduct investigations on a bipartisan basis going forward and will only try to use subpoenas as a last resort. So tonight, they're not exactly throwing out the red meat for the Democratic base.
MCCAMMON: Why do you think that is?
MAK: I think there's an - they want to have an initial effort to reach out. Some of these committees, like the House oversight committee or the House intelligence committee, have historically been bipartisan committees that work jointly together to provide a check on administrations. And I think that there is, at least initially, some sort of effort to make a good faith attempt to reach out to Republicans and see where that goes. The base doesn't want it, though. The base isn't interested in working together with Republicans. The Democratic base, in fact, has seen the last two years as being Republicans in the House stymieing efforts to hold the Trump administration accountable.
MCCAMMON: And, you know, what do you expect? How do you expect this to play out, Tim? I mean, there are multiple powers that the Democrats in Congress will have at their disposal. We've heard a lot about subpoena power. But, you know, what do you see as the likely first couple of steps?
MAK: You know, it's really interesting. The first thing that's been mentioned in these last few hours as we've projected or it looks more likely that Democrats are going to be taking control of the House is this idea of tax returns - this idea of whether Trump's tax returns can be legitimately requested by the House ways and means committee. And it - there is a law that allows this committee to specifically ask for particular tax returns. That's going to be highly, highly contested in the new year. But you're already seeing everyone from the House ways and means committee on the Democratic side to other folks in - other Democratic members of Congress saying this is going to be one of the first things that we look into. You know, Congressman Elijah Cummings, who is expected to be the chairman of the House oversight committee, his staff are saying, hey, he definitely wants those tax returns come the new year.
MCCAMMON: Those tax returns have been much talked about, much sought after. Perhaps something that Democrats in Congress will manage to get out. We will see. Thank you, Tim Mak.
MAK: Thank you.
MCCAMMON: Tim's a political reporter with NPR.
SANDERS: Going now to NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. You're watching the exit polls tonight. What are you still waiting to find out from those exit polls?
KURTZLEBEN: One thing is to look at them and see exactly who made up the electorate tonight.
KURTZLEBEN: Now, exit polls can be a little hard to read on this. So what we're looking for are any really hard swings on this. For example, should there happen to be any sort of massive uptick in Democratic women or college educated women, who are a couple of groups that we really were watching this year? Also, Latinos is a group that we started to hear more about towards the end of this campaign, wondering how much they would turn out as well, especially in a race which - in which a lot of rhetoric surrounding race, surrounding ethnicity, surrounding immigration also - not that we want to conflate that but especially in a race where those were such hot-button issues.
SANDERS: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you, Danielle. We're going to go now to California where Democrat Gavin Newsom has won that state's election for governor. Katie Orr is a Statehouse reporter with station KQED in California. She's at Newsom campaign headquarters in Los Angeles. Hey, Katie. How are you?
KATIE ORR, BYLINE: Hey, I'm good. How are you doing?
SANDERS: Pretty good, pretty good. So it was pretty much expected that Newsom was going to win, correct?
ORR: It was. It was a pretty low-key campaign, honestly. Newsom took a lot of time to go up and down the state to campaign for other candidates on the ticket. And even tonight, it was called very shortly after the polls closed. He came out around 10 o'clock our time and gave a speech, 10 or 15 minutes. But even that was a bit understated, it seemed to me. You know, no confetti, no balloons, anything like that - just sort of a, you know, straightforward this is what we expected, and that's what we got.
SANDERS: Yeah. What are the big issues for Newsom as governor?
ORR: Well, you know, he spoke a lot about in his speech California not just being a resistance to Donald Trump. Of course that's sort of the the path that the many lawmakers in the state here have taken since the 2016 presidential election. But in his speech, Newsom was saying that California is not just about the resistance. It's about results. You know, we have the fifth largest economy in the world. To him, he's saying that proves we're doing something right. However, he does face in - a very large poverty problem in California. There's a tremendous amount of poverty here. He says he wants to do something about education, things like that. There are some talks about trying to establish a single-payer health care system. So a very progressive leader taking over here in stark contrast to the president but, again, saying that we're not just about the resistance here in California.
SANDERS: Yeah. So California was also a big battleground for the House. Dems were hoping to flip a handful of GOP-held districts in Southern California. What's the shake-up with those seats?
ORR: You know, a lot of them are still too close to call. They've been very tight. And the thing with California, there's so many mail-in voters here that it could take several days, if not weeks, to have final counts in a lot of these races. One of the seats that people were really watching was a seat that was formerly held by Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. He retired, perhaps being that he wasn't going to win re-election. And in fact, it looks like the Democrat in that district, Mike Levin, has a solid lead over his Republican opponent.
SANDERS: Yeah. Also Dianne Feinstein - she's in the Senate. She's running for re-election against a Democrat. How's she doing?
ORR: She's won. She won fairly quickly, too, after the polls closed. That was another race that was never really considered very close. She's an incumbent. She's been serving for a long time. I think she might've been...
ORR: ...Helped out as well by the surge of women running. You know, there were people who maybe didn't want to vote out one of the most senior women in the Senate this time around. So again, she is - she did have one conversation, not a debate but sort of a moderated conversation with her challenger. But that race was never considered to be that close.
SANDERS: Yeah. I'm sure there are already questions about Newsom as governor of California for 2020. Is there a buzz around him yet that you're hearing?
ORR: (Laughter) You know, there always is, and it's always a question he gets. He's insisting that, no, he is here to be governor. But of course, you know, he's a fairly young guy. And if you lead a state like California, a very large state, diverse, a big economy, I mean, I think it's only natural that you would think he would look toward running maybe not in 2020 but certainly sometime in the future.
SANDERS: All right. Katie Orr from KQED in California, thanks so much.
ORR: You're welcome.
MCCAMMON: And we're going to stay out West. Let's talk now about Oregon where Democratic Governor Kate Brown was able to hang on to her office. We're joined now by Dirk VanderHart, political reporter with Oregon Public Broadcasting. Hi, Dirk.
DIRK VANDERHART, BYLINE: Hey, good to be with you.
MCCAMMON: I guess it's still Election Day there. Here on the East Coast, it's Wednesday.
MCCAMMON: How's it going?
VANDERHART: It's going well. Yeah, this was a race that got a lot of attention, especially recently, nationally, as a Republican here, Knute Buehler, a state representative, looked like he was really close in the polls to Democrat Kate Brown. There was even a couple of prognosticators who thought this was a toss-up. And as the results flowed in at 8 p.m. here, it was pretty clear it was not that. She was leading by about 10 or 11 percent early on. And then it is now 6 points, so ended up being a fairly typical Oregon governor's election.
MCCAMMON: So not as close as it was expected to be.
VANDERHART: That's right. Yeah. And in fact, the Democrats here even strengthened their hand even further in the state legislature. They now have supermajorities in both chambers. So they have really strengthened their position here.
MCCAMMON: And any sense of why the outcome went that way?
VANDERHART: You know, I mean, there is a huge voter registration edge from Democrats here. And this is going to be one of the highest turnout midterm elections that Oregon has seen, if not the highest. And I think that the edge in registration just was going to go Kate Brown's way. There was some notion that she wasn't popular because, you know, the state has issues with its education system. We have a pretty big hole in our pension system. And there was some notion that Democrats were sick of how Kate Brown had handled those things or had not handled them. The returns suggest that that was maybe a bit overblown and that, you know, people have stuck with their party. There was also some concern about how nonaffiliated voters here in Oregon, which now make up about a third of the electorate, were going to break. And it does seem like at least a sizable enough portion of them went with Kate Brown.
MCCAMMON: And what else have you been watching tonight - other races? I know you had a couple of interesting ballot measures.
VANDERHART: Yeah. I mean, one thing we're all still interested in how it shakes out is the race up in Washington just north of here with Jaime Herrera Beutler. She is still in a race with Carolyn Long, the Democrat. And that has not been called yet, though Herrera Beutler has a bit of a lead. There was also a couple interesting ballot measures here in Oregon. One of them was the sort of a referendum on the state's 31-year-old sanctuary law. Voters decisively kept that in place.
And there was another one about abortion and whether public money should be allowed to pay for abortions, for instance, for Medicare or Medicaid. And that also lost, meaning that public dollars will still be able to go to those things, so some fairly strong showings, I would say, in the progressive and Democratic electorate here in Oregon.
MCCAMMON: Right, across the board and in ballot measures as well as these candidate races.
VANDERHART: That's right. Yep.
MCCAMMON: We've been talking with Dirk VanderHart, political reporter with Oregon Public Broadcasting. Thanks so much, Dirk.
MCCAMMON: And we go now to NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben, who has been following female voters and exit polls and lots of other stuff for us tonight. Hi, Danielle.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: OK. So what are you eyeing now as we move into Wednesday here on the East Coast? - though it is still Tuesday, as I say, on the West Coast.
KURTZLEBEN: I mean, we have a couple of races out here on - towards the East Coast that we're still waiting on. One of the ones that I'm watching most closely is in Georgia's 6th District. You have Karen Handel, who won in that - she's a Republican. She's the current incumbent. She won in that very tight special election race last year against Jon Ossoff, the Democrat. This is a seat that was vacated by Tom Price, who joined the Trump administration as HHS secretary at one point. She's running against Lucy McBath, a woman who is a gun control advocate. Her son was shot and killed in an act of gun violence. That is a very tight race right now. What I'm seeing is it's still 50/50, so it's going to come right down to the wire.
Aside from that, the biggest race that I'm watching is Arizona's Senate race. That's a really interesting one, again. It's veteran Martha McSally, the first woman to fly in combat as a fighter pilot. You have her running against Kyrsten Sinema, Kyrsten Sinema being the Democrat. Both of them are current representatives from that state. I was out there earlier this year. It is a very tightly fought race in what has formerly been thought of as a pretty red state. The fact that it's this close is really pretty incredible. But we're still waiting to see who's going to win that.
MCCAMMON: And it's been a colorful and contentious race.
MCCAMMON: Right? - with a lot of interesting ads, and...
KURTZLEBEN: Yes. And I mean, you know, Martha McSally really stands out from the crowd. She, first of all, is running very heavily on her military experience as many veterans this year have been, especially women veterans. We've seen a lot of them this year. She had that one ad where she famously said she told Washington Republicans to, quote, "grow a pair of ovaries." So there has been some fairly gendered rhetoric in this race, even with two women running against each other. So I'm very excited to see who comes out on top.
MCCAMMON: Fascinating stuff - thanks, Danielle.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.
MCCAMMON: Danielle Kurtzleben, political reporter for NPR News.
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MCCAMMON: And you're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
SANDERS: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Sam Sanders here with Deirdre Walsh from the Washington desk. Hi. How are you?
WALSH: I'm good, Sam.
SANDERS: All right. So we have a House now that's controlled by Dems. They are going to investigate. What are some of the things that we should see them investigate in the Trump White House?
WALSH: Well, they've talked about practices of waste, fraud, scandals by former Trump administration officials like the former HHS secretary Tom Price using private planes for travel, the former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt misusing taxpayer money to build a special studio at his office, to use official vehicles for personal travel. They're also looking at the way that the Trump administration's Health and Human Services Department has overseen implementing Obamacare, whether or not they have tried to slow roll implementing changes to the law. These are all things that the Democratic leaders have said that they plan to take up as soon as they take control of the chamber in January.
SANDERS: Yeah. I'm also hearing already that Democrats - or some Democrats want to talk about subpoenaing Trump's taxes. Would that happen?
WALSH: Well, what they would do is the tax-writing committees in the Senate and the House do have the authority on their own to request the president's tax returns from the treasury secretary. So the way the process works is that the chair of the Ways and Means Committee in the House, who would likely be run by Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Richard Neal, would write to Secretary Mnuchin and say, we want the president's tax returns from such and such of dates. Where it goes from there, the process is a little unclear right now because the president has sort of waved off the notion that that could happen and said, I don't care what happens. I'll do what I want. He was asked about this on Monday. And he seemed unfazed by the whole idea that they could get his tax returns.
SANDERS: Could it go to court then?
WALSH: I think most people do expect that there will be a legal battle over it. But we're getting into unchartered territory.
SANDERS: Totally - taking you too far. So given that there's going to be a lot of investigations, given that Dems have the House and the GOP has the Senate, what is the likelihood of any major legislation getting passed between now and 2020?
WALSH: It's pretty unlikely.
WALSH: I mean, Democrats have their own priorities. But there are things that they could potentially pass through the House but won't go anywhere in a GOP-controlled Senate. There are some ideas for infrastructure, which President Trump said early in his administration was a bipartisan priority. But it hasn't moved anywhere, even in a Republican-controlled Congress. So we'll have to see whether he could cut a bipartisan deal. One thing he will have to deal with is funding his own priorities. With Congress having the power of the purse, he's going to have to negotiate.
SANDERS: Yeah. Deirdre Walsh from the Washington desk. Thank you so much.
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SANDERS: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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MCCAMMON: This is Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Sarah McCammon.
SANDERS: And I'm Sam Sanders. As we keep tallying the votes and call the final races, there can be little doubt that this election has been a very historic one for women.
MCCAMMON: Consider these firsts. Democrat Ayanna Pressley became the first woman of color elected to Congress from the state of Massachusetts.
SANDERS: In New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, became the youngest woman to Congress. She's 29.
MCCAMMON: Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan will be the first Muslim women in Congress. Both are Democrats.
SANDERS: And in Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn became that state's first woman elected to the Senate.
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BLACKBURN: We're going to continue to do what we do - work every day. As I say, I get up and I fight for what I call the big five - faith, family, freedom, hope and opportunity.
MCCAMMON: We continue to watch Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams is in a tight race with Republican Brian Kemp for governor of that state. Abrams would be the first African-American woman ever elected governor to any state in U.S. history if she's able to pull ahead of Kemp, who has a slim lead. Speaking minutes ago in Atlanta, Abrams sounded like she was not ready to concede.
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STACEY ABRAMS: But I'm here tonight to tell you votes remain to be counted. There are voices that were waiting to be heard. Across our state, folks are opening up the dreams of voters in absentee ballots. And we believe our chance for a stronger Georgia is just within reach. But we cannot seize it until all voices are heard.
SANDERS: With us in studio now is NPR's Jessica Taylor. So was this a year of the woman?
TAYLOR: We are really seeing that in the House. As you both mentioned, there are several historic firsts. And when I'm looking at especially these competitive House races that are really critical in what it looks like will give Democrats a majority, it's a lot of women that really made the difference. You look at Abigail Spanberger in Virginia's 7th district in the Richmond suburbs, Elaine Luria in Virginia's 2nd District along Hampton Roads, Abigail Finkenauer in Iowa. I mean, there are just a lot of women across the country that were running in really competitive races and look like they've pulled it off.
SANDERS: Yeah. So we're going to see these women go to Congress at a time when we expect lots of gridlock. How will these women make their mark on a Congress that might not pass any big bills?
TAYLOR: You know, it really is interesting because I remember covering, you know, like the shutdown back in 2013. And it was some women that really kind of tried to get together to try to move things, to try to find compromise. And there have been studies done about whether that really works and things, too. But how they play in that, how - if there are more women added to leadership, if they still continue to back Pelosi, who has had a lot of detractors from a lot of members, saying - a lot these candidates saying that they wouldn't back her. It's kind of an open question. But, I mean, for the first time in history, there is poised to be more than a hundred women in the House which is really, really noteworthy.
SANDERS: Yeah. Should we expect to see any bipartisan cooperation on any issues between now and 2020? And if so, which issues?
TAYLOR: You know, it's really hard to say...
TAYLOR: Because we really - it really does feel like we are so divided. And when you look at these results tonight, just what a difference you see in the Senate moving one way and the House moving completely different.
SANDERS: And both sides contend that they won.
TAYLOR: Right, exactly. And you can look at this, and you can claim victory if you want to look at it one way or the other. Possibly, one place is infrastructure spending. You know, this is something that President Trump has said from the beginning he wants to get done. This has been one of Democrats' platforms that they have talked about less so than health care. This was sort of the main thing.
But, you know, right now, for the time being, the Affordable Care Act is safe. That's what they're saying because they are not going to repeal that in the House. But infrastructure is, I think, probably the main thing that we could look there to see. But again, who knows if a Trump tweet or something that he does will blow it up? And it's just so volatile right now.
SANDERS: It's always infrastructure week, isn't it? Thank you, Jessica Taylor.
TAYLOR: (Laughter) It is.
MCCAMMON: Maybe it really will be infrastructure week soon. We'll see. We're joined now by NPR's Miles Parks. Hi, Miles.
MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hi there.
MCCAMMON: You've been following some specific ballot measures tonight? What are you watching tonight?
PARKS: Yeah. So I am the voting reporter for NPR, so I'm obviously a little bit obsessed with voting-related measures. And it's really interesting - as you guys know, states and localities control elections in this country. It's not a federal government thing. So you have all of these interesting ballot measures for states trying to take control over different aspects of their election systems. And we're seeing kind of this divergence on these ballot measures.
The one common thread about all of them is that they all seem to be passing. We're not seeing any of them right now - the voting election process-related ballot measures - that seem to be failing. They're all passing. But what's interesting is that they go on two different ends of the spectrum. Some of them make voting harder for people, and some of them make voting easier for people. And both of them are passing in their respective states.
MCCAMMON: So you're talking about things like, I assume, Florida - right? - with the...
MCCAMMON: ...Restoring voting rights to felons except for certain crimes - sex crimes and murder, I believe.
PARKS: Yeah. And I think Florida's gotten a lot of attention, rightfully so because, obviously, that's such a massive state. And that's a really interesting ballot measure. But then states like Colorado and Utah have ballot measures where they're basically overhauling gerrymandering policy and how legislative districts are drawn, basically creating a more independent system to draw their congressional districts. And then you have places like North Carolina. North Carolina passed, by 55 to 45 percent, a law requiring all voters there to have voter ID to be able to vote there. If this does end up passing, they would be the 18th state to require statewide voter ID.
MCCAMMON: So in general, correct me if I'm wrong, but voting rights for felons tends to be - you know, once they've served their term - that tends to be something Democrats have pushed for more than Republicans. Voter ID tends to be something Republicans have pushed for more than Democrats, right?
MCCAMMON: What about these gerrymandering provisions? What's the push behind that?
PARKS: In general, all of these voting-related ballot measures are really interesting because they don't follow the traditional narratives. You look at Florida, who seems to have elected a Republican governor and a Republican senator in this race. And yet they support this ballot measure by 62 percent - the last number I looked at - 62 percent for - to give voting rights back for felons, which is traditionally a Democratic-held position.
And then you have a situation like Utah, which just elected Mitt Romney, Republican senator. Traditionally, antigerrymandering laws are traditionally more - right now more Democratically-held positions because of the way Republicans were able to use the system after they took control in 2010 and were able to draw districts that were advantageous to Republicans. So while antigerrymandering is not a Republican-held position in general, it has wide support among the electorate.
MCCAMMON: Sure. Well, thank you for catching us up on those, Miles. We may talk to you later this evening. That's Miles Parks, NPR political reporter.
SANDERS: We're going now to California, where we're still waiting for results on a few battleground House districts. Speaking now with Marisa Lagos from KQED in San Francisco. Hey there. How are you?
MARISA LAGOS, BYLINE: Hey, Sam. Good to hear from you.
SANDERS: All right. So what's the mood out there in California right now?
LAGOS: Well, you know, as you said, on some of these, like, most interesting House races, we're still waiting. And honestly, it could be a. We have early returns, you know, on a lot of them. And some of the closer races in polls are really neck and neck. I mean, literally, there are 49-50, you know, in a Modesto where the Democrat from the Bay Area - used to live in the Bay Area - has been challenging Jack Denham. A couple down south that are, you know, 50-50.
So a couple of the sort of more high-profile ones - you might have heard of Devin Nunes from the Central Valley, who raised, I think, over $11 million. That was the most expensive House race in the nation. He handily won that district, as expected. But, you know, I think the bigger news that we know for sure is that we do have a new governor in California, Gavin Newsom, and that some of those Orange County races we've all been tracking may take a couple days to sort out.
SANDERS: Yeah. So with Orange County, Dems are trying to flip a few House seats there. Does it look possible for them? And the Inland Empire, as well.
LAGOS: Yeah, so on some of them, yes. So Dana Rohrabacher, who is very well-known for his close ties to Russia, kind of an interesting libertarian guy, been pro-marijuana, very pro-President Trump - he is in a dead heat with his Democratic challenger, Harley Rouda. Darrell Issa, who abandoned his seat, decided not to run for re-election - it's looking pretty good for the Democrat, an environmental attorney, in that seat, which was pretty expected.
The ones we're still waiting on - Katie Porter challenged Mimi Walters in Irvine, which, you know, has a college there, so it's a little more liberal. Mimi Walters is up, but, you know, these are all early voting numbers. We haven't seen this change much in the last few hours. And so, you know, we know that those are probably absentee ballots that got cast early. They tend to skew a little bit more conservative. So things could really change there. And it looks like, you know, they're probably not going to take all those seats they targeted. But they're definitely looking good to pick up a couple.
SANDERS: Let's talk Duncan Hunter. He was indicted on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud, but he's still running. How are things looking for him right now?
LAGOS: Very good. That race, I think, has been called for him by a number of folks, including the AP. He is up by almost 10 points. I mean, that - you know, he has, like, a 16-, 17-point registration advantage in that district. I think that it was a very sort of nasty race. He attacked his opponents, made a lot of Muslim attacks on him, even though he's actually a Christian. But, you know, that was really a reach for Democrats. It did open up a little with that indictment.
Duncan Hunter was accused by federal prosecutors of basically using about a quarter of a million dollars of campaign funds as kind of a personal slush fund. His next court date is, I think, next week. And so if - you know, if he actually gets convicted, that could open up a special election. And I think what we heard from some Republicans down there is they would rather keep him in office and have a special then vote for a Democrat.
SANDERS: Last question for you. Gavin Newsom, now governor of California, I'm sure people are already saying the numbers 2-0-2-0 next to his name. Is that going to happen?
LAGOS: He says no. He has said very strongly...
SANDERS: Well, they always say no.
LAGOS: ...But, you know, so have a lot of folks who seem to be eyeing it. I do think that would be a tough one for him to turn around and do. You know, he's just winning this office. He would really have to make that pivot in the next couple of weeks. And, of course, one of his fellow San Franciscans, Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator, definitely seems to be eyeing that run. And so that would set up sort of around 300 or 400 of their sort of ongoing political tussles. But I am not putting my money on him running this time around. But, you know, there's a lot of time left. He's only in his 50s.
SANDERS: All right. Marisa Lagos from KQED, thank you so much.
LAGOS: Thanks, Sam. Have a good night.
MCCAMMON: Let's check in now in Montana, where incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester is running against Republican challenger Matt Rosendale. That race still too close to call. We have Eric Whitney of Montana Public Radio on the line. Hello, Eric.
ERIC WHITNEY, BYLINE: Hello.
MCCAMMON: So bring us up to speed on this this race. What's the latest?
WHITNEY: Republican challenger Matt Rosendale has just pulled ahead by less than a percentage point. He's leading Democrat Jon Tester by 48.9 percent to 48.1 percent. It's still pretty tight. That's with less than 60 percent of all precincts reporting. And some of the bigger counties are still - a significant number of votes in some of the bigger counties haven't come in yet. So we're unlikely to get definitive results on this until tomorrow morning or afternoon.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. Is it a surprise that Tester, who is a Democrat, is still hanging on, at least for now, in this state, which, as you know, went for Trump by more than 20 points in 2016?
WHITNEY: From the outside, you know, the GOP candidate looks like kind of a shoo-in in a state like that. But Jon Tester has a pretty strong reputation here. He's a two-term incumbent. He's got a lot of name recognition. He served as a state lawmaker. He's pretty well known and trusted. And also, he and his proxies have spent, you know, in the neighborhood of $30 million promoting his brand. So I don't think it's too surprising that he's doing well. And I think he's a pretty conservative Democrat by, you know, national standards, certainly by coastal standards.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. And your state, of course, is one of those low-population states with just one House seat held now by Republican incumbent Greg Gianforte, who's run - who's been closely aligned with Trump. Remind us who he is. Catch us up on how that race is looking.
WHITNEY: Mr. Gianforte won a special election last year when our then-Congressman Ryan Zinke was appointed secretary of interior. Mr. Gianforte lost a governor's race, came right back and won the special election, made headlines because the day before, he assaulted a reporter, later pled guilty to misdemeanor assault for assaulting a reporter, still managed to win the election. And now, he's running for his first full term. He's a friend of President Trump and has run as an ally of President Trump. And his challenger, Kathleen Williams, has certainly had a tough battle to beat him. She's down by about 10 points at this point.
MCCAMMON: All right. That's Eric Whitney, Montana Public Radio. Thanks, Eric.
WHITNEY: Thank you.
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MCCAMMON: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
SANDERS: I'm Sam Sanders, joined now by NPR's Ron Elving. Hi, Ron. How are you?
ELVING: Good to be with you, Sam.
SANDERS: All right. My big question for you - why does tonight seem like such a mixed bag? You know, Democrats took the House, but they still had some really big symbolic losses. I'm talking about Gillum and Abrams and Beto. It doesn't feel like a big win for them tonight.
ELVING: It doesn't because they put into place some states that not too long ago would not have been considered even remotely competitive. For example, Rick Scott was looking very strong as a Senate candidate against Bill Nelson. But what was really presumed was that whomever the Republicans nominated for governor would probably be very strong. And the Democrats surprised everybody by nominating Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, who's an African-American...
SANDERS: Very charismatic.
ELVING: ...And highly charismatic and surprisingly popular among Democrats but, of course, was going to face the usual presumption that it's going to be hard for an African-American to be elected governor of Florida, or for that matter, for Stacey Abrams, in Georgia as an African-American woman to be elected governor of Georgia. And then, of course, Beto O'Rourke in Texas taking on Ted Cruz...
SANDERS: Always a longshot.
ELVING: ...Not long ago considered to be - very close to being the Republican nominee for president, certainly the runner-up to Donald Trump in the Republican party and somebody with national ambitions from the get-go. And here he was, suddenly on the ropes, running against a guy nobody had ever heard of before this year. So all of those, if you will, were Hail Mary passes to some degree for the Democrats. You can look at the demographics of those states and say, eventually, they're going to have so much Hispanic vote to go with our African-American vote and their Democratic white vote that they will be much more competitive for the Democrats. But a Hail Mary pass in 2018.
SANDERS: But Gillum, at some points, was ahead by many points. And what happened?
ELVING: Well, among other things, polls aren't votes.
SANDERS: That's true.
ELVING: And when you look at a midterm in particular, you have to assume that the presumption is anybody you talk to is not a voter because even if they say they're a voter, you know that overwhelmingly most people aren't going to vote. So polls in midterms can be deceptive. And we also know that in the closing days in all of those states, there were a number of events. There were a number of tactics used. There were advertisements of a highly misleading nature that were passed around.
SANDERS: And Trump was very present there, too.
ELVING: And let's also give credit to the president for having gone into all three of those states, campaigned hard - and also in a number of others, we might add - Montana several times, North Dakota, Indiana, all of which seem to be going Republican right now for the Senate. Although Jon Tester in Montana is still in the fight. We should make clear that the president went to Ohio as well. And in Ohio, the Republicans did surprisingly well, although they did not win the Senate seat there.
SANDERS: Thanks to NPR's Ron Elving.
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SANDERS: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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SANDERS: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News. I'm Sam Sanders.
MCCAMMON: And I'm Sarah McCammon. We're watching California, where yet more House seats could flip from red to blue and put Democrats in clear control of that chamber.
SANDERS: The GOP has held onto the Senate overall. And California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein should secure her sixth term once all the votes are counted there. Speaking to her supporters in San Francisco, the 85-year-old took the long view.
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DIANNE FEINSTEIN: This is such a great country, and it's been factionalized and trivialized with rhetoric. We must stop that. We must come together as the great power that we are for the good of the nation, and I think, of mankind. Thank you for your support.
SANDERS: That's Dianne Feinstein at her campaign party in San Francisco.
MCCAMMON: We're going to check in now with NPR's Jessica Taylor. There are still a few high-stakes Senate races that are too close to call, among them Nevada and Arizona. Jessica, tell us about those.
TAYLOR: So yeah, these were the two very late closes that we are looking at. In Nevada, this was the one state that probably was the best pickup opportunity for Democrats because we talked about those 10 states the Democrats were defending in places that President Trump carried, but this is the one state - incumbent Dean Heller running in the state - that Hillary Clinton carried. We have about three-fourths of the vote in there, and his Democratic challenger, Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, is up by about 7 points. So we will see.
We find it was a very slow-counting state. We've finally gotten some results in there. But that race has not been called yet. Arizona is just incredibly tight. This was the open seat Senator Jeff Flake, a very outspoken Trump critic, has retiring there. You have Congresswoman Martha McSally, an Air Force pilot, the first woman to fly in combat, running there against Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic congresswoman. She would be the first bisexual senator if she is elected.
We have just under half of the vote in. McSally has a very narrow lead, but I will caution Arizona is one of the states that takes a long time to count. They have a lot of mail-in ballots, too. So we may not know this one for a couple of days if it remains this tight.
MCCAMMON: Yeah. I mean, the scuttlebutt with Flake's departure - right? - was that, you know, he'd been somewhat of a critic of the president, didn't feel maybe that he fit in so well in the current political climate. If McSally wins, I mean, what do we know about her and her relationship to President Trump?
TAYLOR: So she is someone who has evolved on President Trump. During the campaign in 2016, she was very much a critic of him after that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape came out. She came out against him where she's still not said completely if she voted for him or not, but now she has become - she's cozied up to him. She appeared with him at rallies there. She has praised him. She has sided with him on immigration and stuff too, so she is someone that has evolved and sort of saw President Trump as someone that maybe could help her as we've seen other Republicans like Ted Cruz come around certainly.
MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Jessica Taylor. Thank you, Jessica.
TAYLOR: Thanks, Sarah.
SANDERS: Going now out NPR's Asma Khalid. Hi, how are you?
KHALID: Hey, I'm doing all right.
SANDERS: I want to ask you about turnout. We've heard that it's up for this midterm compared to the last one. Who were those new midterm voters? Do we know yet?
KHALID: We don't know yet - right? - Sam. I mean, part of it's hard because when you look at exit polls, there's all these kind of, like, wild estimates out right now. But to your point, turnout does seem to be up, and we're sort of guessing that or gauging that by looking at the early vote. And the early vote was hitting record numbers. And we know that the early vote was, say, about a third of the overall total voters. So we're looking at higher turnout than normal in a midterm year.
SANDERS: Yeah. Does that higher turnout help one party more than the other, or do we not know yet?
KHALID: I mean, you could again assume that it would probably help Democrats, but that's just because the overall kind of electorate in a midterm year tends to be older. It tends to favor Republicans. And so that's kind of the base level that you're starting off with. So we know that there was Democratic enthusiasm this year where - we know that because every poll indicated that, but we also know that there was Republican enthusiasm. The uptick and sort of the growth for potential, though, was on the Democratic side because Democrats - their voters tend not to show up in midterms.
SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. You know, there was a lot of talk for a while that the top issue for voters this midterm was health care. But then the last few weeks, we saw caravan, caravan, caravan, and that changed the narrative. What was the biggest issue that you could tell for voters?
KHALID: Yeah, so we had kind of two things that we were able to look at this year. One is this massive pre-election survey that Fox News and the Associated Press did, and then we have the traditional exit polls. In both of those, health care was the most prominent issue. But below that, we did see immigration and the economy trended high.
But I will say health care, in my mind, was really on the ballot. And I want to point out why I think that is that we had a number of candidates who were talking about expanding Medicaid. Not all of them won, but we had ballot initiatives, referendums, to expand Medicaid. And last I checked, that initiative had passed in two of the states, and it was up in the third. So that is just a single-issue question we were asking voters about - health care in terms of the, you know, expanding Medicaid - and it seems like that was an issue voters were supportive of.
SANDERS: Yeah. If turnout is up for this midterm, can we expect it to stay up for 2020? Does this set the stage in some way for what might happen then, or is there no way to know?
KHALID: Gosh, that's such a tricky question.
SANDERS: (Laughter) Sorry.
KHALID: I mean, I don't know that there's any way to know, right? I mean, I think as we get more and more finely tuned data just based on different kind of election results, that will pan out. We'll get census information, right? We'll get initial data looking at the voter file from the Pew Research Center. That might help us figure out a little bit of who these voters were.
But I do think, you know, overall, there are some indications just based on the election results that the shift we had begun to see among college-educated voters, specifically white college-educated voters, is a trajectory that continued tonight. And the reason I say that is when you look at the 15 most highly educated districts in this country, all but two were currently represented by Democrats. One of them, the GOP, Barbara Comstock - she lost her seat. The other is Georgia's 6th Congressional District. And the last time I checked, the incumbent was only up by 57 votes.
SANDERS: Last question for you - in terms of Trump's base, it seems like he still has a really strong hold on them, no?
KHALID: Oh, gosh. I mean, I think he does just based on the fact that we look at the places that he went and places that he traveled, the places where he brought those candidates up onto the podium onto the stage with him, that was a real great success rate. And we can look at that. We saw that in Indiana. We saw that in Florida. We see that in sort of state after state that he visited. And I was out with him on Sunday when he was out campaigning in Georgia and Tennessee. The man can still easily fill a stadium and energize a crowd, and it's the same type of energy I saw ahead of the 2016 election.
SANDERS: Thanks to Asma Khalid.
MCCAMMON: And let's go now to a place where the night is still young - Alaska. The race for governor there became much more interesting last month when the only independent governor in the country, Bill Walker, dropped out of the race and threw his support behind the Democrat, Mark Begich, in his race against Republican Mike Dunleavy. Joining us now is Andrew Kitchenman from Alaska Public Radio. Hi, Andrew
ANDREW KITCHENMAN, BYLINE: Hi.
MCCAMMON: So thanks for joining us. Let's go back to what happened last month with the incumbent governor, Bill Walker. Remind us why he dropped out of the race.
KITCHENMAN: Well, he was already - he was always in a difficult position. He had been elected four years ago with the support of Democrats. He's a former Republican. And he had taken some steps that were very unpopular to essentially shore up the state's budget and put the state in a sounder financial position, but that included cutting the very popular checks that every Alaskan man, woman and child receives as a result of the state's oil well. So he had lost his popularity.
The Republicans looked like they were in a strong position to retake the governorship and - but then Mark Begich, an established Democrat, former U.S. senator, entered the race. And Walker and Begich really split the center and left-of-center vote, and former state Senator Mike Dunleavy from Wasilla was positioned to win fairly easily. Then Walker's running mate, the lieutenant governor, suddenly resigned as a result of making inappropriate comments to a woman. We still don't know a lot of the details of that.
But Walker was - his candidacy was basically fatally wounded at that point. And basically because he was concerned about Dunleavy, he withdrew, said he would support Begich, gave kind of limited support for him, said he wasn't endorsing him, so it was a little complicated, and that made it closer. But Dunleavy is doing pretty well in the early return. Republicans are feeling really good right now with 38 percent of the returns in. Dunleavy has a pretty solid lead. So it looks like it will be a good night for Republicans in Alaska.
MCCAMMON: But still a lot of returns left to come in.
KITCHENMAN: That's true. That's true. And some of the more Democratic districts haven't reported all of their results yet.
MCCAMMON: Is it surprising that despite the governor throwing his weight behind the Democratic candidate, things seem to be going well for the Republican?
KITCHENMAN: Yeah, I - not necessarily. It is a Republican-leaning state. Now, Dunleavy is a particularly conservative Republican. He was arguably the most conservative member of the state Senate before he left it to run for governor. And - but he had built up a really large lead and Begich hadn't necessarily built up the kind of statewide campaign that he normally would have had in his U.S. Senate run. He entered the race kind of late in June and then was sort of trapped in this battle with Walker. And so he just had a very short period of time to really fully build out that - the kind of major race that he would normally have had.
MCCAMMON: And one last question, Andrew. What have been the big issues here? I mean, has it been immigration and health care, the big national issues, or has it been more about local Alaska concerns?
KITCHENMAN: Health care has come up to some degree. Walker - Governor Walker had done the Medicaid expansion over the objection of the Republican legislature. Really crime has been a big issue in part driven by the opioid epidemic. Also there is a criminal justice reform to reduce sentences. And that occurred. It had kind of bad timing. It occurred in the last couple of years as crime was rising. And that law's become very, very unpopular. And Dunleavy really was able to build on his criticism of that law in building out his campaign.
MCCAMMON: All right. That's Andrew Kitchenman from Alaska Public Radio. Thank you, Andrew.
KITCHENMAN: Thank you.
SANDERS: We're joined again by Josh Altic. He's the director of the Ballot Measures Project at Ballotpedia. Josh, welcome back.
ALTIC: Thank you.
SANDERS: I want to ask you first about this measure that passed in Florida tonight. It's going to allow some 1.5 million former felons the right to vote. That seems like a very big deal. How big of a deal is it?
ALTIC: And that's something that, I think, we can only really guess at now. In 2020, I think we'll see just how big of a deal it is. Right now I think everyone's excited that it is a huge deal. But then, I mean, you look at the results - kind of Republican-leaning in some of the more close races in Florida. And that issue might not have been as partisan as sort of some kind of thought at first. And so...
ALTIC: I'll be curious to watch that as we go forward.
SANDERS: Yeah. What should we make of Medicaid expansion in states like Idaho and Nebraska and Utah?
ALTIC: Well, it seems popular. We have to remember that there are two issues at stake here. One of them is whether to expand coverage. That's that federal funding. The other is to address how to fund the state's portion, which is increasing over time. And so you see with Nebraska and Idaho where it was just talking about expanding coverage to that 138 percent of federal poverty line. Those are very popular - pass pretty easy.
In Utah, they're talking about increasing the sales tax. You can see that race is closer. And in Montana, where there was tobacco taxes and then, of course, tobacco money and opposition involved, it's still kind of a nail-biter still right now. So you can see kind of the line drawn between - it's very popular to expand that coverage. But then when the issue of how to fund it is thrown in, it's a different story.
SANDERS: Thanks again to Josh Altic, director of the Ballot Measures Project at Ballotpedia. Thank you so much.
ALTIC: Thank you.
MCCAMMON: And joining us now, Ron Elving, NPR senior editor and correspondent. Hi, Ron. Welcome back.
ELVING: Hey, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: OK. So big picture here - we know Democrats look like they're going to take the House. Republicans hang onto the Senate. We've heard about kind of mixed bag with the other races. What are you watching as the night continues?
ELVING: Watching still some of the marquee races that have not been finally resolved in the Senate. We don't know yet about Jon Tester in Montana. He's trailing. The Democrats have picked up apparently - although it hasn't yet been called by the Associated Press - the race in Nevada by Jacky Rosen - Jacky Rosen, the Democrat, challenging Dean Heller, the Republican incumbent. So that could be something of a compensation to the Democrats for their losses - also looking at Arizona, which is too close to call in the Senate race.
But clearly, the Republicans are going to hold onto the majority in the Senate, just as it's quite clear that the Democrats are going to take the majority in the House. With respect to governors, there are more flips from Democratic - from Republican to Democratic, more flips that benefit the Democrats, among the gubernatorial races, but not by a huge margin. It's going to be four or five favoring the Democrats out of a total of 36 elections tonight. That's not terribly dispositive. So that, too, suggests a mix - something for everybody to brag about, something for everyone to be disappointed in.
MCCAMMON: And that, I think, we can count on - bragging and disappointment on both sides. That's NPR senior editor correspondent Ron Elving. Thanks, Ron.
ELVING: Thank you, Sarah.
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MCCAMMON: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
SANDERS: I'm Sam Sanders - want to check in now with Washington state, where there are some races that are still too close to call. Joining us now is Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network in Olympia. Hi, Austin.
AUSTIN JENKINS, BYLINE: Hello, Sam.
SANDERS: How's it going out there?
JENKINS: Good. Thanks for having me on.
SANDERS: Of course. I want to start with the U.S. House races and the Senate. For most of those races, it's still too close to call. But what are you seeing and hearing right now?
JENKINS: Right. We were watching three races - the 3rd congressional race in southwest Washington on the Oregon border, the 5th congressional race in eastern Washington involving Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the House Republican conference leader, and then the 8th Congressional District, which has been reported to be the highest spending congressional race in the country, which is kind of hard to believe because there were so many hot races around the country. And at this point, the Republican incumbents in the 3rd and the 5th are leading. And where we are seeing, you know, a possible pickup here for Democrats is in the 8th. This is a district that is east of Lake Washington, so east of Seattle. But it also crosses the Cascade Mountains into Central Washington. So it's a suburban-rural district, never before been held by a Democrat. It's an open seat this year because Congressman Reichert, a long-time incumbent, former sheriff of King County, Wash., not running for re-election again. So at this point, Kim Schrier is up 53 percent to Dino Rossi's 47 percent. He's a guy - Republican who's run for governor, for U.S. Senate, on the ballot frequently, well-known. Kim Schrier's a first-time candidate.
SANDERS: Yeah. You're also watching the Statehouse in Washington. Some Democrats in Washington have talked about a possible blue tsunami there. One - what is a blue tsunami?
SANDERS: And two - did it happen?
JENKINS: It didn't happen. You know...
JENKINS: Coming out of the August primary, Democrats were suddenly thinking that they were going to be competitive in really traditionally, reliably Republican legislative districts. And Republicans were kind of hair-on-fire because their candidates were performing very poorly. But clearly, something happened between that August - we have a late primary, August primary - and now because what we're seeing is yeah, Democrats are going to pick up some seats. Keep in mind, here in Washington state, Democrats have had one-seat majorities in each chamber, so very, very narrow majority. It's hard to govern with that.
They're going to pick up some seats. But it's not going to be this blue wave or this blue tsunami. And what's interesting is how many races I'm looking at tonight across our 49 state legislative districts that are simply too close to call. We're talking about races that are a few hundred votes apart. In some of those cases, it's Republican incumbents trailing Democratic challengers. In some cases, it's Republican incumbents trying to hold on. What Republicans are hoping is that the late-arriving ballots are going to favor them, and we're just going to have to see on this one.
SANDERS: All right. Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network in Washington state. Thanks so much.
JENKINS: You're welcome.
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MCCAMMON: You're listening to Election Night Live from NPR News.
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MCCAMMON: From NPR News, this is Election Night Live. I'm Sarah McCammon.
SANDERS: And I'm Sam Sanders. Democrats are poised to control the House in the next Congress. We'll know for sure once final results are in. The GOP will stay in charge of the Senate, though we're not sure how big their majority will be. Several races are still undecided.
SANDERS: In Florida, Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is being challenged by Republican Governor Rick Scott. With more than 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Scott holds a lead of less than a percentage point.
SANDERS: Two Arizona congresswomen, the GOP's Martha McSally and Democratic Kyrsten Sinema, are each hoping they'll succeed retiring Senator Jeff Flake.
MCCAMMON: And in Nevada, another congresswoman, Democrat Jacky Rosen, is trying to unseat Republican incumbent Dean Heller. Heller is the only GOP senator up for re-election in a state that Hillary Clinton won two years ago.
SANDERS: All of those races are still too close to call. But now we're going to talk about what we know so far with three folks here in studio with me - Jessica Taylor, Ron Elving and Asma Khalid. Hello to you all.
ELVING: Hey, Sam.
TAYLOR: Hey there.
SANDERS: So what do we know right now? To any of you.
ELVING: We know that the country is quite different depending on whether you're looking at a metropolitan area or you're looking at something outside of a metropolitan area. The inner cities and the inner suburbs and even some of the outer suburbs are becoming increasingly Democratic, whereas the outer suburbs and the rural areas seem to be becoming all the more Republican. We also have some regional differences. States that we've called red states are behaving like red states. Ohio is seemingly becoming a red state. Florida is as purple as ever and is difficult to call.
And there are some other changes going on. But the biggest thing that is really quite striking is the degree to which the Democratic Party is dominating in the metropolitan areas and the Republican Party everywhere else. And for Senate purposes, that works very well for the Republicans. But as we see tonight, if you dominate where the people are, you're going to do better in the House. And the House is now Democratic control.
MCCAMMON: Hasn't that been true for a long time? Urban areas blue - rural areas red. Is this new?
ELVING: Well, it's not forever. It's not forever by any means. There was a long time when the rural areas had a tendency to vote Democratic certainly in many parts of the country and certainly in the South, which is now the strongest inclination, at least in white districts, to vote Republican. So it hasn't always been that way, although there has been a traditional Republican strength in certain parts of farmland America. But smaller towns were often manufacturing towns. Some of them were very well union-organized. And so in some of the big Midwestern industrial states, some of the outlying areas, smaller cities and towns could be quite Democratic in some of these elections. And we don't see that anymore.
SANDERS: You know, Trump can point to some wins in spite of the House flipping. And it seems as if he can come out tomorrow morning and say, I won. Should we expect his behavior to change at all, given the fact that he and his party can spin some of this in their favor?
TAYLOR: I don't think it's going to change. I think we've seen over the past two years Trump is going to be Trump. He is not going to change no matter what his advisers, other people in Congress tell him to do. And you're right, Sam, he can point to this. And when you look at his travel, especially in the closing days, it was very strategic. They weren't going to these House races where he was a hindrance. They were going to these Senate races that were very close. And in many of these cases tonight, Republicans have pulled off what could be seen as upsets because many of the polls were very close heading into there. So he can point to this and say, look. I was able to come in and help them in the final hours. There's nothing Trump likes more than being able to claim a victory, spin a victory. So he can do that in the Senate.
But I think it is a fundamental misreading of the electorate if he ignores the House at his peril. I will also note that while he was able to win some of these seats, look at other states that he carried in 2016 that Democrats cruised to big wins in. Ohio - we saw Sherrod Brown win really big there. Now, the governor's race went to Republican Mike DeWine there which is a hold for Republicans with John Kasich exiting it. But big wins in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin. We just saw Scott Walker has lost re-election. So these are states that were critical to his electoral math. And there could be really big problems for him in 2020.
KHALID: For me, this really reaffirmed the idea that a midterm election is not a national election in the same way that a presidential year is, right? I think in 2016, we saw trends across geographic areas. We saw sort of, you know, Michigan Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana all across all vote in a very similar way. And we saw, down ballot, people who were aligned with the Republican party do well because Trump was at the top of the ticket. This year, you can look at governors' races in Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan that were all picked up by Democrats.
But on the flip side, you can look at things like, you know, Republicans doing well in - so far in Georgia but also in Florida in Senate races. It's kind of a hodgepodge. I mean, I think, to me, it just reaffirms this idea that we look at the midterms as if it's this big referendum on the president. And it is. But still, these are localized races. And they were localized candidates and very local dynamics for many of these races.
ELVING: You know, that is exactly right - that those are localized races to a great degree. But insofar as there was a national election today, it was held for the House, not for the Senate because many states were not having Senate elections at all, including some of the most populous states and not in every state that they elected governor. But in every single state and in every single one of the 435 House districts nationwide, there was a vote.
MCCAMMON: By design, right?
ELVING: Yes, that's the Constitution. And if you look at that aggregate vote - well, we don't have the final aggregate vote yet. But estimates are projecting it's going to be 7, 8, 9 percent favorable to the Democrats. If that were a national election for president, it would be considered the verge of a landslide.
KHALID: And can I just echo one quick thing on that? So when I was looking at the exit polls tonight, I was getting so frustrated trying to figure out what was a key demographic because when you compare tonight's results to, you know, 2016, which I know is not a fair metric or you compare it to 2014, the last midterm, you see Democrats just making improvements with every demographic group. And so it's - I see what Ron is saying - that, overall, they did remarkably better than they did in the last midterm. It's just it's hard because they're starting off at a base point that's just not favorable to them.
SANDERS: Yeah. So we're seeing that trend line. But we're also seeing Donald Trump campaign very hard on the caravan, on immigration these last few weeks. Are we seeing a GOP that is going to go on, like, next year saying, we should do better in outreach to women, to suburbanites, to folks with degrees? Or is this the party of Trump and the caravan?
KHALID: I mean, can I ask, though - what's the consequence of really running a racist campaign? I know that's a really uncomfortable question to ask. But we did see candidates this election cycle, whether it was Duncan Hunter in California or Brian Kemp, making what you could argue were dog whistles - but some would argue they were a little bit stronger than dog whistles.
SANDERS: Air horns in some cases.
KHALID: And they won. So couldn't you argue it is a winning strategy in some places, so why change?
SANDERS: Yeah. I mean, are there factions of the GOP that want to change? And are they silenced even more now that we can see Trump kind of claim some victory come tomorrow morning?
TAYLOR: I mean, I think that when you look at the House, Republican leaders have been worried that this was coming for some time because, you know, as Asma mentioned, this was a national - or Ron said, everything was up and. Right now I'm looking here at The New York Times. And they have Democrats winning by about 7 points nationally. One - some of the most interesting results for me are - sometimes, I think Trump fundamentally misreads the electorate because he is sort of kept in this bubble of his.
SANDERS: Of his base.
TAYLOR: Yeah. He goes to his base. He goes to these rallies that are big and things, too. But he's made some, I think, strategic errors that cost Republicans. In Kansas, he backed controversial Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the governor's race. They lost that race. You should not be losing races in Kansas if you're a Republican.
SANDERS: But he helped DeSantis win Florida, you know?
TAYLOR: Right. He did. He did. Florida, though, is much more divided. But one of the most interesting results to me tonight is in South Carolina. So he - and Mark Sanford was a congressman.
SANDERS: That Mark Sanford.
TAYLOR: Yes, that Mark Sanford.
TAYLOR: The hiking in the Appalachian Trail Mark Sanford - was very - spoke out very much against Trump. And Trump backed his challenger, Katie Arrington. She has lost tonight.
SANDERS: So there's a Democrat in that seat now.
TAYLOR: Yes. This is Charleston.
TAYLOR: Joe Cunningham has defeated her there. And this is a race that I don't think would've been competitive if it were Mark Sanford on the ballot against him. She was - I mean, this is a race, I think, where the environment mattered. We're talking - you know, we're not talking a lot about some of these local issues. But in the primary, she supported Trump's plan for coastal drilling, which is really important there in South Carolina. And Cunningham really hit her on that. You had a lot of Republican mayors that were - that endorsed him.
MCCAMMON: And that has been one of those issues that has cut across party lines to a large extent.
TAYLOR: Yeah, DeSantis, yes, came out against that, too, yeah.
MCCAMMON: You see communities along the east the East Coast Republican-leaning, as well as Democratic-leaning, saying, you know, not in my backyard often when it comes to coastal drilling.
SANDERS: I want to talk about 2020 because we can. I think that we know really clearly that this is Trump's GOP, and it's his party. But looking at 2020 and the faces that will lead Democrats, who are they? I think there were some big, bright hopes for that party tonight. I'm talking about Gillum in Florida, Abrams in Georgia, Beto in Texas. They all lost. Who is the great hope for the Democrats come tomorrow and forward?
ELVING: There may not be one in the sense that Barack Obama emerged as one almost immediately after winning a seat in the Senate in 2004 and also giving a speech at the Democratic National Convention that blew everybody out.
ELVING: There might not be anybody who emerges in quite that role. And it's possible that really takes a lot of the shine off of this election for the Democrats because they didn't get a new hero.
SANDERS: Could it be one of the three that lost?
ELVING: Well, it could still be. And I think we're going to see all three of them search for ways that they can remain in the public eye. I don't think we've heard the last of any of them. And those are, we should hasten to add, the No. 2 and No. 3 states by population in the United States. Texas is No. 2 and Florida is No. 3. And they continue to grow and will continue to grow and be more and more important to our national politics. And I think all three of these people are going to be around for a while.
MCCAMMON: So if we don't have an heir apparent for the Democratic, you know, leadership coming out of this election, I do wonder, though, really for both parties what these results might say about where we should expect the parties to go in terms of their messaging and in terms of their campaigning strategy in two more years. What have they learned, or what should they have learned?
TAYLOR: Health care, I think, is the big takeaway in a way. This was what Democratic candidates in the House especially were laser focused on - pre-existing conditions. They really felt like Republicans made such a strategic error with their bill that would have weakened pre-existing conditions, and they were - you know, you had Republicans out there saying that, hey, we would protect these, but then you had Trump's own Justice Department that is fighting this in court. And so this is a winning issue for Democrats. And, you know, I think that you're going to see Democrats really hammer this home because if Trump wins another term, if they pick up - you know, if they - you know, what happens - whatever happens in 2020 with the House and Senate too, you could have repeal back on the table. Right now, I think it's off the table because Democrats have won back the House. But I think health care was - you know, especially when I was out there on the trail talking to voters, this is what I heard over and over with these pre-existing conditions.
KHALID: I would echo what Jess is saying about health care. It was probably the most consistent issue I heard about from voters. But to your question, though, about sort of messaging, I do think there will be some soul-searching within the Democratic Party. And I think a lot of people are looking at some of these progressive candidates who really ran on a strategy of expanding the electorate and courting their base as opposed to courting moderate voters. And people are looking at the fact that they lost and saying, oh, that strategy didn't work. But I would make the counter argument that, look; Beto O'Rourke came within a very close margin in Texas, which nobody would have thought should have happened. You could argue that in Stacey Abrams' loss that hasn't officially been declared, she will come closer than any Democrat in recent history has come within that governor's race. So you could argue that maybe perhaps this is the strategy for Democrats. It's just also not necessarily the strategy yet demographically in some of these states.
ELVING: Could I raise an issue that hasn't come up hardly at all tonight? What would be the situation if unemployment were not as low as 3.7 percent, the lowest it's been in 50 years? Will it remain so for the next two years? What would be the situation if all of the economic news were not at the absolute optimum benefit to the incumbent president and his party? What would be the situation in a more normal midterm when you had a more neutral issue on the economy? Or what might be the situation two years from now when the economy might be very different?
TAYLOR: And you look at these economic numbers, and you would think that, OK, you have a president with such great economic news that they should be winning on some of these issues, but the fact that they are - looks like they're going to lose the House and by, you know, this sort of nationwide seven-point margin, I think it is a rebuke to President Trump. But again going back to it, he is someone - you're not going to hear him come out like President Obama did in 2010 and say we got shellacked. I mean, that was 63 seats. We're talking about probably a range anywhere between 30 to 35. And that is because I think there was a smaller universe of competitive seats because of redistricting. But they're going to lose governors' races that are going to be important in redistricting in 2020 after the census as well. So that's another important development that they made as well tonight.
MCCAMMON: We've been talking with Jessica Taylor, Ron Elving and Asma Khalid from our politics team. This is election night live from NPR News. I'm Sarah McCammon. Thanks for listening.
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SANDERS: I'm Sam Sanders, and we have time for some final thoughts and takeaways on tonight's results. We're going to start with NPR's Jessica Taylor, who covers politics for us. You've been driving our live blog tonight. What is the biggest takeaway for you after these midterms?
TAYLOR: I think it's the story of the suburbs. This is what I was watching going on. I've covered House races for a decade now. And these areas, you know, we really thought were going to swing toward Democrats, and we really did see that in suburban Houston, Kansas City, Dallas, Richmond, Twin Cities. You know, these were the races that I wasn't surprised by tonight, and I think it really does solidify that Republicans have a really big suburban problem with independents, with suburban women. And you were talking about sort of the messaging, whether Republicans are going to change this. If they don't change this, I think they're going to have a big problem heading into 2020.
SANDERS: And NPR's Asma Khalid, your final thoughts. You've been watching exit polls all night.
KHALID: Yeah. I mean, I think I would echo some of what Jess has to say. I mean, I think when we look overall at the election results, it's - it is, like, an ongoing trend. I don't know that tonight really we saw something new drastically, but we did see overall - in more highly educated places, we saw Democrats do better. And this is an ongoing story that we've heard that college-educated voters, white college-educated voters are tilting more towards the Democratic Party. And, look; this is news. This is a demographic that a decade ago was much more staunchly in the Republican corner. And I'm just curious to see if that continues to pan out. If it does, that does not bode particularly well as we move into 2020.
MCCAMMON: And we're going to give the last word to NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron?
ELVING: Donald Trump is still very much the king of red-state America - president of the United States, king of red-state America. And there are portions of many states that are not red states that are red - so, for example, in purple states like Florida and Georgia and increasingly one thinks in the next decade or so Texas. In the red states of those portions - in those - in the red portions of those states, Donald Trump's endorsement and his rallies were dispositive. They showed his strength. They showed what he could do for a candidate who was on the ropes, bring them back and make them winners - maybe narrow winners, maybe barely winners but winners. And that's, of course, what matters to him and ultimately what matters. But in the rest of the country when everybody votes, it's slipping away, it's changing, and he's going to have to think about how that works in 2020.
SANDERS: NPR's coverage of the election continues in just two hours on Morning Edition. We'll have more results and analysis.
MCCAMMON: And if you can't wait until then, you can catch up on details about some of the hottest races at npr.org.
SANDERS: And in just a few hours, you can bask in the election aftermath glory with NPR's Politics podcast. Get your coffee ready.
MCCAMMON: That's right. We want to thank the legions of NPR staff who helped make our 2018 election coverage possible, our member stations who also pitched in and you who joined us for all the excitement. Thanks for listening. I'm Sarah McCammon.
SANDERS: I'm Sam Sanders. This is NPR News. Thanks for listening.
(SOUNDBITE OF CASPIAN'S "HYMN FOR THE GREATEST GENERATION")
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