MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
It is just after 8:30 Eastern time, 5:30 Pacific, and the polls have closed in a number of states that are key to today's midterm elections. Control of Congress is at stake, as well as 36 governor's chairs and many thousands of state and local offices.
We have a few congressional races that NPR is projecting.
BLOCK: In Pennsylvania, NPR projects that Democrat Robert Casey has defeated incumbent Republican Senator Rick Santorum. We'll have more on that race in a moment.
Republicans Olympia Snowe and Richard Lugar are projected to keep their Senate seats along with Democrats Bill Nelson of Florida, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert Byrd in West Virginia. Bernie Sanders, an Independent, will take a Senate seat from Vermont.
Coming up we'll talk to NPR reporters covering important races in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. We will also talk about voting problems today and have some analysis from our political observers.
NORRIS: Now we go to NPR's John Ydstie. He's in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the headquarters for Bob Casey. And John, I'm going to be surprised if we can even hear you right now because I imagine there must be quite a celebration there.
JOHN YDSTIE: Well, you know you would think that, but there was a small cheer that went up when the race was called for Casey and now the crowd has settled down. Really the doors just opened at 8:00 for the party faithful and so it's not yet a full hall here yet. But I'm sure that as the night gets going on and Mr. Casey shows up, we'll get the celebration raising the roof here.
NORRIS: The polls going into this race had shown that Casey had pulled ahead of Santorum weeks before the election. What really made the difference in that race?
YDSTIE: Well, Michele, I think that a big part of it was that Bob Casey, Jr., neutralized Santorum on two very important issues, abortion and gun control. Robert Casey, unlike most Democrats, is anti-abortion - pro-life. He's also anti-gun control. So when you take those issues off the table that had been very strong suits for Santorum and combine that with an unpopular war and a president who is unpopular at this time, a Republican president, I think it, you know, it was a perfect storm and Robert Casey, Jr., was able to unseat the first Republican senator in a half a century. The first time in half a century that a Republican senator has been unseated in Pennsylvania.
NORRIS: Now John, you're there at Casey headquarters, but I'd like to ask you about some of these other House races in the state of Pennsylvania. Give us -bring us up to date on those races.
YDSTIE: Well, there are four races that we're watching very closely. The sixth, seventh, and eighth districts in suburban Philadelphia. And then the tenth district up in northeast Pennsylvania. Two of these are tainted by scandal. Don Sherwood up in the tenth district has admitted to an extramarital affair. His mistress accused him of assault - choking her, actually. He says he was just giving her a massage, but it's pretty hard to win a race in Pennsylvania if you've got that cloud hanging over your head.
One of those suburban Philadelphia races also tainted by scandal - Curt Weldon, who's been in Congress 20 years, is under suspicion because the FBI actually searched his daughter's home and the offices of one of her companies and the allegation is that Congressman Weldon encouraged his Russian energy firm to buy PR services from his daughter's PR firm. And then the Russian company was awarded U.S. government contracts to develop fuel cell technologies. Now this is still under investigation, but again, with a cloud like that hanging over your head it's tough to win a race.
The other two are suburban Philadelphia races and it used to be solidly Republican in those suburbs. Now it's trending Democratic so it's hard in this climate for Republicans to hang on. So we'll see what happens there.
NORRIS: Thanks so much, John.
YDSTIE: You're welcome, Michele.
NORRIS: That was NPR's John Ydstie in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
BLOCK: And now to Rhode Island and the key Senate race there. Polls close in Rhode Island in about 20 minutes.
NORRIS: We're joined by NPR's Adam Davidson who's in Warwick at the headquarters of Senator Lincoln Chafee. And Adam, Lincoln Chafee is a Republican moderate who is a knock down battle with Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. This race tightened toward the end, right?
ADAM DAVIDSON: Yes, just in the last two or three days. The big phrase you hear is he's a RINO - a Republican in name only. Lincoln Chafee is considered the most liberal Republican in the Senate. He's considered more liberal than several Democrats. He's pro-choice. He's for gay marriage. He's for a minimum wage increase. The only Republican senator to vote against Iraq.
So if you wanted someone who would go up against President Bush, he's your man except for one problem, he is a Republican. So I talked to a lot of voters today - pollsters seem to find the same thing. Voters really like Chafee. They respect him in this largely liberal state. They think he shares their views. But they don't want the Republicans to have control of the Senate, so they're casting their vote for Whitehouse. We're going to find out, obviously, if Chafee was able to convince them that he's their man.
NORRIS: Yeah. And he, of course, is a moderate Republican in a very blue state.
DAVIDSON: Yeah, it's interesting. I'm here at the Republican Party's celebration, so lots of Republican officials are here and I can tell you they're pretty lukewarm on Chafee. They keep - every time I ask them what do you think of Lincoln Chafee, they say well his dad was a great guy. We really like his dad. So it's a weird case where the Republican's more - seems to be more popular among Democrats and the Democrat is - his main thing going for him is that he is a Democrat. So we'll have to find out.
NORRIS: And Sheldon Whitehouse had some fun campaigning with his name being Whitehouse.
DAVIDSON: Yeah. That became a big joke, and then, you know, he would joke about Whitehouse for the White House, et cetera. Yeah.
NORRIS: Okay Adam, thank you very much.
DAVIDSON: Thank you.
NORRIS: That's NPR's Adam Davidson who's watching the race for the U.S. Senate in Warwick, Rhode Island.
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