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Midterm Elections: The Big Picture


We are heading into the final hours before Tuesday's midterm elections - elections which really do feel like a national referendum on President Trump and the direction he is taking the country. In a few minutes, we're going to hear more about the map - which states may determine which party controls the House and the Senate. But first, we have NPR's lead political editor Domenico Montanaro with us to give us the big picture on this campaign as it comes to a close.

Domenico, thanks so much for joining us.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Oh, thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: So what does the latest polling tell us?

MONTANARO: Well, the latest polling points to a very close election and very close elections across the country. They do point to - at least at the margins to a likely flip of the House and the Senate staying in Republican hands. But I want to really throw up a major caution flag and urge everyone not to think that that's definitely how it's going to go. The beauty of politics and elections are surprises. So I would not go with, you know, just this narrative that it's definitely going to go that way. People still have to show up. I mean, that's obviously who the polls are measuring right now. And the polls have been wrong before. We've had far fewer polls this year as one big point of caution than we've had especially in the states in past midterms.

And even though everyone's predicting record turnout for the midterm, what's that going to mean? Is that going to mean a surge of Democratic women? Probably. Is it going to mean Latinos and young voters show up, though? That's not as clear. And, in 2016, we saw a surge of rural voters for President Trump. Do we see that again?

MARTIN: Yes. We should have learned our lesson...

MONTANARO: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...On predictions, shouldn't we, Domenico?


MARTIN: Well, the president is campaigning in Georgia today for Brian Kemp, the secretary of state running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams. It did not take long for him to attack the media and to brag about the crowd's size. He also bragged about good economic figures that have come out recently. Here he is.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You want to see that end quickly? You want to see Georgia prosperity end quickly? Vote for the Democrat - she'll end it quickly. She will end it quickly, and she'll double up your taxes, and a lot of bad things will happen.

MARTIN: Now, the chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel, told ABC today that the president has been touting his accomplishments on the economy, and it is the media that's talking about that other issue, immigration. Is she right?

MONTANARO: I think that's what she and other Republicans wish the president would be focused on (laughter). I don't think it is exactly what he's focused on. But there's a kernel of truth to what she's saying. You know, the president does talk about the economy but almost as a way to kind of firm up his grievances - to say, look at those people in the back of the room - the media. They don't talk about it. The economy's great, right? But then he doesn't go into much depth or detail about it, and he just pivots and moves on to talk about what really is the real focus and fires up his base, which is immigration. And you hear it over and over at rallies. And he does it obviously with a purpose. And, in fact, he has said that the economy, talking about that - well, it's kind of boring.

MARTIN: And, finally, about that Georgia governor's race, again, Republican Brian Kemp leveled quite a charge today. Will you tell us about that?

MONTANARO: Yeah. Brian Kemp's the secretary of state of Georgia, which oversees elections. He alleged today with zero evidence (laughter) that the state Democratic parties tried to hack the voter rolls. He's said he's open an investigation and referred it to the FBI. Of course, this is two days before the election, and yet, again, no evidence of this. His opponent, Stacey Abrams, called it, quote, "desperate and an attempt to distract from the fact that two federal judges found him derelict of duty." That had to do with them verifying procedures for the eligibility of voters with - people's citizenship who'd come in question. So, you know, that's why you've had people like Jimmy Carter, the former president, say that they didn't think that someone who was secretary of state should be overseeing elections.

MARTIN: That is NPR's lead political editor, Domenico Montanaro.

Domenico, thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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