Tamara Keith and Amy Walter examine their expectations for the midterms

NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter join Judy Woodruff to discuss the indicators they will be watching as election results come in on Tuesday.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Polls will begin to close tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. in the Eastern U.S., but final results could take days to determine in some races.

    Here to discuss the indicators of what they will be on the lookout for are Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Hello to both of you. You can feel it. It's in the air. It's almost here.

  • Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:

    Almost here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What we have been talking about for a long time.

    So, speaking of The Cook Political Report, Amy, With Amy Walter, your House forecast for the House of Representatives suggest that Republicans are favored in 212 races. You need 218 right to take control.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Explain what you're seeing.

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, what we're seeing right now, look, the challenge for Democrats all along has been the fact that they have the narrowest of majorities. They only currently have a five-seat majority. So it's not going to take much of a wave, a ripple among this electorate to give Republicans the majority.

    What Republicans are seeing, they say they see a big wave that's about to crash to shore, both in the Senate and in the House. What we're seeing is one that is maybe, like, I don't know what we're going to call it, wavy, but maybe not a tsunami-type wave, where Republicans pick up 15, maybe 30 seats, depending on just a number of key factors, one, who comes out, that's always important, but critically, who comes out on Election Day?

    Democrats feel pretty good about their early voting in some of these key states. But we know, especially in these last couple of years, where Republicans turn out is on Election Day, and they often surprise Democrats, who assumed they'd built a big enough lead.

    And then the second thing we're looking at is where independent voters decide to go. We're going to be looking. You talked to Julie Pace about the AP. On election night, I'm going to be looking very closely at where those independent voters decide to go on Election Day. When there's a big wave election, they tend to break by double digits for the party that's not in the White House.

    If it's a smaller margin, than we may see fewer seats. But, right now, the expectation that we have is, it's going to be anywhere from, let's say, a 10- to 15-, maybe-20 seat majority for Republicans in the next Congress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes. And, again, all they need is five.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But the numbers you're seeing are clearly giving them a majority.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's right, giving at least — at least that number.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Tam, can how much difference does it make for Republicans whether they have a little bit of an advantage or a much bigger one?

  • Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:

    Well, when it comes to governance, the bigger the majority, the better in terms of actually being able to get their agenda through.

    One of the challenges that a potential likely Speaker Kevin McCarthy would face is actually governing. And there are must-pass bills that will be challenging to pass, because there are Republicans who have never voted for a budget, for instance. And they have had to have, in the past — when Republicans have been in power and a Democrat has been in the White House, they have had to rely on Democrats to help them get things across the line.

    How many Democrats will they be able to get? Will they — will a Republican majority of this variety be willing to pass a budget bill, for instance? Or will they want to extract huge concessions from the president and his party?

    So it could be very challenging, because there really, truly are a lot of Republicans who are in the always no caucus.

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, they're — and then they're the people in the vote no, pray yes category, as one Republican called them, that they have to do it for optics reasons.

    But, Judy, even a bigger majority for Republicans does have some problems for Kevin McCarthy, because many of those Democrats — many of those Republicans would be holding Democratic seats. Some of the — if we're talking about a wave, that means that Republicans are picking up seats in Connecticut and Rhode Island and California and Oregon, seats that Biden won by double digits in the last election.

    They will have a really hard time holding those in '24 if those candidates are labeled as, right, the — or — and Republicans are labeled as the party that went too far to the extreme or the party that didn't vote for a budget or to default on the debt ceiling.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Or were big fans of former President Donald Trump.

  • Amy Walter:

    Right.

  • Tamara Keith:

    What we do know they will be able to accomplish is investigations.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Tamara Keith:

    And they have lots of plans to investigate lots of things, potentially to embark on impeachments of various Biden administration officials.

    That part would be relatively easy. They can probably get good consensus on that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, then there is the Senate.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Remember that other body of the Congress.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm looking at The Cook Political Report, four states in toss-up.

    Talk just a little bit about why they're there.

  • Amy Walter:

    When we say toss-up, we mean these are races that we really feel could go either way.

    And these are — these are coin toss-type races where just the narrowest of margins separating Democrats from Republicans. What we do know, historically, when we look back at ratings we have made over the years, they tend to break disproportionately in one direction.

    So you look at four seats, you say, OK, Democrats win two, Republicans win two, boom, here we go, we're basically back where we started. Usually, though, they break — three or four of them will break one way or the other, again, traditionally.

    As we have been discussing, though, especially Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, those are states where we expect to not have an answer on election night, Georgia going to a run-off. Both sides seem to agree that race is going to go into extra time.

    And Pennsylvania, Republicans feel a lot better about their candidate there, feels like he's kind of gotten the late momentum in that election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You colored it red here.

  • Amy Walter:

    We colored it red because it's a Republican-leaning state.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes. Right.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's the state on election night, Judy, if they call it for Republicans, there's a very good chance that Republicans will have enough to win the majority. I would posit that.

    If Democrats hold, it doesn't mean they're holding the majority, but it does mean that they could keep a 50/50 Senate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Tam, the same kind of question that I asked you about the House, how much difference does it make for Republicans whether they stay at 50/50 or they do have that one or more seat advantage?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Certainly, it would be helpful to them to truly have the majority.

    And, again, I think that, in terms of governing, this is going to be — if this goes the way that it looks like it's going, it is going to be two years of divided government, where the president has a veto, nobody has enough of a majority to override a veto, and there's just a lot of gridlock, which is not what anyone wants.

    And yet the American people, on a very regular basis, give America divided government.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And say that that's what they want. I mean, when you when you ask people in a number of these polls, they say they feel better…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Amy Walter:

    Or that this idea that they want a check on the party in power.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That they want a check.

  • Amy Walter:

    But the one thing that we do know also about 2023 is that we will be talking a lot about 2024.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    And the likelihood that Donald Trump will once again be a big part of the conversation.

    But Democrats are also talking a lot about, what is Joe Biden going to do? Will he announce immediately he's running for reelection? What kind of signals is he going to be giving?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we are hearing signals from the White House that he has every intention…

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … but they can't say it because there are legal things that happen once he does.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Tam, you're right. I mean, 2023 is going to be about 2024.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Oh, indeed. I — 2022, in a lot of ways, is already about 2024.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Tamara Keith:

    Just when we think we're done, we just go right into the next one.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Any last-minute words of — from the wise, I should say, from the wise, not to the wise, here about what you're watching for tomorrow night? What might surprise us tomorrow night?

  • Amy Walter:

    I'm watching New Hampshire.

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes.

  • Amy Walter:

    That's a state that it should stay, given all that we have seen. Republicans would — that would be a big upset. If they win in that Senate race, I think we're looking at a big night for Republicans.

  • Tamara Keith:

    I agree with Amy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    OK.

  • Tamara Keith:

    I'm watching New Hampshire too and some House races in Virginia that should come in early and give us a good sense.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we always watch the two of you.

    And I should say, tomorrow night, Tam, you are going to be working hard with NPR covering this election.

    Amy, you're going to be here at this desk with us as we watch the results come in.

  • Amy Walter:

    Very excited, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you both.

    And a reminder to you, our viewers, that we will have the latest election news tomorrow right here on the "NewsHour" and all night on PBS with our special election coverage.

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