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NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news, including what happened in the midterm elections and what to expect in Congress over the next two years.
While some of the votes from last week's election are still being counted, there is a potential 2024 presidential announcement on the horizon, ensuring this will be another busy week in politics.
Here to consider it all, our regular Politics Monday duo, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.
Hello to both of you.
Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:
And I hate to remind you of this…
… but last Monday, when we were together, there was a sense in the atmosphere that Republicans were going to do really well in the election last week.
Tam, what happened?
Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:
Well, I would say that, for most of the year, we have been talking about the fact that there were a lot of crosscurrents, that there are patterns and normal patterns, and the normal pattern would have a wave, and that there were crosscurrents that we didn't really know what to do with.
And those crosscurrents caused waves not to happen is what happened. And there are a lot of things underlying that. But, for instance, independents traditionally in a midterm would go against the party in power. They didn't. There were — there were just a lot of things that happened that ultimately are pretty surprising.
The fact that we're sitting here today, and we don't know with 100 percent certainty who — which party will control the House is quite surprising. We knew that it would take a long time to count ballots. We knew that there would be races that weren't decided in California and Oregon.
What we didn't know is that we'd still be waiting for them to know the balance of power in the House.
Democrats did a whole lot better than people expected.
Of the races that The Cook Political Report listed as toss-ups — so these are the closest contests in the country — Democrats won 75 percent of those races. Where Republicans fell short, they had a couple of challenges. The first was there weren't that many — quote, unquote — "easy seats" for them to pick up, because, remember, they picked up 12 seats in the previous election, in 2020.
Most of those were Democrats sitting in districts that Trump carried. They won most of the seats back of Democrats still left in Congress who sit in a Trump district. But that wasn't enough. They needed to win in districts that Biden carried by a significant margin, in some cases, by six or 10 points. And they weren't able to do very well among that group of voters.
In fact, they really underperformed even relative to the last four midterm elections among that one group of voters. And I think, Judy, you and I have talked about this the other day, but what's remarkable about this election is how much it looks like the 2020 election. Literally, the vote shares in the Senate races, in the House races is almost identical to what Biden and Trump got in those districts in 2020.
The only Senate seat that Republicans won or held on to that Biden carried is Wisconsin. There's an incumbent senator there. But, in every other case, it was a Democrat holding seats that Biden won and Republicans holding seats that Trump won.
So, in many ways, we're back to where we started.
We're kind of back where we started.
Except the calendar has advanced forward.
And, Tam, you cover the White House, but you obviously watch the Hill. The Republicans now, yes, they have taken — appear to be about to take control…
… but only by a very small margin.
What is that going to mean for what can and can't get done?
Well, first, there's this leadership election that Lisa was talking about that is more dramatic than expected, and will likely be more dramatic than expected, and a very real question of how — how any person will be able to lead a Republican Conference that is narrowly divided, when there are big contingents of that conference who are the heck no party…
… who are not going to want to do things like vote for bills to fund the government, and may not want their leaders to allow Republicans to vote for those bills. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out.
One question I have is whether they will even be able to do some of the message bills that we were expecting them to do, because, if you need 218 to pass just a pure message bill, but you have Republicans who have won in districts that are going to be competitive again just two years from now, they may not want to be on the record voting for a total ban on abortion or some of these other possible message bills.
These are bills where the party is saying, this is where we are on this issue.
Yes. Yes, like, this is what we believe in. This is what we would do if we controlled everything and there was no chance of a veto. This is what we would do.
These are like, generally, bills that you can pass without any real risk of it becoming law, which is why it's a message bill.
What do you see in terms of what we can expect to get done in the House or…
Or just in general.
I mean, I think, for Democrats, holding the Senate was for keeping on pace, the White House keeping on pace for federal judgeships. I think, at this point, the Biden White House basically tied with the Trump White House in terms of the number of judges that they have already been able to appoint. You could be able to surpass that now by keeping the Senate in Democratic hands.
There's also the question too for, what does the White House do when they don't control all three branches? And I think there's a lot of talk right now about the president focusing on the things that he's already passed, the things that have already been signed into law, and touting those.
Remember, we have a prescription drug benefit that kicks in next year. We — they talked about it a lot this year on the campaign trail, but people aren't going to see it in reality until next year .There's still a lot of projects going on, obviously, with the infrastructure bill.
So, speaking of the president, Tam, there's a lot of people going around saying he's in somewhat better shape.
He certainly seemed to think so, suggest so and his news conference the other day. And, conversely, there's a sense that former President Trump doesn't seem to be in better shape as a result of all this. What does that look like?
Yes, there have been many moments over the last six years where President Trump has been against the ropes and has been in an incredible moment of weakness, and wise people in his party have been saying that he's an albatross and he's trouble.
And yet — and yet someone like Bill Barr, for instance, who — his former attorney general, who has had nothing nice to say about him in the last two years, also said that, if he were the nominee, he would vote for him. And out interviewing voters, that's a lot of the — a lot of what you get is voters who say, gosh, I — he's divisive, or maybe he can't win, maybe we need somebody else, but if he's the nominee, I'd support him.
And, similarly, with Biden, there are a lot of voters who say — that I talked to who say, gosh, he doesn't get a fair shake. It's not fair. You in the media aren't fair to him. I ask, do you think he should run again? And the long pause is just so excruciatingly long.
Because they don't think he should run again, by and large. But if he were the nominee, they'd absolutely vote for him, because this polarization is very real.
And a lot of speculation about whether former President Trump's going to announce tomorrow night.
He's got a big announcement.
He absolutely needs to change the narrative right now, because everything right now is being dumped onto him, all of the losses, and the lack of hitting expectations dumped on Trump.
He needs to change the conversation. And, of course, he will be able to do that. We will see for how long.
And we will see what he says.
And what he actually says.
A lot of people think this is going to be the announcement tomorrow night.
But, if he doesn't — announcement, that would be a sign of weakness, so he probably has to announce it, because he couldn't admit that these midterms were actually truly terrible for himself and his candidates.
Actually his fault, right.
I think my head is exploding.
I think I understood what you just said. I know I did.
I'm not, not saying I didn't do that.
I'm not, not saying that.
Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, Politics Monday.
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