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What voters and candidates are saying on Election Day

Across the country, voters lined up today to cast ballots in the most expensive midterm elections ever. Many saw their decision as a referendum on President Trump. Judy Woodruff offers a roundup of voting around the country, and then Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins walk through some of the individual races.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Voting is still under way tonight in most of these United States, in the much-awaited midterm elections.

    But, soon enough, results will begin to come in, as the nation has its say about these candidates and about the past two years and looks ahead.

    In rain and shine, voters across the country lined up to cast ballots, sometimes in very long lines. For many, it was a referendum on President Trump's two years in office. Some were poised to deliver an endorsement.

  • Connie Jokisch:

    The economy, you know, it's awesome that all these people have jobs now. This wouldn't have happened without Trump, I don't think.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Others to register their disapproval.

  • Alex Jean Bealieu:

    Without insulting the current president, I don't like what's happening.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mr. Trump is not on the ballot, but he campaigned furiously, right up to last night in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We have to get out tomorrow, and we have to elect a Republican Congress. We have to do it.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But many Democrats predicted a blue wave tonight.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    The enthusiasm people that people have, again, not agonizing but organizing, is going to produce the victory.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Control of Congress is very much in play, along with a large number of governors' seats. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives were on the ballot today. Democrats need a net gain of 23 to win back the majority.

    In the Senate, 35 seats are at stake. The chamber now has 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. And 36 states are choosing governors. The current overall roster now is 33 Republicans, only 16 Democrats, and one independent.

    Candidates on both sides talked up their party's prospects. In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum, seeking to become the state's first black governor, said his victory would be a statement to Washington.

  • Andrew Gillum:

    Us winning tonight, I think, would send a message to Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis as well that the politics of hatred and division, of separation, that they have come to an end.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner touted his chances.

  • Scott Wagner:

    I have turned over every rock in every part of the state. I'm feeling good, I'm optimistic,. I believe we're going to win it. I know we're going to win it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All of this depends on voter turnout, of course, and it could hit records. More than 39 million votes had already been cast before today, an increase of 10 million from the 2014 midterms.

    Adrian Fontes holds the office of recorder for Arizona's Maricopa County, encompassing Phoenix.

  • Adrian Fontes:

    This election is looking more like a presidential election, with the amount of ballots that we have got coming in.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    These midterms are also shaping up to be the most expensive ever. Kantar Media tracks that spending, and estimates the total of television and radio advertising has run well over $3 billion.

    As ever, much of that went for attack ads. The Wesleyan Media Project follows political advertising.

  • Narrator:

    Phil Bredesen, dangerously wrong for Tennessee.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It reports a 61 percent increase in attack ads over 2014, and many candidates are unhappy about that. Democrat Phil Bredesen is seeking a Senate seat in Tennessee.

  • Phil Bredesen:

    Some of the things that were said in the ads about me, they are just like not — not tethered to reality, have turned some people off.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Kris Kobach is the Republican running for governor in Kansas.

  • Kris Kobach:

    People are just sick of the negative ads. I have heard that a lot too as I have gone around the state, that they are just — they turn them off. They hit the mute button on the remote.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Back at the ballot box, there have been reports today of extreme waits and malfunctioning machines. U.S. officials also warned that foreign actors, including Russia, China and Iran, have tried to influence the elections, but they said there is no indication that any voting infrastructure has been compromised.

    Throughout the night, we want dig in to some of these individual races that we're tracking to see where they are headed and what they mean for the bigger picture.

    Amna Nawaz and Lisa Desjardins walk us through the details in a segment we're calling, Here's the Deal — Amna.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, there are literally hundreds of races we're trying to track tonight.

    And, of course, no one knows them better than our own Lisa Desjardins. But for the rest of us to try to keep up, we have some tools we're going to be using to track what's going on.

    So, Lisa, walk us through some of these. This is the Senate balance of power. What does it show, and what could change?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All right, we should tell our viewers, first of all, there are versions of this exact graphic online on our Web site, in which you can interact and you can sort of make them how you want, look at whatever data you like.

    This is where we're starting the night, Amna. These are the 65 U.S. Senate seats that are not up for election tonight. So you see here why Democrats are worried, because Republicans, basically, most of their Republican candidates are not on the slate tonight.

    Look at all of these bubbles on the blue Democratic side. These are Democrats who are on the ballot tonight. As the night goes, you will see these bubbles fill in. Where you see light colors, that is going to mean that a Republican or a Democrat is leading. The dark colors mean that is a secure Senate seat for that party.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So we're going to see these colors start to fill in as the night goes on.

    But to put some faces to these dots, we can go a layer deeper too. You guys have put together this incredible list.

    Why should we care about these people tonight?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We talk so much about who's in control, which party, but there's another interesting factor to watch this year. And that is a potential anti-incumbent wave.

    So, these are all the members of the House of Representatives who are on the ballot tonight who are vulnerable. That means they're in one of the top three categories, either a tossup or a race that is narrowly leaning to one side.

    We're going to follow their races tonight. As we go, you will see a check mark for those who have been said to forecast to win their race and an X for those who are forecast to lose. So we will get a sense of whether incumbents are doing well.

    One other note about this wall of faces. These are all Republicans on the House. There is one Democrat — except for one Democrat who is on here from Arizona. The rest of these are Republicans. That's why we have the opposite trend as we do in the Senate.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And we should note, too, these are chronologically arranged based on poll closing time.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    These will start to fill in with those X's and checks.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa, I'm looking just at the top row here.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Three of those are just in the state of Virginia.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, if we look, a deeper look right now, just at Virginia, we will have some of these to take a look at over the course of the night too.

    What are you looking at when it comes to Virginia?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Virginia is a key race.

    Virginia's polls close at the top of the next hour. So, it will be an early indicator. And especially I want to draw folks' attentions to this race right here. This is the 2nd Congressional District of Virginia. Norfolk is there. That's the U.S. Navy headquarters. It's a traditional Republican kind of bastion.

    However, the representative there this year, Scott Taylor, he is having a run against a fellow Navy veteran. And it's something that Democrats think, if this race starts going their way early in the night, they think there will be able to take the House of Representatives itself.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And Virginia is one of those states you're going to be looking to as an early indicator. Is that right?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's exactly right.

    All of these races will tell us something, but I think especially that race down there will be a key indicator. But the entire state is a good one to watch.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    A lot more states to watch too, our Lisa Desjardins staying on top of all of these races somehow.

    These are going to be updated, not just during our special coverage, but, of course, online any time.

    You can go to PBS.org/NewsHour.

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