Saturday Politics: Lessons For Democrats And Republicans

Nov 17, 2018
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

To paraphrase Hemingway, it looks like when all the votes are counted, the Democrats may have gotten their blue wave gradually, and then suddenly. And while votes are still being wrangled in Florida, we can draw a couple of broad conclusions with senior Washington correspondent and editor Ron Elving. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: First, because it's breaking just this morning, the president praised Nancy Pelosi on Twitter, said she ought to be speaker and even offered to get her the votes. Is this the kind of support she needs or wants?

ELVING: The president would like to be up against Nancy Pelosi. That's the kind of oppositional figure that he would like to have. He already has in mind all the things he's going to say about her. So that's why he's supportive and he's probably not going to be able to get her very many votes among the Democrats, which is where she's actually hunting for them.

SIMON: Yeah. Does it hurt her, though?

ELVING: I don't think it actually hurts her either because I don't think the kind of people that she is trying to get votes from are going to pay much attention to what the president says.

SIMON: So more than a week after the election. Where are we?

ELVING: Still adding to Nancy Pelosi's majority, if it's going to be her as speaker. They were up past 35 seats. That might wind up a little closer to 40. And it is absolutely amazing to see longtime Republican bastions, such as New England, now devoid of a single Republican member in the House of Representatives. And the same is true in Southern California's Orange County, where they have six congressional districts, as many as many states. And it was once the absolute bedrock of conservatism. Even the airport there is named for John Wayne. And they have now not one single Republican in those six districts.

SIMON: And what about the Senate? Maybe they've been overlooked.

ELVING: They may have been overlooked a little bit in some quarters (ph), but we've been talking about this since election night when it looked like the Republican majority might grow to 55 seats from 51 in the Senate. That would be a pickup of four, all in states that President Trump won in 2016. Now it looks to be more like a pickup of two. The majority took away Democratic seats in North Dakota and Missouri and Indiana and apparently also in Florida, where an extremely close race is not likely to be overturned in a recount. But then the Democrats took back two in Arizona and Nevada, so Mitch McConnell is going to have a little more breathing room. But on the other hand, considering there were 26 Democrats exposed on the ballot and just nine Republicans, gaining a net of two is pretty close to baseline.

SIMON: So we're on a week out. What's your assessment of the midterm elections?

ELVING: A lot of Democrats were disappointed, Scott, largely because of outsized expectations. They wanted a bigger and clearer repudiation of President Trump than they got. They were disappointed in failing to capture the governorships in Iowa and Ohio and Georgia and Florida and those high-profile races, which also included Senate seats in Florida and Texas. Texas was the Beto O'Rourke race against Ted Cruz. Those were letdowns for Democrats who hoped they'd produce a new Democratic star, maybe even a new media obsession akin to Barack Obama. It didn't happen, but if you think back six months or so, even a lot of political people hadn't even heard of a lot of these Democratic candidates that they put so much faith in in November. Instead, what we really wound up with looked a lot like a normal midterm election - lots of House losses for the president's party, a mixed bag in the Senate with governorships going mostly for Democrats and restoring something close to parity in that category. And one other thing that a lot of Democrats may have overlooked - the return to Democratic voting habits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. They're back to being blue states now for all major statewide offices. That's meaningful news for the party in terms of 2020.

SIMON: A lot of anticipation about Robert Mueller, but we don't know anything, do we?

ELVING: Not yet. The president says he has answered his questions from Mueller, and he's done it himself, not his lawyers. We shall see what those answers are at some point down the road.

SIMON: Well, meet you down the road, Ron. Thanks very much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.