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Bipartisan Takeaways From Tuesday's Midterm Elections


All right. So for a bit more on what voters were telling their parties in these midterm elections, we're joined in our D.C. studios by Jonah Goldberg - he's a conservative columnist and senior editor of National Review - and Margie Omero, Democratic pollster and strategist and co-host of "The Pollsters" podcast. Good morning to you both.

MARGIE OMERO: Good morning.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Good morning.

KING: All right. Margie, I want to start with a bit of Senator Elizabeth Warren's victory speech. She's a Democrat. She held on to her seat. She gave a lot of credit to a particular voting bloc.


ELIZABETH WARREN: Let's make sure that nobody rewrites history. This resistance began with women, and it is being led by women tonight.

KING: So was turnout among women a big deal this year, and what were they saying?

OMERO: Well, it wasn't just turnout. It was how they voted. And if you look at the exit polls, women voted Democratic by a very large margin. And most of that margin comes from college-educated women in a lot of the suburban House districts. White women were tied in their vote for the House. That's different than how they voted in 2016. That was another point that people were looking at. On top of that, Democrats won back the House with the support of women, not with the support of men. Men voted Republican. Women voted Democratic. And that's new for women to drive Democrats' victory here beyond how men voted. And again not just women candidates but - I mean, not just women voters but women candidates - a record number of women elected to the House of Representatives. Take all that together, that's a huge victory for women and their political power.

KING: Jonah, this election was widely thought to be a referendum on President Trump President. Trump himself said, this is a referendum on me. What do the losses in the House races tell you?

GOLDBERG: That we still can't have nice things. No, I think that - I think the takeaway for this for Donald Trump, at least personally, is that he's going to feel vindicated. He's going to be able to write off the losses as basically within the historical norm. He's going to feel as if the rhetoric that he used in this campaign is - was justified and "worked," quote-unquote. He's going to take what was the most beneficial Republican Senate map since 1914 as a sign that his rallies are what saved the day. And the remaining House caucus is going to be more intensely Trumpy than ever before precisely because anybody who was even Trump skeptical or dependent upon those suburbs that went Democratic - they lost.

KING: Carlos Curbelo in Florida, Mike Coffman in Colorado, people who had distance - yeah

GOLDBERG: Barbara Comstock in Northern Virginia - anybody who was sort of geared towards addressing the demographic changes that are going on in the country or trying to grow the base of the coalition of the Republican Party, those are the most likely to lose. The ones who are most likely to win were the soupy, Trumpy districts from western Pennsylvania that say that are depending on the older coalition Republican voters.

KING: So what does that mean for the president's agenda in the next two years?

GOLDBERG: Oh, there was never going to be a president's agenda the next two years anyway.


GOLDBERG: I think this is something that both parties lied about profoundly.

KING: Yeah.

GOLDBERG: That Nancy Pelosi can't get anything serious passed because the Senate and the veto power of the president will stop it. The Republicans had no agenda other than muttering about infrastructure. Instead, the next two years are going to be about oversight, investigations and lots and lots of screaming.

OMERO: OK. Margie, on the Democratic side, some of the high-profile progressive candidates in battleground races lost. Andrew Gillum lost in Florida. Conor Lamb - much more centrist - won in Pennsylvania. You worked on research to help advise a progressive policy agenda. Something about that messaging seems to have fallen short.

OMERO: I wouldn't phrase it that way. I would say that, you know, there are candidates from across the political spectrum that were successful. You had - you know, you had - I think there's this myth that Democrats have been divided along progressive versus nonprogressive lines. You have Democrats really unified in their support for health care. That was a top driving issue if you look at the exit polls. By the way, gun policy - a very strongly worded gun question in the exit polls - not how I would have worded it - actually showed real widespread support for stronger gun laws. And that was an important issue that broke Democrats' way. That's new. And that's something that really, you know, is actually now becoming a consensus position and a political advantage for Democrats.

And then I think another way to look at this is what's happened at the state level. You've had a lot of pickups of governors - governors' houses for Democrats around the country. Six legislative chambers flipped. You have trifecta states where - that have Republican control of all three branches of the state government. Those have been broken on the Republican side in a few places. You had two sort of mini-Trumps, whether it's Adam Laxalt in Nevada or Kris Kobach in Kansas, who have lost their races. So I think there are lots of Democrats around the country that have been successful with all kinds of different messages.

KING: OK, so don't just pay attention to the very high-profile races. Let me ask a last question to you both. What do you think these results say more broadly about where we stand as a country? Margie, let me start with you.

OMERO: Well, we continue to be divided, and you saw that in the exit polls. And I don't think this election results are going to change that. It's something - it's a tenor, frankly, that comes from President Trump to to inflame this. He feels that that helps him. I don't - I agree with Jonah. He's probably not going to feel differently today than he did yesterday and maybe wouldn't have no matter what the results were. But people right now feel really, really, deeply divided and anxious about where we are. I hope that that gets better. I don't know if people feel better about that today than they did yesterday. Maybe there is some confidence that what we thought might happen did happen. Maybe that will be reassuring to some. But I worry about how people feel.

KING: Jonah, last 30 seconds, what do you think?

GOLDBERG: Yeah, we live in a very strange time where our partisan identity is sometimes more determinative of our sense of who we are than traditional sources of meaning and belonging in our country. That took a long time to happen. I think last night demonstrates that it's going to keep being a problem and an issue for a long time to come.

KING: All right. Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at National Review, and Margie Omero, co-host of "The Pollsters" podcast - thanks, you guys.

OMERO: Thank you.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRICHOTOMY'S "JUNK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.