Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As Polls Close The Big Trend Is High Voter Turnout

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: It's election night, and polls have closed in nine states. Results are still coming in from races that could change control of Congress next year. If Democrats win tonight, they have pledged to be a check on President Trump. Republicans say they'll keep pushing the president's agenda with a focus on jobs and the economy. NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is following returns across the country, and she is here to talk with us now about what she's seeing. Hey.


CHANG: So I know it's really early, but what are you seeing so far? Any major trends yet?

SNELL: Well, this early in the night, typically we're seeing races called where we kind of expected the outcome because it's easier to call a race when the margin of victory is big.

CHANG: Right.

SNELL: So we're talking about people like Bernie Sanders re-elected to the Senate in Vermont. But the big trend that we've been seeing throughout the week is high turnout. Republicans I talked to were feeling really good about turnout in Indiana in particular. They're looking for lots of people to show up downstate away from the suburbs near Chicago and Indianapolis. And they hope that will help boost numbers for Mike Braun, who's running against the Democrat Joe Donnelly there. It's one of those places where Republicans think they can pick up a seat in the Senate.

CHANG: So where are some of the important, tight races that haven't been called yet?

SNELL: I'm watching four Republican-controlled districts in Virginia, most of which are concentrated again in the suburbs - that theme that we've talked about so many times.

CHANG: Yeah, right, where we can see seats leave Republicans and go to Democrats.

SNELL: Right. Yeah. The suburbs of D.C. in particular are, you know, places where Democrats are feeling bullish about picking up at least three, maybe four, of those seats. I'm also keeping an eye on North Carolina because earlier in the cycle, it seemed like Democrats really only had their eye on one seat near Charlotte. But now they think they might be able to pick up three.


SNELL: So we're trying to look for these early trends. If there's high turnout and Democrats are turning over these seats that were kind of out of reach before, that's a good sign for them.

CHANG: Now, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said earlier today that she was really confident Democrats were going to take the House. She was even talking about the first items on the Democratic agenda. What kinds of things do Democrats have planned?

SNELL: Yeah. She wants to do a government reform and campaign finance reform package. It's part of her pledge to clean up Washington. She had a press event this morning where she repeated that pledge, talked about how excited she was, and this is what she said.


NANCY PELOSI: When we win on the opening day, our Democratic Congress will be open and transparent.

SNELL: You hear that.



CHANG: I heard that.

SNELL: Yeah, and we heard elsewhere in the show from Senator Chris Van Hollen that he was talking about specific legislation that would be campaign finance reform that would force these outside groups that raise money for Democrats and Republicans to say where they get their money. That's not blockbuster legislation, but it's something.

CHANG: It is something. And I know you spoke last week with some of the congressional GOP leaders. What do they say they'll do if they actually maintain control of both chambers after tonight?

SNELL: It's all about the economy. They're talking about trade. They're talking about taxes. You know, the tax bill that passed last year had permanent tax cuts for corporations, but they want to make permanent tax cuts for individuals. Those are set to expire right now. But, you know, what I think is really interesting here is these are things that we're not hearing the president talk about. The thing that he's been talking about out on the campaign trail is that he wants to elect Republicans to defend against Democrats taking away things that have already passed. Here's what he had to say.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They want to raise your taxes - the Democrats do - restore crippling regulations, shut down your new steel mills, take away your health care and put illegal aliens before American citizens. That's what they want.

SNELL: Yeah. So that's really different than saying economy, economy, economy, right (laughter)?

CHANG: Yeah, now, I mean, the president does want to pass a tax cut shortly after the election. Are Republicans even talking about that?

SNELL: They - not - they're not talking about that new tax cut. They're really focused on making the ones they've already passed permanent. And, you know, it's interesting because Republicans would be in an interesting position if they keep control in the House and the Senate in that they would be tied to Trump and any policies that he pushes. So not only are they going to be defending, you know, their past actions, any kind of new policies he comes up with will be what they run on for 2020.

CHANG: That's right. NPR's congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.