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Saturday Politics: Midterm Elections And Jeff Sessions Ouster


The midterm elections are over, except when they're not. The outcome is still undecided in several races around the country. Ballots are still being counted. And in some key races, they might have to be recounted. NPR's senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: Let's begin, of course, in Florida - looks like there are going to be recounts in both the Senate and governors' races and now Georgia, too.

ELVING: Georgia perhaps, but the issue there is not so much who's ahead but by how much. Republican Brian Kemp has declared himself governor but if his vote share was not over 50 percent, there will need to be a runoff with Democrat Stacey Abrams. And with more ballots to be counted, that is still a possibility. In Florida - sigh - the margin between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson in the Senate race is down to 15,000 out of 8 million cast. So that looks likely to trigger a recount. There's a bit more daylight between the two parties' candidates for governor, but that looks like a recount situation, too.

SIMON: Of course, the election gave the Democrats control of the House of Representatives. Is there any question about - that Nancy Pelosi will become the speaker?

ELVING: Yes, there is a question. She is still the favorite, but she needs to deal with some resistance in the ranks. Several members have indicated in the campaign - and since - that they want a change, a new face. And if there were a dozen or so, that could hold her below the magic number of 218 - kind of depends on how many the Democrats wind up with. They're going to be somewhere around 230. To be speaker, you need a majority, not only of your party but of the whole House. And that can be a problem. We've seen that in the past. But at this point, no Democrat has come forward to actually challenge Pelosi, which probably means she'll get the gavel again.

SIMON: A lot of Democrats seemed a little disappointed Tuesday night, despite taking back the House, because some of their biggest names lost. President Trump, the next day, even called - he thought it was, quote, "very close to a complete victory." Now that a few days have passed, does it still look that way?

ELVING: It is looking better for the Democrats. They were disappointed they didn't take the Senate, of course, and their new stars seemed to fall short. Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Andrew Gillum in Florida, Beto O'Rourke in Texas - all started as longshots, all came within an eyelash of winning. And overall, the Democrats clearly had the best of the night. The House elected its biggest new class of Democrats since the landmark Watergate class of 1974 following the resignation of President Nixon. And the Senate had elections, altogether, for 35 seats, and Democrats won two-thirds of those races. They only lost ground because they had so many more seats to defend. Twenty-six Democratic senators were on the ballot this year to just nine Republicans - the most lopsided party ratio of Senate seats on the ballot in a century. And as for governors, the Democrats took away seven from the Republicans. The Republicans took none from the Democrats. So if that's the president's idea of a nearly complete victory, he must be reading the scoreboard upside down.

SIMON: Ron, I have to note this week President Trump just plain insulted a lot of people. I mean, I'll list those I can remember - Republicans who lost their seats, he insulted reporters, including several African-American women who asked him tough but fair questions, and, in fact, among the Republicans that he insulted, he pointed out Mia Love, an African-American representative. He lands in France just in time to insult President Macron. Do these public tirades once again raise questions about President Trump's temperament and fitness?

ELVING: They do. People should watch highlights of that 90-minute press conference on Wednesday if they want to see a president literally seethe. But perhaps the biggest question is whether these outbursts are uncontrollable urges or deliberate tactics. Is he losing his temper or sending signals to his supporters? We surely know he likes to punch back, and he punches back harder. So a federal Republican who criticizes the president becomes an enemy and a reporter who asks a challenging question becomes an enemy of the people.

SIMON: Ron, thanks very much. NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving.

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

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
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