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Senate Midterm Preview


Leading up to the midterms this election season, we've been looking at what voters will find on their ballots - the big governors races, the different kinds of ballot measures. Well, we've just got today and one more Sunday before Election Day, so it's time to look at the two biggies, House and Senate. We'll do the Senate first, and we'll do it with NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro. Good morning, Domenico.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: A third of the seats in the Senate are up, as the Constitution requires. Democrats were facing some tough math, but then we started hearing about a blue wave. How's that water looking?

MONTANARO: Well, look; the blue wave is certainly real, but it's more likely to be in the House than in the Senate, and that's because in the Senate, there are a lot more seats that are held by Democrats in redder states that are up. You have the worst landscape since the direct election of senators in 1914 for either party. That's because you have 26 Democrats that are defending seats, and just nine Republicans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So will the Republicans pick up seats then?

MONTANARO: It's very possible, in fact. You know, some handicappers are looking at a potential best-case scenario for Democrats being net even. Right now it's 51-49 in the Senate. And a more likely scenario, something like two to three seats lost. When I talked to Democrats at the beginning of this cycle and through this cycle, they were hoping to sort of be able to hold serve so that they could have a better landscape in 2018 where they could go on offense.

The best target for Democrats is in Nevada with Dean Heller. And Heller has actually started to do a lot better. A lot of those Republican defenses - a lot of those Senate seats - Arizona, Tennessee, Texas, Nevada - they've all started to trend a little bit more Republican in recent weeks, while Democrats, like Heidi Heitkamp, are not looking so good - Claire McCaskill in Missouri. And Democrats are really, really hoping that in Indiana, Joe Donnelly can hold, that Jon Tester in Montana can hold and that Joe Manchin in West Virginia can, too.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm going to have to bring up Florida because that's where I'm from. What are you seeing there? It's such an interesting race.

MONTANARO: Yeah. Florida's one of those races that Democrats are starting to feel a little bit better about. You have the incumbent there, Bill Nelson. And they're feeling better about it because the governor's race with Andrew Gillum at the top of the ticket for Democrats - he's doing pretty well against Ron DeSantis, the Republican. And Democrats think that, maybe, Gillum could pull Nelson over the line.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you have an energetic newcomer actually helping an endangered incumbent. You know, that's interesting.

MONTANARO: Yeah, absolutely. It's really fascinating.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the things, of course, that's been at the forefront of our minds today is the state of our politics - the anger, division, how we're all metabolizing that. Is it a campaign issue across the country? Are candidates addressing it?

MONTANARO: You know, any time that the talk is of the president's rhetoric, it's worse for him and his party, and that's why you hear a lot of Republicans trying to distance themselves from the rhetoric.

The people who are defending the president and saying, look; you can't blame the president for the acts of somebody who, you know, may be mentally ill and takes actions into their own hands - someone like Vice President Mike Pence, who is on this morning on other shows, saying that, look; there's rhetoric that's heated on both sides of the aisle, but don't think you can connect it to acts of threats or violence, trying to really put some separation and distance between the president and this. But, of course, we're going to see that debate play out even more. And we only have a few days until the election.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's right. Domenico Montanaro, NPR lead political editor. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.