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Midterm elections major takeaways so far

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. As we've been hearing, this election is not over yet, but there are still lessons to be learned for Republicans, for Democrats, for everyone in-between. And here with his major takeaways is NPR's senior political editor and correspondent, Domenico Montanaro. Hey, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there. All right.

CHANG: So we all know the day after Election Day is upon us, results are still coming in. There are any number of perspectives on what's important to notice right now, especially if you spend a lot of time on social media. But as we've been talking about, elections do have lessons, right? So let's start with that. What lessons should both of these parties take away from this midterm election?

MONTANARO: Well, maybe one of the lessons is don't spend too much time on social media.

(LAUGHTER)

CHANG: That's a lesson for all of us.

MONTANARO: Everybody's got their own perspectives and views on what they think was going to happen or could happen or might be happening. You know, we preached patience beforehand. We said that this was the next phase in, really, election season. And that's what's playing out right now. I mean, it was mentioned that some of these races are taking a while. We expected that to be the case. We expected that all of these Senate races would be super close, sort of ignored the polls, frankly, for most months, even though, honestly, the polls were pretty close to being right and certainly within the margin of error in a lot of different places. But clearly, Republicans underperformed in the House. And there's going to be a lot of finger-pointing right now - and there is already at Kevin McCarthy and at former President Trump in particular.

CHANG: OK. So we still don't know the balance of power in the Senate. You have been telling all of us for weeks to be patient, to be patient about the results. How much longer do you think we have to be patient?

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: Your whole life, Ailsa. You know, Arizona, probably we're not going to see real results as a final thing potentially until Friday. Maricopa County, where most of the vote really comes from and where there were some struggles early on in counting and which has been ground zero for a lot of election denialism, is probably not going to be reporting. They may be reporting all of the results by then is when they hope. So, you know, we're looking at least until then. You know, these races are super close. Democrats have one pickup in the Senate with Pennsylvania. That means that it really could come down to Georgia on December 6, depending on the outcomes in Arizona and Nevada, which again, are exceedingly close.

And I do think people have to be a little patient with the results in the House. You know, we are certainly seeing Republicans have underperformed what they wanted. But, you know, no one was ever really thinking that there was going to be the chance of a 60-seat change. That was never going to be the case because of how narrow the playing field is. And what we really saw were some candidate quality issues on the Republican side and some really good Democratic incumbents who held off some of those folks and really made a difference. And I really think abortion rights as an issue really was a motivating factor for so many people. That's why the crosscurrents of this election were so volatile for so long.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, Domenico, you are our numbers guy. You spend a lot of time poring over data on, you know, about polls, researching about voters. You mentioned that the polls actually turned out to be pretty close to the mark. Can you talk a little bit more about that? How did the polls do? And did anything actually surprise you?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, this is one of those things. The narratives kind of get ahead sometimes of the data. And, you know, certainly the narrative was that Republicans were closing the gap or were expanding what could be potentially, you know, much bigger victories. And all of that was certainly possible. But we also had to be prepared for the other scenario where it's not necessarily going to be at that height. You know, right now, it looks like they could win, you know, seats anywhere from eight to a dozen, which would be at the low end of the forecasters' expectations, but not outside the realm of possibility.

I think one of the things that we did see - you know, I was talking to one of our pollsters earlier about this - is that the congressional generic ballot, which asks people, who do you want to be in charge of Congress right now, was tied, and that pollsters have actually done a pretty good job in recent years of figuring out - to make that better. And enthusiasm varied state by state, especially in midterm elections. And that's one caveat going forward in other elections.

CHANG: That is NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thank you so much, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. 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.