Primaries Set The Stage For November

May 16, 2018
Originally published on May 16, 2018 8:53 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All of Pennsylvania's 18 congressional districts are currently represented by men. After last night's primaries, though, it looks like that could be about to change. At least one district will vote on a race with only women candidates in November. And several other races feature women with strong chances of winning. This is all part of a broader trend of female candidates faring pretty well in the 2018 election. For more on this and other takeaways from last night's elections in Pennsylvania, as well as Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon, we've got NPR's Kelsey Snell in the studio with us.

Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

MARTIN: So what did we see from women candidates last night in the broader picture?

SNELL: Women fared very well in all of those elections but most notably in Pennsylvania where we're expecting as many as four women could be headed to Congress after this. It's thanks in part to the fact that there was this court-ordered redistricting - something we've talked about a lot. It made the entire state's congressional map more or less - more favorable for Democrats. And Democrats spent a lot of time going out and recruiting women who they thought would fare well in the general election in November, though not all of those women won. We saw some progressives make some inroads here. But in general, this has been a really good set of election nights for women.

MARTIN: All right. So another trend that we've noticed in these primaries so far is that Washington Republicans or incumbents, rather, facing strong headwinds in the races? Did that bear out last night?

SNELL: Yeah. We saw some mixed data points on this. One good data point for House Republicans running for higher office was again in Pennsylvania where Congressman Lou Barletta won in his primary to challenge Bob Casey, the Democrat who is the incumbent in that seat. He was supported by the NRSC, which is the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, and he had the backing of President Trump. On the flip side, we go over to Idaho where Congressman Raul Labrador was running for governor. He lost, and he joins the growing list of people who are going to be hanging around in Congress after not winning their bids to go somewhere higher.

MARTIN: A little lame duck action.

SNELL: (Laughter).

MARTIN: So Democrats are obviously hoping to take back Congress in the fall. Are they feeling better or worse about those chances after last night?

SNELL: Pennsylvania was a key part of their strategy to take back the House. Now, they need to win 23 seats, and four new women and as many, maybe, as five or six new Democrats in that state gets them pretty far. So this was a good night for them. It was a good night for them in basically building a trend. They want it to look like Democrats are an impenetrable force and could create a wave to win back the House, and they hope the Senate, which is by far a bigger reach.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, Republicans want help from the president and...

SNELL: They do.

MARTIN: ...Went seeking it yesterday in a meeting. How'd that go?

SNELL: Well, the president came to Congress. It's a fairly rare thing for him to come up here. He joined Senate Republicans at their weekly policy lunch, and he spent basically 45 minutes of the hour that they had together repeating all of the wins, giving a campaign-style speech. People told me he was funny. He was entertaining. And they had a really good time. But they also got into questions at the end, and both of those questions were about the elections. One was Dean Heller. He's an endangered Republican in Nevada who was thanking Trump for his support. It was an effusive public display.

And then you had Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee who kind of gave the Southern gentlemen's version of, please, Mr. President, stay on track, stick to the message, and help us win here. He apparently underlined all of the problems that would happen for the president if Republicans lose the House or the Senate. So there's a little bit of pressure there and a little bit of hope on their part that he'll help them.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Kelsey Snell.

Thanks so much, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you.

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