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How did midterm elections turnout for Democrats?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Joining us now is Aileen Cardona-Arroyo. She is vice president of the public opinion research firm Hart Research Associates. And we're going to talk about all kinds of things. Aileen, thank you for being here.

AILEEN CARDONA-ARROYO: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So the party out of power historically does very well in midterm elections, and Republicans had predicted overwhelming wins. That did not happen. Why?

CARDONA-ARROYO: I mean, there are many votes left to be counted, but what we're seeing right now is really nothing short of historic when you consider that, you know, Trump lost 40 House seats in 2018; Obama lost 63 in 2010; Clinton lost over 50 seats in '94. This is - you know, Republicans should be easily winning this election. And while we are still waiting for the results to come in, the fact that they're not really is an indictment of what voters think of their alternative vision for the country.

MARTIN: You and I had talked in October about how the issue of abortion was playing out in these midterms. What have you seen in terms of exit polling about how strongly people took the issue of abortion into their decision-making?

CARDONA-ARROYO: Yeah, you know, the Democrats really banked on reproductive rights and abortion being a strong mobilizer. And, again, we'll need more data to really see how that played out, but at least it seemed to have mobilized the base in the way the Democrats wanted.

I think the bigger story is, you know, what didn't work for Republicans? The Republican Party led the final stretch of their campaign with strong MAGA energy, fearmongering on crime and education. And it looks, as of now - again, with votes still being counted - that many voters rejected that, despite what many saw as a challenging environment for Democrats, with Biden having low presidential approval, widespread economic concerns. And we're not - we're just not seeing that red wave that Republicans anticipated and that, frankly, many anticipated, given historical trends.

MARTIN: Although we should just underscore the fact that control of Congress is still, at this moment, undecided. Republicans are still in a good position to take control of the House. They could still pull out control of the Senate.

CARDONA-ARROYO: Oh, absolutely. But, you know, even if they do, they're going to do so from a place of weakness, based - you know, compared to where they, you know, should be, based on historical trends. So even if they do with it what they very well could at this point, as you point out, it's not what was anticipated.

MARTIN: Let me ask you about this. Democrats had this controversial strategy during the primaries. A lot of Democratic groups put money into some races where they thought they could help fringe candidates - in some case, election deniers - help them win because Democrats thought that they would then have a better chance of their candidate winning in a general election against those so-called fringe candidates. I mean, did that prove to be a wise strategy?

CARDONA-ARROYO: I mean, I do think so. I think Republicans will need to reassess their strategy and which candidates they're pushing forward. You know, Trump is Trump, and he'll remain part of the political environment, but many of these candidates that followed the Trump kind of recipe did not fare well or are not faring well, at least as the numbers are coming in so far. And so, you know, there's a reassessment that needs to happen with Republicans on that.

MARTIN: Aileen Cardona-Arroyo - she is with the public opinion research firm Hart Research Associates. Thank you so much.

CARDONA-ARROYO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.