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The party out of power usually has an advantage in Midterms. How did that play out?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's get some analysis now from our national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Mara, good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So we just heard about Mark Finchem there, one of many candidates Donald Trump endorsed who were essentially required to tell Trump's version of 2020. And we'll remember that dozens of judges and thousands of election officials from both political parties affirmed that Trump lost the election. But he wanted his candidates to reject that. How did they do across the country?

LIASSON: Well, some of them won. But we still are waiting to hear, for instance, Kari Lake in Arizona, Mark Finchem, who's running for the secretary of state in Arizona. These are jobs that are very important because they oversee the rules and the mechanics about elections. And we don't know how they'll fare. We do know that a lot of Trump-endorsed candidates who were election deniers - they're almost one and the same thing - lost or were underperforming.

Blake Masters, Kari Lake is actually underperforming - she was doing pretty well in the polls - Don Bolduc in New Hampshire. So - and we also know that in Wisconsin, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ted Michaels - who famously said if he wins, no Republican will ever lose Wisconsin again - he lost the governor's race. So I would just say that if Donald Trump was an 800-pound gorilla going into this race, he's a 700-pound gorilla now. More Republicans are willing to say it's time to move on from him.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk through the House results here. It's still considered likely the Republicans will narrowly capture the House. And yet, when Domenico Montanaro, our colleague, was on the program a little bit earlier today, he said he was having trouble even believing the numbers when he added them up, how narrow it is, how few seats Republicans might win. What's surprising here?

LIASSON: Well, this was the biggest surprise of the night. Look; covering politics is an exercise in humility. A lot of pollsters and analysts just got this wrong. Going into last night, based on historic trends, Democrats could expect to lose 20 to 30 seats. But I guess historical rules only work 'til they stop working. And last night, even though Republicans are still favored to take the House, they might have a margin of 10 seats or even less. And the smaller the margin, the more miserable Kevin McCarthy's life as speaker will be if he, in fact, ends up as speaker.

INSKEEP: Yeah. You think about the situation for the Republican Party, the Republican caucus. They try to stay unified. That tends to make them gravitate toward their less compromising members. And suddenly, Marjorie Taylor Greene is telling Kevin McCarthy what to do.

LIASSON: Right. Just talk to Paul Ryan and John Boehner. They are a difficult bunch to corral.

INSKEEP: What about the Senate here, Mara? We have a situation where Democrats have actually gained one seat so far, winning Pennsylvania. But several races are still too close to call.

LIASSON: That's right. This is a problem of what Mitch McConnell called candidate quality. Republican candidates, most of them endorsed by Trump, who should have been really coasting to victory are really struggling. And we know that before this election, about 63% of Democrats and Republicans said that they would stick with their candidate even if that candidate had a personal or moral failure. But in fact, Herschel Walker, who had a lot of scandals around abortion, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, who is very, very unpopular, both of them either lost or were struggling. So I think that it tells you that candidate quality still matters.

INSKEEP: Herschel Walker running well behind his fellow Republican, Brian Kemp, who otherwise might have pulled him over.

LIASSON: Right, who wasn't a Trump-endorsed candidate. And that says a lot.

INSKEEP: Mara, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.