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Watching Election Results In 5 States, With An Eye Toward Midterms


All right, we've sorted out those technical difficulties we were facing earlier, and NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro is with us to discuss tonight's primary races. Hi, Domenico.


SHAPIRO: OK, so polls have closed in four of the five states where voting was held today, and I want to start with this big special election in Ohio in a district Republicans held for decades, where Democrats think they might have had a chance of winning. Do we know whether they've won or not?

MONTANARO: Not quite yet. Right now about half the vote is in, and Democrat Danny O'Connor is in the lead. He's got around 52 percent of the vote to Republican Troy Balderson's 47 percent. And in real terms, that's about 6,000 votes, a little bit less than that. I'm watching Franklin County in particular where O'Connor, who's only in his 30s, was the Franklin County Recorder. About two-thirds of the vote is in there, and he's got a big lead in that county. So there'll probably be a little bit more for him coming in, and we may see a very, very close race to the finish here.

SHAPIRO: This is one House district in Ohio. Why are the national parties, the national media spending so much money, so much attention? President Trump visited. Why is this one district such a big deal?

MONTANARO: Well, first of all, we wouldn't pay attention if the campaigns didn't pay attention to them, and they are spending millions of dollars on this race. And that's because this is a pretty Republican place. As you noted, this is a place that Democrats traditionally don't do very well. They've only held this seat once since 1940, and yet it's a close race between Balderson and O'Connor, something of a toss-up.

And what's really important about this - not only is this a suburban seat outside of Columbus, Ohio, but it's also a place President Trump won by 11 percentage points. And the reason that matters is because Democrats need about 23 seats to take back the House this fall, and there are 69 seats that President Trump won or Hillary Clinton won that President Trump did better in than in this district even and - or rather had - didn't do - where he finished with less of the...

SHAPIRO: Right, 69 is a much bigger...

MONTANARO: Right, much bigger number.

SHAPIRO: ...Margin than the number of seats that Democrats need to retake the House.


SHAPIRO: So this could be a bellwether. Well, let's turn from Ohio to Kansas, where a familiar name, Kris Kobach, is in the race for governor. Any sense of what we're going to see there?

MONTANARO: Well, listeners might know Kobach because of his role in running Trump's election integrity commission. He was in - you know, went in search of this widespread fraud that President Trump said that he claimed without evidence was the reason for him losing the - or losing the popular vote in 2016.

And so far, we haven't seen a ton of votes in just yet. Only about 4 percent of the vote's in. Kobach looks like he and the current governor, Jeff Colyer, are within a thousand votes of each other. So it looks like it'll be Kobach versus Colyer coming down to the wire here most likely. You know, President Trump endorsed Kobach over the sitting governor, which is a huge thing when it comes to loyalty for this president.

SHAPIRO: Just in our last 30 seconds, Domenico, tonight's races also show a divide within the Democratic Party. Tell us about that.

MONTANARO: Well, look; suddenly the name Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become a household one. She's backed Democrats who are more Democratic socialist along with Bernie Sanders in a lot of different states, in Michigan, Missouri and Kansas. And we'll see if her brand has the kind of power that she is pushing. And if she - and if her candidates...


MONTANARO: ...Wind up winning, it will be pretty good for them.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: Thank you. 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.