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Are Democrats reenergized after a strong showing in Tuesday's elections?


For political junkies, it has been quite a week. Just last night, Senate Democrat Joe Manchin announced he won't seek reelection in ruby-red West Virginia. Early in the week, Democrats were fretting about Joe Biden's chances at reelection because a crop of swing state polls showed him losing key states to Donald Trump. But then the party got a bit of a boost with a strong showing in Tuesday's election results. And at midweek, Republicans not named Trump took the stage - debate stage - in Miami. Now here to help us put it all into context, NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. So, Domenico, what do we make of all this? I mean, should Democrats be stressed or relaxed or just feel good about Tuesday's results?



MONTANARO: I mean, all of that's true. You know, there are real concerns about President Biden's popularity, particularly his age. I mean, I can't tell you how many people bring up his age, unprompted, to me and really believe that there's no chance he's going to run. But, I mean, short of a McConnell moment where he freezes in public, Biden's the guy. You know, I don't think quite - Democrats have even really completely wrap their heads around that yet.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. But Democrats have to be thrilled about Tuesday, right? I mean, Ohio voters adding abortion rights to their state constitution - that had to make them happy.

MONTANARO: It definitely did. I mean, you know, they really feel like the issues overall are on their side, especially abortion. You know, expect Democrats, I think, for 2024 to try to put abortion on the ballot in as many states as possible to try to keep their voters motivated. I mean, it's been a real loser for Republicans. You know, even in red states that lean toward them, Republicans are losing on this issue over and over again. The debate, you know, made that pretty apparent, too, this week. You know, the candidates just don't quite know how to talk about it in a way to win over the middle. You know, they try to use crime to offset pro-abortion rights sentiments, especially among women in the suburbs. That failed again in this election. And at the same time, the overarching issue facing everyone in the country, especially working-class voters - we can't lose focus of - is the economy. You know, voters in swing states have been saying that they feel hard hit by gas and grocery prices, you know, even if there are signs that the overall economy is pretty strong.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Let's talk about polls from The New York Times and Siena College and CNN. They all show Trump leading Biden nationally, even in some key swing states. Domenico, I've been traveling up and down Iowa, and whenever I ask voters here about polls, they roll their eyes before I finish the question. So how should people be feeling about these polls, or any polls for that matter?

MONTANARO: I'm someone who reads a lot of polls, and I'm rolling my eyes right now. You can't see. But, you know, again, look, there's reason for Democrats to be concerned. You know, Biden's coalition, as one Democratic strategist told me this week, is really an anti-coalition - anti-Trump specifically. So it can't be - it can really be the subject of fluctuations. You know, people are registering their frustrations with the economy, with world events, with Biden himself, who younger voters in particular, as we know, were never really in love with. Clearly Biden has work to do to set the stakes to reassemble and fire up this coalition.

But there's reason for Republicans to be concerned, too, with Trump at the top of the ticket. You know, his numbers have been toxic with independents. And a focused Democratic campaign with Trump on the ballot would likely, for the most part - you know, for the most part - rebuild the 2020 Biden coalition. So when it comes to these polls specifically, you know, we've always expected these half dozen states that Siena polled to be close. And that's how we're shaping our coverage. You know, it's not a great place for an incumbent to start from. But horserace polls a year out from an election when campaigning isn't really happening in earnest just aren't worth a ton. I just wouldn't focus on that. You know, things can change. The environment can change. Polls have value, but they're not votes, and they shouldn't be overread.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks.

MONTANARO: Appreciate it. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Domenico Montanaro
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.