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Democrats pushed that democracy was on the ballot and it appears to have worked

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Our correspondents Susan Davis and Claudia Grisales are with us, as they are throughout the morning. And, Sue, I want to dwell for a moment on that governor's race. We heard about Doug Mastriano...

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...Who not only rejected the results of the 2020 election, showed up in Washington on January 6, 2021, and went through a campaign where I believe he tried to shut out mainstream media, did a lot of unusual things - didn't seem to work for him.

DAVIS: It didn't. And I do think that this is one of the threads that we have seen play out in a lot of these elections, particularly these races where we've talked about the Trump-backed candidates. The overlap between Trump-backed candidates and election deniers is very strong. And, you know, Democrats, you heard it consistently throughout the campaign that they were campaigning that democracy is on the ballot, that they tried to really make democracy a core issue of this campaign. I talked to a lot of Democrats who didn't think that was going to be as successful. President Biden, just in the days before the election, gave another big speech...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...About - talking about the importance of democracy. And there is a lot of indications coming out of these early races that that was a very compelling message to a lot of voters. You look at other states, like the New Hampshire Senate race, Don Bolduc was the Republican nominee there - another election denier - didn't have a chance in a state that, you know, Republican governor, again, won big at the top of the ticket. Another place that we're looking at - and the race has not been called, but you look at a state like Colorado. Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who has built a bit of a name for herself in the House and nationally...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...For being a very loyal Trump supporter, an election denier as well. And she's trailing in that race right now. Now, she might ultimately win. But this was a safe Republican seat that Democrats - it's white. It's rural. It's not a place that Democrats can play. And we're looking at a really small margin. And voters are telling us something here.

INSKEEP: I want to mention something else, though, one other factor. When we talk about Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania, we heard the correspondent say that he tried to run a big tent campaign...

DAVIS: Sure.

INSKEEP: ...That he favored abortion rights, which may not sound big tent to some people because that's a polarizing issue for a lot of people. But Shapiro also talked about what seemed to be a Republican issue, crime...

DAVIS: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...And criticized liberal prosecutors for not going after crime. He seemed to take what surveys were suggesting was on voters' minds and talk about it in the way that he wanted to talk about it.

DAVIS: That's a great point. And crime was one of these issues that was one of these lowkey simmering issues in states all over the country. A lot of - particularly, a lot of cities have seen crime increase. Philadelphia has seen a big crime increase. Shapiro did the thing that a lot of Democrats said more Democrats should have done, is talk about what voters say they're worried about, right? And a lot of voters in places all over the country listed crime. And Shapiro had an answer. He also is a former prosecutor, you know? He had a record to run on. And also, on the abortion thing, you know, Pennsylvania - still a swing state. But Mastriano also ran as someone very extreme on the abortion issue. He held positions that there should be no exceptions even in the cases of rape or incest. That's a pretty radical view even among people that oppose abortion rights.

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INSKEEP: OK. We're going to continue talking about this. And we'll note, we just talked about a Democratic success. Democrats have done better than they might have in this midterm. But the playing field is always in favor of the party out of power in a midterm. And Republicans, we should note, still have a very good chance of capturing control of the House of Representatives. And the Senate is very much in play. We'll continue to bring you results as we learn them. 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.
Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.