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Some Trump-backed candidates didn't do as well as the GOP thought they would

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Our congressional correspondents are with us in the studio this morning, Claudia Grisales and Susan Davis. And they'll be with us throughout this morning.

And, Claudia, I'm just thinking about what we heard about governors races versus Senate candidates. Mike DeWine in Ohio - very conservative, but also professional, has been a senator, low key, wins overwhelmingly, while the flashier J.D. Vance - he won, but not by nearly as much, and a similar result in Georgia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Right. I think it's really interesting what we just heard Trende say in that previous segment about Trump's role in terms of this party and his endorsements, that maybe it's not doing the party any favors when you look at the results in the end, that Vance had his own issues. Trump played a huge role in the primary race, pushing Vance across the line for Republicans. But when you look at the general election, he did not perform as well. And this is - part of the issues we're seeing throughout other races throughout the country this morning is that these candidates who were pushed by Trump didn't do as well as was expected.

INSKEEP: And aside from the Trump factor, Susan Davis, there's just the outsider factor, Herschel Walker being a football player, for example, J.D. Vance not having run for office before. He was an author. He was actually a critic of Donald Trump at one point before he was for Donald Trump. The outsiders didn't seem to do quite as well.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: No. And what's interesting partly about this is we talk so much about polarization, right? The only thing that matters is the R or the D after your name. And 2022 is a bit of a refutation of that. I mean, candidate quality still does really matter. I think Republicans are going to look at this as the wave that could have been, when you see Republicans in states like Ohio, you look at a governor, too, in places like Vermont or New Hampshire. Republican governors are blowing it out in certain places in this country. It's not that voters don't want to vote for Republicans. They just don't want to vote for these kind of Republicans.

INSKEEP: I think you're right. There are some voters for whom the party label was the key thing because they're thinking about who controls Congress. We heard from those voters. But it's clear there's that slice, that five or 10 or 15%, who were thinking about the candidate.

GRISALES: Right. And I think Sue points to a good concern that Republicans themselves raised early, candidate quality. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell brought this up months ago and tried to downplay expectations about winning the Senate because of this.

INSKEEP: All that said, Republicans could still capture the House and Senate. Much to come. 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.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.