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Republicans were adamant about overwhelming victories but they didn't happen

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Results in several key states, and at this hour, control of Congress is still up for grabs. Tara Setmayer is a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project, a Republican political action committee, and she joins me now. Good morning.

TARA SETMAYER: Good morning.

MARTIN: Where are your thoughts settling this morning? What do you make of the election results as we know them?

SETMAYER: Well, I have to say that as someone who was quite concerned about the amount of election deniers and the momentum that seemed to be heading toward Republicans, I am shocked that it remains as close as it is. It's clear that the red wave did not materialize. And I feel that democracy had a good night and Trumpism did not. And that's good for America.

MARTIN: Why do you think Republicans underperformed? We should say they're still well poised to take the House, still competitive to take over control in the Senate but by such slim margins. Why didn't they do as well as historical trends indicated they would, and many Democrats and Republican pollsters?

SETMAYER: Sure. Well, I think there's going to be another post-mortem in the polling industry again. There's - it seems to be broken because no one predicted really that it would be as close as it is right now. But I think what we saw is a rejection of the chaos that Republicans have brought to the table since the era of Trump. And although the economy was top of mind for many voters, as we saw, it was the presence of Donald Trump still dominating the party, the Dobbs decision mobilizing women and younger voters as we're seeing now in exit polls, record numbers of younger voters, Gen Zers voting for the first time in key areas, women and independents breaking toward Democrats - that has made the difference. I think that the American people looked around and said, you know what? We really do not want to go back to the type of governance that we saw under the Republicans and Donald Trump. I think we're going to stick with Democrats for now. Candidate quality matters.

MARTIN: Point me to the races where you see Trump's influence waning.

SETMAYER: Well, absolutely in governors' races in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, the race in Arizona, although it has not been called. But the fact that no one had Katie Hobbs leading the way she is against Kari Lake given the, quote, "momentum" in the last few weeks. Those are key areas that were a firewall, as far as we were concerned at Lincoln Project, against the election deniers and the threat that those states could potentially have posed in 2024, looking at the long game, with election deniers at the top of the ticket there potentially not willing to certify election results in 2024. So those areas - seeing Democrats maintain power there and obviously Arizona has not been called yet, but it looks pretty good for Katie Hobbs, despite the tepid campaign that she ran, frankly, is very encouraging to us. Now, there are some other places like Florida where Trump's influence and the - and Georgia that could potentially have been something for the Herschel Walker race. The fact that Herschel Walker is still so tight in that is quite remarkable. But Georgia...

MARTIN: And you're attributing that to Trump. This is the Senate race against Raphael Warnock, the Democrat.

SETMAYER: Sure. Sure. But there were enough Republicans clearly that split ticket voted because Herschel Walker is underperforming in some of those areas where Trump was quite popular. But Brian Kemp, you know, did not - is not pulling Herschel Walker over the line. So I just think that this is going to be a very interesting discussion within the Republican Party now. Will they offload from Trump finally after not winning the red wave that they thought they would, given that most of the truly MAGA candidates did not win?

MARTIN: Are these results good news for Ron DeSantis, largely considered to be the chief challenger to a possible Donald Trump presidential run?

SETMAYER: I think Ron DeSantis and the internecine warfare between him and Donald Trump is going to be fascinating. And it's definitely a boost for Ron DeSantis' confidence against Trump and the establishment Republicans who are looking to offload from Trump. DeSantis is the guy to benefit from that. But stay tuned. I don't know that they're going to be as satisfied with the Ron DeSantis candidacy against Donald Trump as they think.

MARTIN: Tara Setmayer, senior adviser to the Lincoln Project, a Republican PAC. Thank you so much.

SETMAYER: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.