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Elections In Virginia And Kentucky Heat Up, But Too Early To Call


It is still a year until the presidential election. But tonight, voters in several states might be dropping clues about what to expect moving forward. Statewide races in Virginia, in Kentucky and Mississippi are all seen as bellwethers for 2020. Polls have now closed in all three states, and they are looking really close and really interesting. NPR's Jessica Taylor joins me now.

Hi there.


KELLY: So I want to start with Kentucky, which has been so, so, so close - the race for governor is it still too close to call? What do we know?

TAYLOR: It is incredibly close. We have almost all of the results in. And we have the the Democrat, Andy Beshear, clinging to a pretty narrow lead over Matt Bevin. But what it does look like - Beshear is primed to pull this out, I think, because he has driven up margins in the urban and suburban areas of the state. As we know from 2018, the suburbs were the story where Democrats were able to get big margins. He was able to do that and sort of pull even in rural areas as well.

KELLY: And just to remind - Bevin, the incumbent Republican governor and - very much was running on a platform that was including national issues, very much tying himself to President Trump.

TAYLOR: He really had to do this because he is actually one of the most unpopular governors in the country. And he really sort of insulted teachers there as he was trying to do pension reform. He did not work well with state legislators. I think what this shows us is we have seen traditionally that voters are willing to make a differentiation between state and federal races, that they were still willing to vote maybe against how they might at the national party level in state level races. But there were some question of whether that would hold this year because of just the hyper-partisan environment that we are in. But it also, I think, shows - President Trump was there last night, sort of holding a rally. We have seen traditionally that he's been able to sort of rally his base. But I think it tells us there are limits to that if Bevin does not win; that, really, his unpopularity, I think, is what sunk him and not even tying himself - the closest of any candidate running tonight - to President Trump could help him.

KELLY: Let me turn you to Virginia, where a very different race is under way. What is at stake in Virginia? And how is that playing out?

TAYLOR: So it is another very close race. We are watching for control of both the state House of Delegates and the state Senate. Republicans held just very slim margins there. A court order earlier this year actually forced them to redraw state House lines, and this gave Democrats a boost in those areas. If they win tonight, if they are able to pull out majorities in both states, they will have a unified state government - Democrats will, for the first time since the early '90s. They are primed to push through maybe some gun control measures, possibly even pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

KELLY: In the moments we have left, Jessica, just the fact that these races are so close - still too close to call - what does that tell us about where things may be headed and where the electorate is?

TAYLOR: Well, I think that it shows that Democrats are still able to rally their base when it matters.

KELLY: All right. And very quickly - Mississippi.

TAYLOR: Mississippi is another race where, I think, Republicans still have an advantage there. You have Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and then the state attorney general, Jim Hood. I think that, again, Mississippi is more of a state at the Republican level, so it's still very close to call. It's very early in the night because polls just closed there at 8 p.m. Eastern.

KELLY: Okie doke (ph). That's NPR's Jessica Taylor updating us on all the voting action tonight.

Thanks so much.

TAYLOR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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