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Amid recounts and controversy, Election 2018 is far from over

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Stacey Abrams speaks to the crowd of supporters about the results of the midterms election in Atlanta
Stacey Abrams speaks to the crowd of supporters about the results of the midterms election in Atlanta on Nov. 7, 2018.Lawrence Bryant / Reuters

WASHINGTON — We guess it’s only fitting — and expected — that Election Day 2018 is far from over, with drama and controversies over new vote counts and/or upcoming recounts in Arizona, Florida and Georgia.

But what is taking place in Florida is now war – after Republican Rick Scott’s lead in the Senate contest was reduced to just 15,000 votes. Scott, the state’s current governor, filed a lawsuit accusing Democrats of fraud and trying to steal the election. President Trump weighed in, tweeting: “Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!”

What happens when you have a 2000-like recount in our current Trump Era – not only in Florida, but also in Arizona and Georgia? Well, we’re about to find out. The following weeks in Florida could very well define the state over the next two years, and it’s likely to produce a result where half of the state won’t believe it’s legitimate.

Here’s an update of where things stand in Arizona, Florida and Georgia:

Arizona Senate

After new vote totals came in – especially from Maricopa County (Phoenix area) and Pima County (Tucson) – Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has taken a nearly 10,000-vote lead over Republican Martha McSally. But NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard reminds us that this count is FAR FROM OVER, with still nearly 500,000 votes left to count.

Hillyard says to expect Sinema’s lead to grow today as similar types of ballots favoring her (early ballots received by the county Friday through Monday) are supposed to be counted. But the McSally camp is anticipating the worm to turn when the results of the "early ballots hand delivered on Election Day" are announced, which will likely be on Saturday/Sunday/Monday/Tuesday. Expect that Sinema lead to shrink when those votes are tabulated.

Florida Senate

Republican Rick Scott’s lead now stands at just over 15,000 votes, and the margin means that it will go to a recount by hand. But that is far from the only drama. Per NBC’s Ali Vitali, Republican Gov. Rick Scott filed a lawsuit, accusing Democrats of fraud and trying to steal an election.

More, from Vitali: “The National Republicans Senatorial Committee joined Scott on Thursday to file suit against both Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. Scott alleges that the supervisors have violated federal and state laws by failing to provide information to officials… Scott also had harsh words for Nelson, who hired a lawyer after election night. Scott accused Nelson of bringing in an attorney to "try to steal the election and try to thwart the will of the voters of Florida."

Democrats have responded that the recount is simply about determining the accuracy of the vote count. “The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately,” Nelson wrote on Twitter. “Rick Scott’s action appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation.”

Meanwhile, Nelson lawyer Marc Elias says he’s confident that the incumbent Democrat will ultimately be victorious.

Georgia Governor

With a 25,632 vote gap to make up to take the race into a runoff, Stacey Abrams isn’t backing down. Her campaign says that Republican Brian Kemp has not been transparent about the outstanding votes, and the state Democratic Party filed suit to seek extensions for some absentee ballots. Kemp, who announced his resignation as secretary of state yesterday, says there aren’t enough outstanding provisional and absentee ballots for Abrams to surmount his lead.

On Thursday, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed longtime ally Robyn Crittenden — who is African-American — to serve out the remainder of Kemp’s term.

The uncalled Senate races (2):



(MS-SEN goes to runoff)

The uncalled GOV races (1)


The uncalled House races (11)







ME-2 (it appears the race is headed to ranked choice to determine the winner)

NM-2 (NBC News retracted its earlier call in favor of the Republicans)




-- MN-1 (NBC yesterday called GOPer Jim Hagedorn the apparent winner, GOP pickup)

More controversy surrounds Trump’s new acting attorney general

Under the old rules, Trump’s pick to be acting attorney general – Matt Whitaker – would already be rescinded. But under the new rules? Well, he’s not gone yet, even with more controversy and scrutiny.

The New York Times: The acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, once espoused the view that the courts “are supposed to be the inferior branch” and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts and declare them unconstitutional, the lifeblood of its existence as a coequal branch of government… Past statements suggest that Mr. Whitaker has already made up his mind that the [Russia] investigation will fail to show that Mr. Trump or his advisers aided Russia’s disruption. ‘The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign,’ Mr. Whitaker said in an interview on ‘The Wilkow Majority,’ a conservative political talk radio show, in summer 2017. His remarks were reported earlier by The Daily Beast.”

“‘There was interference by the Russians into the election, but that is not collusion with the campaign,’ he added, views that dovetailed with Mr. Trump’s longstanding complaints about the investigation. ‘That’s where the left seems to be just combining those two issues.’”

Trump and the GOP is stuck at 45-46 percent

The day after the election, we noted how Trump’s job rating was higher in places like Florida (51 percent) and Georgia (53 percent) than his national average (45 percent), per the exit polls. That’s the good news for Trump and the GOP – how they can reshape electorates where the president campaigns.

But here’s the bad news:

  • Trump national vote in 2016: 46.4 percent
  • Trump job rating in exit poll: 45 percent
  • GOP popular vote on Tuesday: 46 percent (but that’s not a final number, with ballots still being counted on the west coast)

Breaking down the Democrats’ House pickups by Trump’s 2016 margin

The most pro-Trump congressional district that Democrats’ won was NY-22 (which Trump won by almost 16 points in 2016), while the most anti-Trump district was FL-27 (which he lost by nearly 20 points). And below is everything in between. (Note: This list doesn’t include the Dem pickups in Pennsylvania due to that state’s new redistricting map.)

Trump 2016 margin

NY-22 15.5

OK-05 13.4

SC-01 13.1

NY-11 9.8

NY-19 6.8

MI-08 6.7

VA-07 6.5

NJ-02 4.6

MI-11 4.4

IL-14 3.9

IA-01 3.5

IA-03 3.5

VA-02 3.4

GA-06 1.5

MN-02 1.2

NJ-11 0.9

NJ-07 -1.1

KS-03 -1.2

TX-07 -1.4

TX-32 -1.9

WA-08 -3

AZ-02 -4.9

CA-25 -6.7

IL-06 -7

CO-06 -8.9

MN-03 -9.4

VA-10 -10

FL-26 -16.3

FL-27 -19.6

Digging into the national exit poll

Three days after Election Day 2018, here are some pretty striking numbers from the national exit poll:

  • There was a 23-point gender gap. Dems won female voters (who made up 52 percent of the electorate) by 19 points, 59 percent to 40 percent, while Republicans won men (48 percent of the electorate) by 4 points, 51 percent to 47 percent.
  • Health care was voters’ No. 1 issue (at 41 percent) – followed by immigration (23 percent), the economy (22 percent) and guns (10 percent). (Who thought the economy would be No. 3?).
  • Nearly six-in-10 voters said they supported stricter guns laws, versus 37 percent who were opposed.
  • Democrats ended up winning independents by 12 points, 54 percent to 42 percent.
  • And Trump was a big factor in 2018: 38 percent of voters said they were opposing Trump with their vote (and they broke for Democrats 94 percent to 4 percent); 26 percent said they were supporting Trump (they broke for the GOP 95 percent to 4 percent); and 33 percent said the president wasn’t a factor (and they broke for the GOP 52 percent to 44 percent).